I try not to chronicle crime events that are current affairs, so to speak. Less likely to upset someone related to a forty year old murder case than one that is only four years old. I’m going to break that rule for this post, because it has been relevant to some of my other posts and research I’ve been doing for Ritual Dreams.
Ritual Dreams has someone killing Satanists. Not devil worshipers, Satanists, there is a significant difference, just FYI. Satanism hasn’t been a taboo subject in the D&R novels, mainly because, if you lined up serial killers from the last 60 years and threw a stone, you’d be hard pressed not to hit one that claimed Satan made them do it.
This has lead to some strange things during the course of my lifetime including the Satanic Panic of the 1980s and 1990s to the phenomenon known as The Devil Makes Them Guilty; Psychologists have proven a murder suspect rarely needs to confess if a witness steps forward and says “Suspect X is a Satanist”, a jury is more than 50% more likely to convict them even on the flimsiest circumstantial evidence. If said person confesses to being a Satanist or a Devil Worshiper, it’s basically a sealed deal that the person will be found guilty.
This has been getting some traction again, because the West Memphis Three have been released from prison. In 1993, three high school aged boys were tried and convicted of murdering 3 second grade boys in West Memphis, Arkansas. Most psychologists agree that the West Memphis Three weren’t convicted based on evidence, but on their music preferences (enter Metallica again), a false confession by one of the teens who might have been illegally questioned based on the fact that he did not score very high on an IQ test, and the notion that the three were devil worshipers.
The legal woes involved in the West Memphis Three case are plentiful, including the possibility of jury misconduct, police misconduct, and questionable testimony from two witnesses, oh and new DNA evidence that might be exculpatory in nature. The West Memphis Three all obtained high school diplomas in prison, and two went on to get college degrees. Seven years ago, they entered Alford Pleas that were accepted by the State of Arkansas, which is saying something considering their convictions had already taken place. An Alford Plea is a statement of guilt, but made by defendants who are continuing to proclaim their innocence.
They are rarely accepted and even more rarely accepted against defendants who have been granted a new trial in which they were found guilty at the first one. In other words, the acceptance of an Alford Plea by the State of Arkansas is surprising, because if there were no doubts about their guilt, there is no reason to believe a new trial would end in anything other than a guilty verdict.
There were in fact other suspects at the beginning of the investigation, however, due to police negligence, they all disappeared pretty quickly. One officer took a statement from a restaurant manager about a male that had been in the ladies’ restroom, bleeding, and he seemed disoriented. The officer that took that statement, didn’t go into the restaurant to take it, it was taken through the drive-thru window of the restaurant. Also, it wasn’t until several days later that police went back to take samples of the dried blood, which were ultimately lost before logged into evidence.
Two other suspects were found in California, the state, several days after the murders. Both were young men in their late teens or early twenties, that had a history of drug and alcohol related offenses, one even admitted that due to drug and alcohol abuse, he might have been involved in the murders, but he couldn’t remember because he usually blacked out. DNA and urine samples were taken from these men after they failed a polygraph exam in California, but the samples were never tested and were eventually lost.
Sadly, one of the investigators decided the murders had a “dark feel” and one of the West Memphis Three was brought in for questioning because he was known to have an interest in the occult and someone at his school said he was a devil worshiper.
One of the witnesses later recanted her testimony and claimed the police threatened to take her son away from her if she didn’t provide testimony against the West Memphis Three. Her son claimed to see the three boys, all playmates of his, killed and indicated an area where they could be found. However, the boy, also a second grader, claimed his friends were killed by Satanists who spoke Spanish. He was unable to identify any of the West Memphis Three, and his statements were rather inconsistent, as one might imagine. Other than getting the location of where the bodies could be found right, he didn’t seem to know anything else about the crimes.
A child psychologist would later tell police that they were dealing with a unique situation, the psychologist believed the child, and possibly other children, had found the bodies in the days they were missing and could therefore identify where the bodies could be found. However, the report of the Spanish Speaking Satanists were released to the news by investigators and that information was used by the jury during their deliberations. This is critical when you consider one of the teens on trial was nabbed mostly because he liked Metallica, dressed in dark clothing, and people at his school claimed he was a devil worshiper… Because we all know how reliable teen witnesses are when they are talking about their fellow students they deem weird.
There was DNA evidence found that did not belong to any of the West Memphis Three, that might be easy to explain. Using Touch DNA, a DNA sample was developed from all three boys that came from the same person, the stepfather of one of the murdered boys. Which is hardly conclusive in either direction, however, if his DNA could be developed from a shoe lace of one of the boys, and from the jacket of another, it seems that DNA evidence from the West Memphis Three should have been all over the place. From the third boy, another DNA sample was obtained that didn’t belong to any of the West Memphis Three and did not belong to his stepfather. Which makes those misplaced samples suddenly more important.
Even 25 years after the murders, multiple lives have been destroyed by this case. Those of the victims, the victims’ families, and the three boys convicted of the murders. Two interesting side notes on this case, in the mid-2000s, three of the parents of the murdered children began to push for the West Memphis Three to be freed because they did not believe them guilty, and Retired FBI Agent John Douglas (The FBI agent that put profiling on the map) has given statements on multiple occasions stating the innocent of the West Memphis Three. Douglas has even offered a profile on the killer, emphasis on the singular, Douglas says he is an adult male with a personal connection to all three murdered children, as well as a connection to where the bodies were found and that we was an adult at the time of the murders in 1993.