Alternative suspect: Christopher Morgan

False confessions do happen. In fact, there was a false confession in this case.

On May 15-16-17, 1993, police in Oceanside, California, interrogated Christopher Morgan (age 19) and Brian Holland (age 20), two Memphis residents who had driven from Tennessee to California a few days after the murders. Both Morgan and Holland repeatedly denied any involvement in or direct knowledge about the killings. Both failed polygraphs. Christopher Morgan later testified (at the Baldwin/Echols trial, with the jury absent) that his interrogation lasted 17 hours over two sessions, that Oceanside police never read him his rights, and that they kept him locked up even though he was supposedly not in custody.

During his post-polygraph interview, after 13+ hours of questioning, Christopher Morgan got angry and said, “What do you want me to do lie to you … I’m going to lie I’m going to lie. I killed them and all that other bullshit, I don’t know how he did it.” Immediately afterward, according to Morgan, “I may have told them that, ‘Are you happy?’ and he [detective] said ‘Is that the truth?’ and I said ‘No.’” Later Morgan said, “Well maybe I freaked out … then blacked out and killed the three little boys and then fucked them up the ass or something.” He asked for a hypnotist to check this “black out” possibility, but insisted “I’ve never hurt anyone intentionally.”

If West Memphis authorities wanted to pin the murder on the first dimwitted young man who falsely confessed, they could have charged Christopher Morgan weeks before Jessie Misskelley showed up.

Morgan had previously driven an ice cream truck in West Memphis and was familiar with all three victims. His parents still lived two houses away from the Hobbs family, but Christopher lived across the river in Memphis with four housemates. Christopher Morgan and Bobby DeAngelo (age 21) visited the Hobbs family to express condolences on May 6.

Bobby DeAngelo also became a suspect. A WMPD report from May 15 reads, “The day that Bobby visited the Hobb’s he told [Milton Morgan, father of Christopher] that the boys were mutilated, castrated and stabbed with a small knife. I checked with Mr. Hobbs and he stated that he said nothing about the condition of the boys.” West Memphis police questioned and polygraphed Bobby DeAngelo and took hair, saliva and blood samples.

The Wikipedia page on the West Memphis Three, clearly written by diehard WM3 supporters, disinforms: “California police sent blood and urine samples from Morgan and Holland to the WMPD, but there is no indication WMPD investigated Morgan or Holland as suspects following their arrest in California.” First, Morgan and Holland were not arrested in California, they were questioned and released. Second, there is clear indication that WMPD investigated Morgan, Holland and DeAngelo as suspects. They submitted hair, blood and urine samples for Morgan and Holland to the Arkansas State Crime Lab on May 24. They submitted a sexual assault kit for DeAngelo on May 27. Inspector Gitchell watched the interrogation videotapes from California and took notes. In August 1993, detective Bryn Ridge questioned Wendy Holm to check Morgan and Holland’s alibi for May 5.

Defense lawyers for Echols and Baldwin desperately tried to have Morgan’s “confession” introduced as evidence at trial. Judge Burnett ruled against them.

Some WM3 supporters still consider Christopher Morgan a prime suspect. I find this ironic. Unlike Jessie Misskelley, he really was subjected to an exhausting and abusive interrogation. Unlike Jessie Misskelley, his rights were clearly violated. Unlike Jessie Misskelley, his confession was obviously bogus. There was no other evidence against him. His alibi checked out.

Police and prosecutors with less integrity might have charged Christopher Morgan after his confession and called it a closed case. They might even have gotten a conviction. That really would have been a terrible miscarriage of justice. West Memphis authorities should be commended for not doing so.