Damien Echols’ confession to William Winford Jones – May 1993

On Wednesday, May 26, 1993, three weeks after the murders, William Winford Jones voluntarily came into the police station with his mother, DeQuita Dunham. Jones was 18 years old, a resident of the same trailer park where Jason Baldwin and Domini Teer lived, and a boyhood friend of Damien Echols. Jones had had his own run-ins with the law, and he sported a homemade “FTP” (Fuck the Police) tattoo.

According to notes by police officer Shane Griffin, DeQuita Dunham “stated that her son William Jones has heard Damien stating that he pulled a fast one on the police and that has been telling kids at Lakeshore that if they messed with him, he would do the same thing to them that he did to the 3 little boys.”

William Winford Jones told WMPD detective Bryn Ridge that Damien Echols had confessed to him a week earlier. Listen to audio of William Winford Jones’ 5/26/93 interview, or read the text transcript.

Key passages:

RIDGE: Okay, and about a week ago, you said that you got off into a conversation with Damian?

WILLIAM: Yes

RIDGE: Alright, just relay what happened. Where was it?

WILLIAM: On a Store street in Lakeshore, where we were talking in that little park up there, and it was like, everybody in Lakeshore heard it. Damian had did it and he got questioned and everything, so when I was his friend, or use to be his friend, so I asked him, everybody want me to ask him, so I asked him, and he said, that he cut them and that, you know, had sex with them, molested them And, he was real drunk, real drunk.

RIDGE: About what time was this, this conversation took place?

WILLIAM: Pass curfew

RIDGE: 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock

WILLIAM: It had to be after 12, probably about 12:30

RIDGE: Friday night, Saturday morning?

WILLIAM: Something like that.

RIDGE: He was real drunk. Who else was there?

WILLIAM: Him and his girlfriend

RIDGE: Dominic and you

WILLIAM: And me

RIDGE: Was anybody else around?

WILLIAM: No

RIDGE: Okay, was he in a car or anything?

WILLIAM: Naw, they were walking

RIDGE: They were walking. When he goes into this conversation you asked him the questions the people wanted you to ask, cause you use to be good friends with him, alright and he says, he had sex with them?

WILLIAM: Yeah

RIDGE: And he cut them? Alright, did he say how he had sex with them?

WILLIAM: He said that

RIDGE: We need to be specific, I understand that you may not be wanting to say the words, but you need to say exactly what he said.

WILLIAM: He said that he had sex with them, that he molested them and had sex in the rear with them.

RIDGE: Okay, you said that he said, that he cut them.

WILLIAM: Yeah, that’s all he said, that he cut them, he didn’t go into no details.

RIDGE: Do you know what he cut them with?

WILLIAM: No, he said, just with a knife, you know, a little knife

RIDGE: A little knife

WILLIAM: When he did his hands, he was drunk, he did like that right there.

RIDGE: Just a little knife, and you made a gesture that it’s like ten to 12 inches long?

WILLIAM: Yeah

RIDGE: Okay, did he say where that knife is or anything like that?

WILLIAM: Naw, he didn’t tell me nothing.

RIDGE: Okay, did he mention if anybody was with him when it happened?

WILLIAM: No, he didn’t say nothing like that.

RIDGE: Okay, and he said that he had sex with them in the rear and he said that he cut them

WILLIAM: He cut them

RIDGE: Did he say how he cut them or anything, where they were cut?

WILLIAM: He didn’t say nothing like that.

RIDGE: Alright, what was the rest of the conversation?

WILLIAM: He stopped there and after he told me that, I freaked out

RIDGE: He was or you were?

WILLIAM: I was

RIDGE: You were scared?

WILLIAM: I talked to him for a few more minutes and I left, and went back down to my aunt’s house, and told her.

Later in the interview:

RIDGE: Okay, uh then you said that there was another conversation, he was drunk during that conversation?

WILLIAM: Yeah, when he was sober he came back to me, as a matter of fact, it was the next day and said, that, what was we talking about last night, and I told him what he said and he said, none of that was true, that he was just real drunk.

RIDGE: He was just real drunk

WILLIAM: And he was real drunk

RIDGE: Alright, when he told you that, he cut these boys, and he had sex with them, you’ve known him for a long time, did you believe it when he told you that?

WILLIAM: Yeah, that’s why I left

RIDGE: You believed it?

WILLIAM: Yes sir

RIDGE: Okay, and you’re a pretty good judge of when he’s lying or when he’s telling the truth, he’s lied to you before

WILLIAM: Yeah

RIDGE: And you’ve known he was lying?

WILLIAM: Yeah, he stole from me.

RIDGE: He stole from you, and you can tell when he’s lying?

WILLIAM: Yeah

RIDGE: And when he told you of this incident about him, or when he told you about the incident that he killed the boys you feel like he’s telling the truth?

WILLIAM: Yes sir

* * *

RIDGE: Okay, alright that’s what I was curious about. Uh, now we’re going to the next conversation you had with him the next day. He says to you to the effect, he wants know what he told you the night before?

WILLIAM: Yes

RIDGE: Alright, and when you told him

WILLIAM: I told him that all he told me was that he did it and that’s all. Naw, I told him that he told me that he cut them, and that he killed the boys, I didn’t say nothing about the sex part.

RIDGE: And what did he tell you

WILLIAM: He said that it was lie, and that he was real drunk.

RIDGE: Okay, did you believe that?

WILLIAM: Not really

RIDGE: You don’t believe that he was so drunk that he was making up a lie?

WILLIAM: No, I mean when you get drunk, that’s how it does, make you spill your guts.

RIDGE: Okay

WILLIAM: I mean, it can make you lie too, but I don’t think anybody would want to lie about something like that.

William Winford Jones maintained his story in multiple conversations with police detectives and prosecutors over the next eight months. He was slated to testify for the prosecution in Jessie Misskelley’s trial in January 1994. On the day before his scheduled testimony, Jones met with Ron Lax, a private investigator working for Damien Echols. Suddenly Jones recanted his story, claimed he had been lying to police and prosecutors for eight months, and refused to testify. William Winford Jones’ recantation was the subject of a heated court hearing on January 31, 1994.

WM3 supporters accept Jones’ rationale for lying about Damien’s drunken confession, then recanting — he told his mom a bogus story, his mom made him go repeat the story to police, he felt trapped into repeating the story, then Ron Lax helped him realize he could still back out and tell the truth. WM3 opponents suspect that Jones told the truth in his 5/26/93 statement and that he recanted due to some combination of intimidation by Lax, fear of Echols’ and Misskelley’s friends, loyalty to an old friend and a “no snitching” mentality. Decide for yourself which seems more likely.