The Blue Beacon (highlighted in blue) was
an all-night Interviews with Blue Beacon Employees
- the early shift.
establishment a short distance from where the children
were discovered (highlighted in pink).
Whodunnit, Part Three: The Hole in the Center of the Case.
The closer one looks at the core of this case, the
murkier the picture becomes. The most fundamental steps in a normal
investigation weren't performed by the police or else they were
performed and were not documented for the defense or prosecution.
The Discovery of the Victims.
The multilayered discovery of the victims is described in great
detail here. There are no
police statements regarding these events from those who made the
discovery, Steve Jones and Denver Reed or from the first
officers on the scene, George Philips, Diane Hester and Mike Allen.
Among these, only Mike Allen described the discovery at trial. Brief
notes were made by Hester at the crime scene.
The Blue Beacon
The children were last seen at approximately 6 pm on Wednesday,
May 5th, 1993. Their bodies were discovered the next day. The site
where the children were discovered was presented as the site of the
murders. The Blue Beacon was an all-night truck wash located
approximately 75 yards from the discovery site. Its light blue building
can be glimpsed
in parts of the crime scene video as the children are being recovered.
In spite of its proximity, there are almost no notes from the staff on
duty that night. None of the five workers from the evening shift were
interviewed individually. The brief notes available include the
statement "were real business," although bay two closed at 6:30 pm
leaving only bay one open. Bay one logged only nine trucks during
the evening shift from 4 pm to
7:18 pm when the records end.
One of the early scenarios considered the possibility that a
trucker killed the children. The logs of the trucks visiting the Blue
Beacon are dated 5-5-93. The logs available in the police files only
went to a last entry at 7:18 pm, leaving out the most critical time of
the evening. The truck receipts corresponding to these logs are all
dated 5-4-93. Furthermore, specific receipts are missing, even though
they were photocopied together on the same page.
Receipts from the Blue Beacon. The receipts are dated 5-4-93
Some numbers are missing (8903220, 22, blue underline) in spite
presented on thesame page forwarded to the prosecutor (intake
Blue Beacon traffic summary (5/05/93, date above portion
These entries correspond to the above receipt numbers. The log
on this page ends
at 7:18 pm and the next page of the log is not among police
Even odder than the missing information from the critical shift,
workers who finished their shifts at 4 pm on May 5th were interviewed
as to what they saw - nothing. [Wide
Jackson and Andrew Harris, statement pictured above]
Years later, a reporter tried contacting a Blue Beacon
employee in regards to the case and was given the cryptic message that
he was not allowed to talk about the case.
"We tore that old place down,"
says a Blue Beacon worker. He refuses to discuss the murders and won't
give me his name. "It's over with and I'm not allowed to talk about it.
All these years later, I'm still trying to figure out if those three
kids that got killed were the same kids we told not to play here that
day because of the trucks."
When I ask him if he believes they got the guys who did it, he
hangs up. [Annette Stark, Los Angeles
City Beat, August 2006, Issue 169]
Sometime after 8 p.m., a bloodied black man, ensconced himself
in the women's restroom at the Bojangles about three-quarters mile
from the Blue Beacon. The identity of this individual was never
determined. Perhaps this incident was related:
Bill Heck - saw nothing but said we
need to talk to Mrs. Clark.
735-xxxx. She works for Schneider Truck Lines evening shift. She said a
driver saw a man with blood all over him Wed night. [Door to door
interviews, Wilson Street]
From the above log, a Schneider truck visited the Blue Beacon at
7:04 pm. The receipt for this #890322 is among those that are missing.
The Victims' Families.
Of the various parents and step-parents, only Melissa and Mark
Byers and Christopher's biological father Ricky Lee Murray had
interview sheets available in the West Memphis police
archives. The parents could have commented on potential suspects and
suspicious individuals in the area. The prosecution alleged that
the victims were stalked, even photographed before the crimes. They
alleged that Echols regularly passed through the area. Several of the
parents and step-parents were involved in the search and statements
from them as to what they had seen that night could have been critical
evidence. Recently, Terry Hobbs has stated that he had never been
interviewed as to his actions that night.
Beyond this, a sad truth is that murder victims are often killed
by someone they know. The family members and those known to the family
were potential suspects.
There are minimal notes from the immediate neighbors of the
victims. None of Steve Branch/Terry Hobb's neighbors were interviewed.
(The exception to this is Christopher Morgan who became a suspect after
allegedly confessing in California). These neighbors could have
described suspicious individuals in the neighborhood, the final
activities of the victims, or the criminal activities of families of
the victims. Several neighbors further away named Mark Byers as a
suspect as a result of his drug dealing or other criminal activities.
The Moores lived at 1398 E. Barton,
the Byerses at 1400 E. Barton.
Above diagram adapted from overhead
map and city directory listing addresses.
Police notes from interviews with
immediate neighbors, those within two doors of Byers or Moores.
No interviews were initiated for the neighbors of Steve Branch/Terry
604 N. 14th - not interviewed.
605 N. 14th - not interviewed.
702 N. 14th - "Nothing"
703 N. 14th - "Lakisa Freeman play with Chris on skateboard"
704 N. 14th - not interviewed.
705 N. 14th - "No info"
606 Wilson - not interviewed.
700 Wilson - not interviewed.
702 Wilson - "Nothing"
1209 E. Barton - not interviewed.
1211 E. Barton - "No info. Not talkable. Don't like police."
1399 E. Barton - not interviewed. (Rev. Tommy W. Stacy, seen in the
documentary Paradise Lost)
1401 E. Barton - "No info."
1501 E. Barton - "No info."
Total for the 14 nearest neighbors to the Byerses and Moores: 7
interviewed; 6 "nothing" or "no info;" 1 brief note. The neighbors of
the Hobbs were not interviewed.
Missing and Altered Evidence.
The police logs for 7 am to 3 pm shift were altered. The
documents available from the evidence room of the West Memphis Police
Department appear to have a heavy "photocopy effect," as though copies
of copies were made, obscuring what was on the originals. This lossy
reproduction is not the case for the other logs. One entry at 9:22 a.m.
was whited out. How can this be proven?
The upper portion of the police logs were filled out with the
name of the officers, their numbers, and the date and then photocopied,
presumably to save time in filling out the log entries. The date on the
logs that cover the time period in which the victims were discovered
was incorrectly listed as 4/6/93 with the 6 drawn over, probably
changed from a 5. Because the names were filled in before copying, the
lines that define the boxes with information should be equal (or vary
equally with slightly different exposures). When one line is sketchy,
it should be similarly sketchy in the next page. If a line that defines
the box disappears, it means that this area was whited out after the
upper portions were filled in but before the document was placed in the
evidence. (I went to the evidence room myself and examined and made
copies of the log that was available.)
Above, a small section of page four of the 7 am to 3 pm log of May 6th,
1993 as copied from the evidence room at the West Memphis Police
Department, with calls starting at 9:19 am. The 7 to 3 logs were
incorrectly dated 04-06-93 (and the 6 seems to be written over) but go
on to describe the search and discovery of the victims as took place on
May 6th. The upper portion, highlighted in brown is part of the section
where the names and numbers of the individual officers were written in,
prior to photocopying. This allows the person filling in the forms to
not have to fill in the repeating information
with each page. (Compare to the highlighted section below which has the
writing.) After the initial photocopying, the dispatch calls were
Below is the next page of the station logs. The area highlighted is
identical to that above and the calls logged in begin at 10:23 am. The
other pages continue in this manner through page 7 which includes the
time of discovery. The images presented above and below demonstrate
that the background of the pages should be equal, the entries
Below, the same documents as were shown above, this time a larger
section. Officers Sanders and Reese (254 and 252, respectively, numbers
highlighted in green) received a call at 9:22 a.m. The "Information On
Call or Broadcast" entry for this call is blank. This isn't necessarily
damning, there could have been a failure to fill this in. What is
damning is that the line below the information is missing. (As pointed
out by the arrows highlighted by blue). This could only have happened
if the area was whited out.
Since some lines are sketchy or nearly absent, that same line needs to
be compared to those on other pages. The next page the line is mostly
present (as pointed out by the arrows highlighted in blue).
Page five of the 7 am to 3 pm station logs. The corresponding line is
present in this page and the other pages.
Mark Byers 5/19/93 interview with Lieutenant Sudbury was taped.
At the end of the transcribed part of the interview there is a hush and
heavy breathing corresponding to the section being manually taped over.
(This erasure was evident on the tape when I made a copy of it from the
evidence room in 2004.) The full interview is available at: markbyersstatement.
Filling the Holes.
Did the holes in this case come from laziness, extreme
incompetence in the investigation or was it wilful?
Laziness was not a problem. The police generated thousands of
pages of interview and evidence in this case, travelling to other
cities to run down rumors from little children.
While incompetence could describe not interviewing someone
such as Terry Hobbs, it doesn't account for why the Blue Beacon
employees on the correct shift were not interviewed while employees on
other shifts were or why the log sheets stop before the critical time.
If it was wilful, what were the police trying to hide? I am
going to present one theory at length relating to the corruption in the
Crittenden County Drug Task Force (CCDTF). This is not equal to saying
that the CCDTF was directly involved in the murders. It is to suggest
that a full investigation surrounding the murders would have uncovered
information damaging to the CCDTF.
The CCDTF was a high stakes operation. "During 1992, the drug
task force seized more than $1 million in cash, 74 vehicles, $4925 in
property, $81,075 in stolen property and 37 guns." [West Memphis
Evening Times, February 10, 1993]
The reason for the large amounts of drugs passing through is
geographical. To travel across the US east to west or west to east,
there are only so many locations to cross the Mississippi. In the large
swath of territory between south of the Ohio River and north of Baton
Rouge there are only six sites with automotive bridges and only two if
you want to maintain the anonymity of the interstate. West Memphis is
one of these sites. On top of that, West Memphis has a second north to
south interstate passing through it. West Memphis has both the
guaranteed passage of big time drug trafficking with the type of
tight-knit corruption that you can have in a small town.
In 1993, the CCDTF consisted of twelve officers.
Memphis Police Department
Tony Miller (Head of task force)
James Sudbury (Second in command)
County Sheriff's Office
Deputy Chris McElroy
The CCDTF became intimately involved in the investigation of the
crime. Five of the above officers were present at the crime scene
(along with two future members). The investigation into the child
murders was run out of the CCDTF office. The door to door interviews of
the area surrounding the Robin Hood woods and the Mayfair Apartments
were conducted by CCDTF officers. Sudbury would go on to provide key
interviews of suspects Damien Echols, Mark Byers, James Martin and
others. Together with Steve Jones, probation officer and discoverer of
the bodies of the victims, Sudbury headed to Echols house the day after
"On the day after the bodies of the
three boys were found I had a
conversation with Steve Jones, a Juvenile Officer for Crittenden
County, Arkansas. In our conversation I found that Steve and I shared
the same opinion that the murders appeared to have overtones of a cult
During our conversation Steve mentioned that of all the people known by
him to be involved in cult type activities one person stood out in his
mind, that in his opinion, was capable of being involved in this type
of crime. That person was Damien Echols." [Sudbury notes, undated]
This seems odd. In addition to the fact that there was nothing
at the crime scene that suggested human sacrifice, in other contexts
Sudbury comes across as a hard-nosed officer and not particularly
In 1993, the CCDTF was also involved in an ongoing investigation
regarding the appropriation of seized items and a small amount of
missing cocaine, their second investigation in two years. Fellow
officers pointed fingers at one another. Sudbury was accused by a
fellow officer of planting drugs to seize a vehicle and by others of
keeping seized guns, food stamps, a refrigerator, a fishing pole, along
with other items. [Interviews, CCDTF investigation, February and April
1993] In years to come, other members of the drug task force would be
tried for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars.
Drug contraband was often hidden aboard trucks. In a single
seizure from a semi at Lehi in west Crittenden County in 1998,
$3,166,199 in cash was taken. [Arkansas Highway Police v. Crittenden
County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. Case 98-957, Supreme Court of
Arkansas] In a recent interview, the West Memphis police stated that
they monitored CB chatter as a means of identifying which vehicles to
The Blue Beacon would have made a prime location for searching
vehicles. Among those involved in the case of the child murders,
several ran car or truck washes and CB stores. Bryan
Woody worked at
Don's Supershine and Radio World (CB radios). A police call was made
regarding an alarm going off at Woody's work address at 4:06 am of May
6th [Station logs, 11 pm - 7 am, May 5th - 6th, 1993]. Otto Bailey, Senior and Junior owned Mr.
Clean Truck Wash. Otto Bailey, Senior was described as an avid CB user.
A tip was received regarding Otto Bailey, Sr.
She [the tipster] advised that on
5/11/93 her daughter overheard a conversation with a guy parked in the
drive accross the street. She thinks his name is Otto Bailey. She
heard him over his C.B. talking to unknown person "I'm going to kill
your fucking ass like the three boys that were killed. Caller stated
she know Otto Bailey lives on the street behind the location the boys
were found. He drive a maroon van with a large antenna on it. [M.
Allen notes, 5/12/93]
This tip was followed up on and dismissed.
Mr. Bailey is known to me as a big
mouth on the C.B. Radio and enjoys making other radio operators mad by
trying to get their goat. He was shot by a trucker over a radio
argument a year or so back. [C.S. Burch, interview notes of Otto
Bailey, Sr., May 26, 1993]
Among Bailey Senior's prior arrests were distribution of a
controlled substance, assault and contributing to the delinquency of a
It is my contention that the CC-DTF needed to avoid scrutiny at
the Blue Beacon because of ongoing and profitable drug task force
investigations. Given the fact that members of the task force didn't
hesitate to keep for themselves moderately expensive items such as
guns, it is reasonable to assume they would be susceptible to taking
larger amounts and huge sums of money passed by.
On the day the victims were discovered, the CC-DTF initiated
what was described as their largest drug sting to date. From the front
page of the May 10, 1993 edition of the West Memphis Evening Times.
Although there may have been others, there were two suspects who
were noted to be confidential informants to the WMPD: Mark Byers
and David Wren. Byers was also a confidential to the Organized Crime
Unit of the Memphis Police Department [Mark Byers interview, 5/19/93]
David Wren was a suspect in part because of his prodigious
criminal history, his residence in the Mayfair Apartments, and because
he was the brother of Frankie Knight. According to one interview,
Frankie Knight was near the crime scene on the evening of the fifth:
Nicholas Smith, aged 16, placed
Frankie Knight at the north end of McAuley (near the pipe) the evening
of the fifth, along with several others he could not identify. He said
they were acting suspiciously, as if it were a drug sale. According to
Smith, they were centered around an orange Bronco. Little Al Thomas, an
associate of the Wrens, had an orange pick up, but said he hadn't used
it recently. He denied being in the area. [Nicolas Smith interview,
Mike Allen, May 11th, 1993]
Another interviewee spoke of statements she heard Knight make.
Kacie Crawford stated she overheard Frankie Knight
say that his brother killed the children. "[Crawford] had overheard a
conversation in which Frankie Knight stated that his brother is the
person who killed the boys." [Kacie Crawford interview, May 15,
1993] Her statement was emphatically dismissed, the word
"Unfounded" written in felt at the bottom. The word "Unfounded" appears
to match the writing of CCDTF head, Tony Miller.
Above, the word "unfounded" as written on the statement of Kacie
Below, a sample of the writing of Captain Tony Miller, head of the
of the Search and Rescue Personnel involved in the search for the
children as compiled by the West
John Reed lived at 511 W. Oliver in West
next door to James Sudbury and his wife, Deborah. They were the
only immediate neighbors to the Sudburys' house at 513 W. Oliver.
The street ended here and there were no houses on the opposite
W. Oliver, 1993 West Memphis City Directory
Overhead view of the end of West Oliver Street
Why is this significant? During Sudbury's
decertification hearings in 2003, he was confronted with this story:
Vaughn: There is a totality of circumstances that the Chief
Paudert and the
West Memphis Police Department are willing to present, that warrant his
decertification. James Sudbury blatantly violates policy and
procedures; he made reference to the meth lab amphetamines that was
recovered that he took part in. He was the command officer on that
scene. What he did not address was to you was that meth lab, the
remnants of that meth lab was located directly if not adjacent to his
residence. There was accusation that his son was participating at which
time he made the scene and made the order that those remnants of that
lab be destroyed. [Sudbury
decertification hearing, August 8, 2003]
Sudbury was accused of multiple acts of covering up
evidence of his son's involvement with illegal drugs. If, as Lt. Vaughn
stated, Sudbury's son was running a meth lab next to his house, the
only address next to his house was that of John Reed. John Reed was not
only a member of the Search and Rescue, but the son
of Denver Reed, who was present at the time of the discovery. This
would have the sons of Lt. Sudbury and the son of the discoverer of the
together at the crime scene.
Sudbury denied the proximity of the meth lab - but
he also disingenuously suggested that he didn't have any neighbors.
"First of all, I live; my house is adjacent to the parking lot of the
high school. Officer Vaughn would have you believe that this material
found in my back yard, I guess, when it was actually found three blocks
from my residence. And may I add, that my son has never been arrested
or accused of any drug violations that I am aware of." [ibid]
Did this take place next to his house? Sudbury went on to say his house
was adjacent to the parking lot of the high school, the meth lab was
three blocks away, his son had never been arrested,