In May of 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas Chris Byers, Steve Branch and Michael Moore went for a bike ride. The three eight-year-old boy scouts went to Robin Hood Hills, which was their favorite place to play and hang out. Chris Byers’s father, John Byers, reported at 8 p.m. that his son had not come home yet. Within an hour and a half, the West Memphis Police Department received two more calls. the calls were coming from the worried parents of Steve Branch and Michael Moore.
The following day of May 6th, 1993, a very thorough search was held in the nearby areas and nothing turned up. Then parole officer Steve Jones saw a black sneaker floating in a creek, inside Robin Hood Hills. When Officer Jones went down to the creek to pick up the shoe, he got his foot stuck on a heavy object. He struggled to get his foot out but when he did the mysterious object was found to be a deceased human body. After a few hours of searching the area the bodies of Chris Byers, Steve Branch, and Michael Moore were found in the creek naked and hogtied with their shoelaces. After the parents received the devastating news that their little boys were killed the police began running tests on the area and on the three bodies. Steve and Michael died from drowning but Chris died from knife injuries. Chris also had genital mutilation and odd lacerations, or wounds all over his body. Some speculate Chris’s injuries came from the snapping turtles that were known to be in the creek. There are images of the bodies that you can find online. but out of respect to the Byers, Moore, and Branch families I am not going to show them. They are online if you are curious enough.
Luminol testing on the area shows that the boys were likely killed in that location of the creek since there were absolutely no drag marks anywhere nearby. The police believe that there were multiple murderers because the knot that the boys were tied with were all different on each body. Along with that, logically, how would one person manage to undress, tie and kill three children. Wouldn’t one of them run scream or try to get help?
Once word got out that Chris’s body had genital mutilation, rumors spread like wildfire in this small Christian community, that this was some kind of Satanic ritual. West Memphis teen Damien Echols fit the mold of how someone would imagine a satanist. Him being a little bit dark and odd did have an effect on why the police called him in, but the main reason he was questioned was because of an eyewitness account. Damian’s girlfriend’s aunt reported seeing Echols near the crime scene around 9 p.m., covered in mud. The timeline matched up with the time but the boys would have been killed. On top of that Echols had a lengthy mental health history too. A record so long it’s 500 pages! A few years back before the murders Damien filed for disability. when Damien filed for disability he described himself as: homicidal, suicidal, manic depressive, schizophrenic, and sociopathic. Earlier he was in a court-ordered sentence at a psychiatric hospital.
Damien Echols parents said that he did practice devil worship in the past and he had history of violence in school. Once in detention a kid was cutting his wrist and Damien grabbed his wrist and started sucking on his wrist, drinking the blood. When West Memphis police officers interrogated Damien they asked, “How do you think the killer felt while murdering these boys?” which Echols responded they probably felt good with what they were doing and what they had done.
Jessie Misskelley Jr and Jason Baldwin, Damien’s friends we’re soon questioned as well and convicted along with Damien. When Jessie Misskelley Jr was questioned by the police he was told that there would be a reward for giving them information that his family would get the money. Miskelly refused that he was a part of any Satanic rituals or murders but the officers did not believe him so they put him under a polygraph. Every time they would really ask a questioned or asked Jesse to explain what happened he’s story would change in these inconsistencies made the police believe that he was a part of these murders. But soon the story is starting to become more similar same and they got Jesse’s confession on tape of how when Michael Moore tried to run away Jesse Ranch Appleton and tied him up and they describe how each one of them killed each boy. Damien Echols was sentenced to death, Jessie Misskelley was sentenced to life in prison with two 20-year sentences, and Jason Baldwin was sentenced to life in prison. besides all of this they were released in 2011.
So what do you think caused Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr, and Jason Baldwin to murder Chris Byers, Michael Moore, and Steve Branch or a Satanic ritual? or do you think they are even the ones that killed them? Do your own research on top of this article and form your opinion. Stay curious Grizzlies.
By Jordyn Carter
Photocredits: The New York times