Yesterday I linked to a new article by Billy Sinclair on the WM3 plea/release deal.
Since then I’ve read through Sinclair’s previous writing on the case (all linked in the first paragraph of his new article). He’s a joy to read. Sinclair has a highly refined bullshit detector regarding claims made by both state officials and accused criminals.
His March 2010 article “West Memphis Three on 48 Hours” featured this excellent debunking of the pro-WM3 movement’s dishonest and cruel targetting of alternative suspects.
In their zeal to establish the innocence of the West Memphis Three, supporters for the trio have been shockingly irresponsible in pointing the finger of blame at other people as the probable killers of the three boys. First, there was the possible African-American man who was seen by employees of a local Bojangles’ restaurant on the evening of the crime at the restaurant. The restaurant was located near the bayou in Robin Hood Hills where the bodies of the three boys were found. The black man was reportedly dazed, covered with blood and mud, and went into the ladies restroom. The employees called the police who responded to the call but did not fuly check out the information. The following day the restaurant’s manager called the police a second time when the bodies of the young boys were found, operating on the premise there may be a connection between the two events. This time the police took blood scrapings from the walls of the restaurant’s restroom but it was later carelessly lost or deliberately destroyed. No one knows for sure.
Supporters for the West Memphis Three labeled the bloody African-American man as “Mr. Bojangles”—a moniker reminiscent of the Old South. Contrary to what some of the West Memphis Three supporters believe, I don’t think the local police deliberately destroyed the “Mr. Bojangles” evidence just so they could convict three local white teenagers for this unspeakable crime. If the police even remotely believed the mysterious black Mr. Bojangles was connected with the murder of three white kids, they would have devoted every law enforcement resource in the State of Arkansas to make a case against him (or any black man they could ‘frame” as him).
The next person who became a target of the West Memphis Three supporters’ “red-herring” blame game was Mark Byers, the step-father of Chris Byers. Police took some photographs of the boys’ bodies shortly after they were found. One of these photos indicated a “bite mark” was left on at least one of the victims. This was the conclusion drawn by HBO’s second documentary, Paradise Lost 2. The fact that Mark Byers had all his teeth extracted and replaced with dentures after the murders was enough “evidence” for some of the West Memphis Three supporters to conclude he was either the killer or somehow connected to the murders. And the fact that Mark Byers gave the HBO producers of the first Paradise Lost documentary a pocket knife which was discovered to have a speck of blood on it added to the clamor of his guilt, even though test results on the blood proved inconclusive. And the fact that Byers has some “garden variety” violent episodes in his past (accusations by a former wife that he assaulted her, for example), which are woven into the cultural fabric of the South, added fuel to those who believed he was involved in the murders. It didn’t matter that Byers eventually took and passed a polygraph examination which cleared him of any involvement in the horrible crime, or that he was eliminated as the source of subsequent DNA evidence discovered at the crime scene—some still believe he did it.
And, finally, the West Memphis Three supporters, including the mother of one of the victims (Stevie Branch) pointed the guilt finger at Terry Hobbs. Pam Branch is now estranged from her former husband, Terry Hobbs, and there has been a lot of animosity associated with their estrangement. The basis for the guilt finger being pointed at Hobbs is a strand of hair found in the ligature which bound Michael Moore and proved to be consistent with Hobbs’ hair and another strand of hair found nearby which proved to be consistent with the hair of a friend of Hobbs, David Jacoby. This was enough to make the local police some fourteen years after the crime question Hobbs about the crime and later declared he was not a suspect. Still, Stevie’s mother has concerns about Hobbs’ involvement because after the murders she found a pocketknife belonging to her son in Hobbs’ personal belongings—a knife the boy carried with him everywhere. Hobbs recently told CBS’ 48 Hours host Erin Moriarty that he took the knife from Stevie before the crime because he didn’t want an 8-year-old walking around with it.
Based on what I have read and viewed about the West Memphis Three murders, particularly the latest 48 Hours program, I do not believe one person committed the crime. It would be hard for one person to corral three 8-year-olds and slaughter them with a knife or a blunt instrument and hogtie them in the manner they were found. It’s possible but not likely. That certainly eliminates the “dazed and crazed” Mr. Bojangles who was so messed up he couldn’t even control his own bowel movements. And I don’t believe the step-fathers did it either. Just because Mark Byers got his teeth pulled and replaced with dentures after the murders and may have slapped a former wife certainly does not translate into enough evidence to even suspect he slaughtered three innocent children, one of whom was his own stepson. And Terry Hobbs didn’t do it—and for anyone to believe the two strands of hair found at the crime scene which are consistent with Hobbs’ hair and the hair of one of his friends is sufficient “evidence” of guilt is out of touch with reality and knows very little about forensic evidence.