The West Memphis Three
In both seasons of Mindhunter, the BSU used their new profiling methods to crack a case, allowing for an active storyline among the consistent flow of interviews and behavioral studies. Season 1 had Darrell Gene Devier and Season 2 had Wayne Williams of the Atlanta Child Murders, so it’s likely that Season 3 will dive into another high-profile case for them to solve, and there’s a strong chance that it’ll be the West Memphis Three.
John Douglas was a consult for the case in 1993 and was consulted once again by the defense in 2006-07 when new evidence emerged proving their innocence. He wrote a report in their favor.
The West Memphis Three was one of the most notorious “Satanic Panic” cases in US history where three teenagers from West Memphis, Arkansas, were wrongfully convicted of murdering three young boys in 1993. The evidence against them was weak. Without any physical evidence, the prosecution used their status as poor white trash and the public’s fear of Satanism as “evidence” of their guilt.
To understand the West Memphis Three you have to understand how dangerous the “Satanic Panic” was. Most of the murder cases in the ’80s and ’90s that were accused of being Satanic in nature usually had nothing to do with Satan or any other cult.
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Beginning in the late ’70s, there was a sudden rise in religious cults followed by a fear of occultism that had people believing demons were waiting in dark alleys with lit joints and bottles of Captin Morgan to taint their children’s minds. Rebellious teenagers or those living on the outskirts of town in poverty became scapegoats for unsolved crimes during its height.
Christoper Bryers, Stevie Branch, and Michael Moore
On May 5, 1993, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers went missing. They were last seen by a neighbor that evening and were reported missing about a half an hour later. Their bodies were found the very next day in a ditch, stripped naked and hogtied with their own shoelaces. Their missing clothing was later located in the creek.
Christoper reportedly died from “multiple injuries” while Michael and Stevie died from “multiple injuries with drowning”. There was an assumed sexual element to the crime, as traces of semen were found on a pair of pants recovered from the scene and it appeared that Christopher had been castrated and further mutilated, however, the wounds were later revealed to have been caused by wild animals.
Today, most people believe it was Stevie’s stepfather, Terry Hobbs, who was responsible. DNA traced from a hair located in one of the shoelaces linked Hobbs to the crime, and then several neighbors claimed to have seen him with the boys that night despite him saying otherwise. Even Christopher Bryers’s distraught father accused Hobbs of the murders.
"“Terry Wayne Hobbs,” said Mark Byers, “I don`t know how much clearer I have to make it.”"
He wasn’t the only one who accused Hobb’s. Hobb’s ex-wife, Pam Hicks, believed that he killed the boys with his friend David Jacoby, whose hair was also found at the crime scene. Hobbs claimed to have gone to Jacoby’s house about an hour before the boys went missing and spent the whole night there. However, multiple eyewitnesses placed Hobbs at his own house that night, calling out to the boys.
Another eyewitness claims to have seen Hobbs doing laundry the night of the murders, supposedly cleaning the mud and blood off his clothes. Hobbs was also found in possession of Stevie’s prized pocketknife that the 8-year-old was never without.
Then, finally, there was the strange statement that came from several young men who claimed to have spoken to one of Hobb’s family members. Through the family member, they were told that he (Hobbs) killed three boys in Memphis and that it was a closely guarded “family secret.” A lot of this evidence is discussed in the documentary West of Memphis, which strongly points the finger at Terry Hobbs.
Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley were the town outcasts. They dressed in black clothes, kept their hair long and listened to heavy metal. This was their crime and for it, 18-year-old Echols got sentenced to death, 17-year-old Misskelley to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences, and 16-year-old Baldwin to life imprisonment.
The police were so desperate to pin the deaths of Christoper Bryers, Stevie Branch, and Michael Moore on the three that they ignored every other piece of evidence that came their way. A county juvenile officer named Jerry Driver had an interest in Echols stretching back a few years and along with juvenile probation officer Steve Jones, was semi-obsessed with Satanic cults taking over the town.
When the bodies were pulled from the ditch, Jones allegedly said, “Looks like Damien has finally killed someone.”
Hardly anything presented in this case made sense. The police were ignorant and careless, letting an irrational fear and dislike for troubled teens cloud their judgments. Blood found at the crime scene was never tested, DNA taken from the bodies was lost at the lab, nearly all the testimonies presented in court were retracted, and there were more than enough contradicting eye-witness accounts to fill a novel.
Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley were eventually released on August 19, 2011, as part of a plea deal after years of working towards a retrial. The judge sentenced them to time served, a total of 18 years and 78 days, and released them. They were each given a suspended imposition of sentence for 10 years.
In 2014, the activist hacker group Anonymous launched “Operation WM3” to seek justice for the three victims and hacked into the police database to review the files. Afterward, they announced that the files made it painfully clear that Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley were innocent and that the police had evidence pointing in the direction of an actual suspect but embarrassment kept them from pursuing the case.
Mindhunter is expected to return in either mid-2021 or 2020. Stay tuned!