In the last 20 years of my life, I have spent about 10 years carefully analyzing what happened to the victims, Michael Moore, Chris Byers, and Stevie Branch. I then spent the next 10 years only thinking about it occasionally, with three posts between 2012 and 2021. I have now started to look into the matters again. This time away has given me fresh eyes.
My process for research is this. I take a subject and collect every document related to it. Then I assemble the information into a narrative that fits the facts, noting when the facts are disputed.
Over time, there have been new interviews and statements: it is hard to keep up and I am sure that I haven't. Over time, memories become less clear. It is a tragedy that many essential interviews in this case took place over a decade after the crimes.
When going over the lividity information, I was startled that I (and all others) had missed the simple fact: lividity on the back and buttocks means the victims could not have been killed at the discovery site, the woods near the Blue Beacon.
Although I had strongly suspect that the discovery site was not the murder site, it is now liberating to be free of the notion. The victims had to be somewhere long enough for lividity to form on their backs. This made the equation: murder, (probably) two or more hours for lividity to set on their backs, the victims tied up, taken to the discovery site, and placed facedown in the ditch (for two of the victims) and on the side for the other. No lividity appeared in front, so the time facedown was less significant than the time on their backs.
With the victims needing to spend time on their backs before being moved, this rules out tramps and passersby. The bodies needed to be in a hidden place for a time and then transportation was needed to carry them to where they were discovered. Knowledge of the existence of the creek in the discovery woods was needed.
With the time of the murders separated from the time when the victims were placed in the creek, this focuses in on the suspects who had unaccounted for time during the night and those who, by their own admissions, went to the area where the victims were discovered.
My second addition to the website in six years, 5/26/2021, goes through the alibis and lack of alibis of Mark Byers and Terry Hobbs.
My first addition to the website in six years, 5/12/2021.
An addition to the website, 7/15/2015.
This website intends to be a thorough investigation of the matters surrounding the disappearance and murders of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. All told this site has approximately 160,000 words, equivalent to a 700+ page book. Many of the pertinent topics are covered here. Others are not. With few exceptions, this site does not endeavour to follow the latest developments and legal machinations of the case.
This site does not primarily deal with the West Memphis Three. While this site does discuss the injustice committed against them, it is more directed to the crime against the murder victims. There are no photos of the dead children or their injuries on this site. It is best they are remembered as they were in life.
Recently, two new documentaries regarding this case have been produced. Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky is the third in a series of documentaries that have, as a whole, advocated the innocence of those sent to prison. These documentaries are one of the primary reasons this case has maintained such a high level of national attention. West of Memphis, a documentary by Amy Berg, further investigates the dysfunctional justice surrounding this crime telling the full story of injustice. I was interviewed for this latter documentary.
This site is dedicated to the brief lives of Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore. These pages are dedicated to finding the truth about their deaths in West Memphis, Arkansas that took place on or about May 5th, 1993.
The gruesomeness of the crime made it sensational nationwide news. With the subsequent arrests and trials and the allegations of occult sacrifice the notoriety increased. The media followed the story with countless reports and articles. The story became the fodder of Geraldo and Maury Povich.
Three teenagers were charged with the crimes. Each pleaded innocent. After a pair of trials remarkable in their strangeness, each was convicted. But the story didn't end there. Through two books and two documentaries, websites, multiple episodes of TV true crime shows, and the interest of prominent and famous people the convicted have achieved a celebrity status as "The West Memphis Three."
In this case there are unhealed wounds as deep as those made on the victims. For those who believe in the innocence of the convicted, there is the belief in an ongoing injustice and that the actual murderer has gone free. For those who believe in the guilt of the convicted, the unceasing publicity of the convicted steals the focus from the victims. This is especially true for the families of the victims who live with the constant memory of the pain of the tragedy. This log is dedicated to the community of all of those touched by this crime.
MOST RECENT ADDITIONS.
JULY 15, 2015. I look at Dale Griffis's Runes, Glyphs, and Alphabets.
JULY 14, 2014. The discrepancies in the autopsy report are examined.
JULY 2, 2014. The remarkable story surrounding the jury foreman of the Echols/Baldwin trial, Kent Arnold, is visited.
JUNE 20, 2011. The tangled tale of the evening of Officer Meek is examined.
MAY 31, 2011. The tortuous saga behind Misskelley's post-arrest confessions is presented.
MAY 27, 2011. How black t-shirts became infamous in this case.
MAY 17, 2011. The page regarding Terry Hobbs has been extensively updated.
MAY 17, 2011. The circumstances surrounding Misskelley's confessions are explored.
OCTOBER 1, 2010. The question of Whodunnit is further explored in The Hole in the Center of the Case.
MAY 15, 2009. The event-filled two days of May 5th and 6th are explored in Night and Day.
MARCH 6, 2009. The triumphs and the downfall of the Crittenden County Drug Task Force are recounted in West Memphis Confidential.
FEBRUARY 24, 2009. Chapter 12 (Whodunnit, The Crime Scene) has been added to the case narrative.
JANUARY 19, 2009. Chapter 10 (Later Evidence) and Chapter 11 (DNA) have been added to the case narrative.
JANUARY 5, 2009. The case is presented in narrative form with the first nine chapters complete. The series begins below and continues through the links at the bottom of each page or else here. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)A Twilight Kill
The phases of the moon are tricks of light and shadow. For the moon to be full, it must rise when the sun sets. On May 5th, 1993, as daylight disappeared, the round moon crested the Memphis skyline. The Mississippi River, at that time turbid and swollen from a season of floods, separated the Tennessee Metropolis from its Arkansas namesake, West Memphis, a trucking hub and home to 30,000. With dusk deepening over the small town, three eight year old boys had already been missing for two hours. By the next day they would be found dead, brutalized, hog-tied and sunken in a ditch.
Dana Moore, mother of victim Michael Moore, last saw her son from a distance as he and his friends disappeared around a bend. Her son was in his cub scout uniform aboard his bicycle while his second grade schoolmates, Chris Byers and Stevie Branch shared a bike. Childhood friend, Kim Williams reported accompanying Michael and Stevie to the edge of a patch of woods called Robin Hood Hills. Another childhood friend said Chris Byers dropped by his house. This neighbor said Chris told him his stepfather had whipped him and he was running away from home.
Mark Byers, the stepfather of Chris, was a hefty six foot five. Full-bearded and sporting long hair often tied back in a ponytail, the left side of his face drooped from damage from seizures. Changing into overalls and a long-sleeved shirt he undertook a frantic eighteen hour search, patrolling the neighborhood with his wife, Melissa and his thirteen year-old stepson, Ryan. He would later complain of receiving virtually no help from the authorities. "I called the Sheriff's Department the second time. I said, look, I've had one police officer out here helping me look for these boys." [Mark Byers, May 19, 1993 interview] Byers would describe two occasions when his search took him to the area where the victims were found. "I was out looking until 4:30 a.m. I walked within 10 or 15 feet of where the bodies were found and I didn't see them." [Mark Byers, quoted in West Memphis Evening Times, May 7th, 1993]
Terry Hobbs, wiry tough with a thick frowning mustache and a glassy gaze, was the stepfather of victim Stevie Branch. He described beginning his search well before nightfall, including passing near the discovery site. Terry would wait until the evening closing time at his wife's restaurant to inform her of her son's disappearance.
Within two years, Terry Hobbs, Mark Byers and Dana Moore would each be convicted of violent crimes. Hobbs shot and wounded his brother-in-law. Mark Byers would be convicted of using a gun to incite a child to engage in a fist fight. Moore would strike and kill a pedestrian with her car. Melissa Byers would die in the presence of her husband, the cause of death undetermined. Recently, Hobbs' companion during his search has contradicted his account and DNA and other evidence have been suggestive of his involvement in the murders.
The victims. Left to right, Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch.
The family of the victims: Left to right, Terry Hobbs, Melissa and Mark Byers, and Dana Moore.
DECEMBER 12, 2008. Several pages have been edited to incorporate recent developments. The new information is summarized here.
DECEMBER 2, 2008. The robustness of the hair DNA evidence is examined.
JULY 8, 2008. The format of this website has been updated and improved, thanks to Michael Gillen.
JULY 4, 2008. A page has been added describing the effects of the full moon on this case.
JANUARY 11, 2008. Bryan Keith Woody.
JANUARY 11, 2008. Sir Mikeal and The King.
DECEMBER 11, 2007. The Telltale Hairs.
A BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE CASE
[Note: the following summary is meant to guide the novice through the facts of the case. Each link is to an unique page.]
On May 5th, 1993, on the night of a full moon, in West Memphis, Arkansas three eight-year-old children, Michael Moore, Christopher Byers, and Stevie Branch, disappeared. They were last seen by family, neighbors and schoolmates about 6:00 pm heading in the direction of a wooded area not far from their houses. The night and day proved busy for the police and their initial search was limited. One of those who would testify as to last seeing the children was also involved in the search.
Their bodies were discovered the next day in a small patch of woods behind the Blue Beacon Truck Wash, not far from the interstate. The victims had been beaten, cut, bound and sunk in a ditch. Each child had dozens of injuries. At the time, authorities and media speculated whether the crime was related to other area child murders. Neighbors described ominous sightings of white and black vans.
It was debated whether or not the discovery site was the site of the murders. Its unique geography, bound on one side by a bayou that needed to be crossed by pipe and on another by all night business made entry difficult, however, no blood was found, in spite of one victim bleeding to death. The discovery site became the only designated crime scene and was presented at trial by the state as where the murders took place.
There was a limited amount of physical evidence at the crime scene. Samples were taken from a large number of suspects which can be used to match DNA. Anomalous fibers were collected from the victims and their clothes. Not all of the children's clothes were recovered from the discovery site: two pairs of underwear and five socks were missing. A spot of wax was found on one of the victims clothes. Other evidence was left behind at the discovery site. The physical evidence is listed here and the crime lab findings, here. Perhaps most significant were a variety of hairs, including those found under the victims' bindings. The results of the DNA tests have been released. One of these hairs has been recently found to match the stepfather of one of the victims, Terry Hobbs, although this match is imperfect.
The police began their investigation by canvassing the victims' neighborhood. Early on, the possible involvement of a Satanic cult was taken seriously. Those interviewed in the search for the cult yielded contradictory or ridiculous stories. The investigation echoed an event of the more distant past, including the extensive amount of time chasing down rumors from children including wild stories about a local teenager, Damien Echols. Polygraphs directed the investigation, with individuals who passed being dismissed as suspects. A mysterious hitchhiker with a devil tattoo was noted, but never found. A child molestor with a disturbing history was interviewed. A pair of filmmakers who had recently moved to the area were also questioned. During the course of the investigation, twenty knives were taken into evidence, from the crime scene, from a lake behind where one of the arrested lived and from other suspects. Three sticks gathered from the crime scene would play a role in the trials.
Damien Wayne Echols, a teenager with a troubled history (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), was visited by police the day after the discovery and would become a central target of the investigation. Damien's best friend, Jason Baldwin, would also become a target, although with some confusion, as there were two suspects with this name.
On June 3rd, 1993, Jessie Misskelley confessed to his involvement in the murders, also implicating Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin. The confession was presented as evidence for the search warrants and the three were arrested. The confession was attacked by the family of the accused as being inconsistent, by forensic linguistics as being non-informational and, at trial, as being coerced. Misskelley would soon recant and confess again.
The trials took place from January through March of 1994. The motive for the murders was presented as being occult sacrifice with black t-shirts introduced as evidence of the defendant's cult tendencies. Others were presented at trial as alternative suspects including the stepfather of one of the victims, John Mark Byers, a controversial character with an unexamined alibi. Also put forward was a mysterious bleeding man at a Bojangles restaurant less than a mile from the discovery site.
The three defendants were convicted. Jessie Misskelley was sentenced to life plus forty years, Jason Baldwin received life without parole, and Damien Echols received the death sentence. The actions of the jury foreman during the trial were questionable. They spent 18 years in prison. The quality of evidence leading to conviction is examined, beginning with Jessie Misskelley and continuing with Jason Baldwin.
Steve Edward Branch, eight-years-old, 4 ft. 2, 65 lbs, blonde hair. Last seen in blue jeans, white t-shirt on a black and red bicycle.
Christopher Byers, eight-years-old, 4 ft., 52 lbs, light brown hair. Last seen in blue jeans, dark shoes, and white long sleeve shirt.
Michael Moore, eight-years-old, 4 ft. 2, 55 lbs, brown hair. Last seen in blue pants, blue Boy Scouts of America shirt, orange and blue Boy Scout hat on a light green bicycle.
[sources: Missing person reports, autopsies. The clothes found were slightly different.]
Time of disappearance.
Time of discovery.
The bodies of the three were found naked, sunken in a ditch between 1:30 and 3:00 pm, May 6th, 1993.
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