Damien Echols profile
Who was Damien Echols in spring 1993?
As WM3 supporters tell it, Damien Echols was an offbeat teenager going through a goth phase. He suffered from ordinary teenage angst and mild depression, nothing more. The idea that Echols was dangerous was the invention of small-minded Bible Belt rednecks who assumed that anyone who listened to Metallica, dressed in black and read Stephen King novels must be a devil worshipper. Maybe he was a little weird, but a sensitive, curious kind of weird, not a horrific murder kind of weird.
This has become the standard view of Echols in the media. Reporting on the WM3′s release, the New York Times called Echols circa 1993 “a troubled yet gifted 18-year-old who wore all black, listened to heavy metal music and considered himself a Wiccan”.
The truth is much uglier. Damien Echols is a psychopath. At the time of the murders, he was a violent and erratic psychopath.
We know a great deal about Damien Echols’s mental state in 1992-93 because his psychiatric records were entered into the court record during the sentencing phase of his 1994 trial. His defense team compiled these psychiatric records into a 509-page dossier for use by a psychologist who examined Echols. His lawyers hoped that the psychologists’ testimony about Echols’ mental illness would convince the jury to spare him the death penalty. This dossier became State’s Exhibit 500.
Exhibit 500 is an unwieldy document dump, with many pages nearly unreadable due to poor handwriting and/or photocopying, but it is essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the crime. This article aims to organize this material, supplemented by witness statements, into a portrait of Damien Echols during the period leading up to the murder.
During the 1991-92 school year, Damien Echols was repeatedly suspended for a range of offenses. A case file dated 6/1/92 reports that Echols “admits to having been suspended 7x this past semester for inciting fights at school, starting small fires, cussing. States in one fight he almost gouged out the victim’s eyes.” (29) A similar report dated 6/2/92 states:
He has been suspended X7 due to negative behaviors in the classroom. Information does suggest that Damien has set fire to his academic classroom on two occasions, that he has also been truant, engaged in physical confrontations while on school grounds and has, often times, threatened to put “hexes” on school instructors. (236)
Another case file dated 6/25/92 states:
Supposedly, Damien chased a younger child with an ax and attempted to set a house on fire. He denied this behaviour. He reported that his girlfriend’s family reported this so that they could get him in trouble. He was also accused of beating a peer up at school.
Damien admits to a history of violence. He said prior to admission he did attempt to enucleate a peer’s eye at school. He was suspended subsequently from school. He was suspended on seven different occasions during that school year. He related that he was suspended on one occasion, because he set a fire in his science classroom and also would walk off on campus on several occasions. (92)
A handwritten note on a hospital form described one firestarting incident: “Wet toilet paper roll threw it against a light bulb it exploded started a fire rolled himself in a blanket and set [cut] der a chair watching bec [cut] was bored.” (178)
The eye-gouging incident involved a classmate named Shane Divilbiss, who gave this account to WMPD detective Mike Allen (poorly transcribed in the WMPD case file, which I haven’t altered):
I was going to school and meant Deanna Holcomb and in turn Damien Echols. Because they were boyfriend, girlfriend at the time I began to hang around with them I spoke with Damien Echols on several occasions just like friends, then emotional things began to develope between me and Deanna Holcomb she broke up with Damien and soon went out with me which lead Damien to believe I had stolen Deanna from him. He threatened to kill Deanna threatened to kill several of my family members just not my uncle but several others. He threatened to kill me and then later came up behind me in the hallway while I was at my locker I knew he was back there so I just started to walk I didn’t look at him or anything he jumped on me from behind draggin me down to the ground and clawing at my face with his fingernails. He uh, people was saying he was trying to rip my eyes out and my the scars is what it looked like, when I got up I turn around and I was going to fight but he was being held down by several of the people that were in the hallway witnessing it so I didn’t have to.
Allen asked Divilbiss about threats made by Damien during this incident:
One of the threats was against my uncle [Kyle Perkins, age 16] whom had told him that if he had fought with me that my uncle would jump into and threatened him by saying if he jumped in he cut him to pieces and bury him in Deanna’s front yard.
… Most of [Damien's threats against me] were generally just short you know like I’m going to kill you or you know like when he had me down on the ground he said I’m going to kill you, I’m going to rip your eyes out and all this stuff, you know generally you know just short phrases there was no long drawn out threats.
In May 1992, Damien Echols and Deanna Holcomb ran away together because Deanna’s parents forebade her to continue seeing him. They were discovered in a vacant mobile home at Lakeshore trailer park on the night of May 19. During the arrest, Echols made death threats against a police officer and Deanna’s father. Echols later told caseworkers that he and Deanna had made a suicide pact if they couldn’t be together. In a (likely embellished) account of his arrest, Echols later claimed
that he was able to work his fingers loose, moved over and was able to slip the safety off of the police officer’s gun which had been left in the police vehicle. Damien freely admitted that he had plans to shoot the girlfriend’s father if he acted in an aggressive manner toward the girl. (238)
Echols was charged with burglary, breaking and entering, disorderly conduct, sexual misconduct and terroristic threatening. He was held at the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center in Jonesboro for two weeks.
Holcomb spent the next two weeks at Mid-South hospital. Her relationship with Echols ended for good after the runaway incident. On May 11, 1993, Holcomb told investigators: “Damien once told me that he had never killed anyone but wondered what it would feel like.”
Charter Hospital of Little Rock, June 1992
After he “voiced suicidal ideation to folks at detention center re hanging himself” (p 28), Echols was sent to the East Arkansas Regional Mental Health Center, then to the Charter Hospital of Little Rock. Charter admission papers noted, “There were also major concerns that this young man was exhibiting disturbed thinking. He has a history of extreme physical aggression toward others.” (p 188) Damien Echols stayed at Charter Hospital from June 1 to June 25, 1992. This was the first of Echols’ three institutionalizations in 1992.
A “personality inventory” report (pp 210-217) from June 1992 described Echols as:
characterized by impulsive hostility, an apprehensive mistrust of others and an edgy defensiveness against criticism. Fearing that others will dominate and possibly brutalize him, he puts forward a socially blunt and aggressive public posture. He fantasizes being all powerful so as to block others from possessing the means to be belittling and harmful. He believes that only alert vigilance and vigorous counter-action can prevent the malice of others. … The desire to gain power and demean others springs from animosity and a wish to vindicate past grievances. Although frequently unsuccessful in these aims, this teenager believes that past degradations may be undone by provoking fear and intimidation in others.
Reports by physicians and caseworkers during Echols’s June 1992 institutionalization at Charter described Echols as very depressed. They make frequent reference to Echols’s “flat affect”, sullen demeanor, self-imposed isolation and “flat, monotone, glassy look”. Echols confirmed his “suicidal ideation” at the detention center, stating “that he thought several times about wrapping the sheet from his bed around his neck and ‘trying to hang myself.’” (p 233) He also showed signs of self-mutilation: “During the course of the psychosocial assessment, Damien openly showed to this social worker spots upon both forearms where he has used a cigarette lighter or other sharp object to burn marks into his forearms.” (234)
Staff also expressed concern that Echols was experiencing hallucinations.
The patient appeared to be sniffing the air around him as if he were responding to an external stimulus. When he was questioned as to what he was doing, the patient gave an inappropriate smile and was unwilling to discuss what he was doing. Upon several occasions, the patient also cut his eyes in one direction or the other as if he were hearing or thinking of something before he spoke. Again, it did appear to this social worker as though the client was responding to an outside stimulation. (p 237)
Staff also expressed concern about Echols’s paranoia. One doctor wrote, “His affect is inappropriate. He has trouble making eye contact. He is quite paranoid.” (281) Elsewhere a nurse wrote, “Verbalized concern that there is surveillance cameras behind his mirror & under his desk in his rm — cautioned peer that staff are constantly watching them.” (297)
A treatment plan document noted another strange behavior by Echols: “Trying to suck blood off peers who have scratched themselves.” (265) Echols’s penchant for sucking or licking blood from people would be a frequent theme over the next year.
On June 12, caseworker Tina Deaton described a conversation with Damien’s mother, Pam Echols.
[Mother] was most concerned about son “not learning to deal with anger and rages”. [Mother] mentioned her belief that son may be responding to outside stimulation. Voiced fear “son may be crazy.”
Damien Echols was released from Charter Hospital of Little Rock on June 25, 1992. Soon afterward, his family moved from Arkansas to Portland, Oregon. His mother had recently divorced Jack Echols and reunited with Damien’s biological father, Joe Hutchison.
St. Vincent Hospital, Portland, September 1992
Damien’s mother later told a social worker she was “convinced that he is into activities, such as witchcraft and is very concerned about the quality of friends that he developed while living in Arkansas. For this reason, she felt coming to Oregon would be a new beginning for him.” (150) The new beginning did not pan out. Damien got a job at the gas station where Joe Hutchison worked, but his mental state and family relationships deteriorated.
The breaking point came on September 1, 1992. Damien’s parents called police to the home, then took Damien to St. Vincent Hospital. His St. Vincent case file includes this account dated 9/1/92:
17 yr old male brought to ER by mother & natural father because [patient] has been increasing depressed & has been making statements daily that he was going to kill himself or others. Mom states Damien is on probation for terroristic threatening & breaking & entering. Dad says that Damien has been sniffing gasoline & that at dinner table tonight he talks about drinking a bottle of bleach & that it would be over soon. [Patient] told sister that he would be killing himself in the next 3 days. [Patient] has made threats to kill himself by hanging w bed sheet or tying socks together & told grandmother today that he would cut his mother’s throat. (145)
A St. Vincent “emergency room report” dated 9/2/92 added:
He apparently has had thoughts of harming himself by his report to the family members, even though he denies that. He has talked about drinking lye or some type of bleach that would kill himself, he has also tld his sister that he won’t be around much longer. The parents are concerned that he is also into Satanism or devil worship. He apparently has a number of items that relates to this.
… The patient denies suicidal or homicidal ideation at this time, however, in talking with family members, they state that he made it quite clear that he had thoughts of harming other people, i.e. was going to cut the throat of his mother and has said so in the past and also apparently made some verbal threats to his father here at St. Vincent Hospital even.
A handwritten note in the Physician’s Progress Report dated 9/2/92 reported:
Parents visited in alcove @12:30 he stated visit did not go well, he was tearful and would not discuss visit other than to say, “I no longer have parents.” Other staff overheard him begging them to take him home [illegible: one or two words covered by page number stamp] they refused. (146)
Another note dated 9/2/92 quoted Damien downplaying his psychological problems.
“I’m the only person who stands up to my Dad. My Mom just cries but I don’t stand for him pushing me around. I don’t want anything to do [with] either one of them. I just want to be on my own from here on out. I’m not suicidal, that’s their way of trying to keep me in a hospital & away from my friends & girlfriend.” (148)
One doctor, Stanley Sturges, agreed with Damien’s assessment. Sturges wrote in the Physician’s Progress Report on 9/3/92 that Damien:
does quite well on his school performance in the light of dropping out of school. There is no evidence of a thought disorder. He is not depressed and his efforts at self harm may be seen more as a manipulation to escape responsibility for a wide variety of behaviors which have got him into difficulty with the law. (139-140)
St. Vincent released Damien on September 4. The final entry in his Physician’s Progress Report stated:
Because of the circumstances that precipitated the hospitalization and Damien’s threats, particularly towards his father and of course his mother, both parents do not feel that they wish to have him return to their home. They are frightened of him and what he can do, not only to them but to other children that reside in the home (2 others).
Damien does not want to remain in Oregon. He wishes to return to Arkansas.
The two other children in the home were Damien’s sister Michelle (age 15) and half-brother Timothy (age 6).
Damien got on a bus to Arkansas soon after his release from St. Vincent. When he arrived in Arkansas a few days later, he was arrested for violating probation and sent back to the juvenile detention center in Jonesboro.
Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center, September 1992
Damien’s troubles continued back in Arkansas. A Charter Hospital psychological assessment written on September 10 described his return to juvie:
Presently in detention in Jonesboro, picked up for violation of probation, threatened to slit parents throat and eat them alive. Transferred to Crittenden, one of the kids at the detention hall cut his wrists, Damien grabbed his arm and began to the suck the blood, smeared it over his body and said he’s a devil worshipping vampire. Says he’s not a vampire but a witch. He is in isolation and suicide watch.
Joyce Cureton, director of the Craighead County Juvenile Detention Center, reported on the incident:
Approx. three hours after Damien arrived, he was sitting in rec. area with several other residents. One of the boys had scraped his arm a little, and it was bleeding some. Without warning, Damien grabbed the arm that was bleeding, and began to suck the blood from it. The boys all stated he had been saying he had not taken his medication the night before, and he was about to “go off on them”. Damien was asked why he did this, and he stated “I don’t know.” He also told staff he had threatened to kill his father and eat him. For the safety and well being of other residents, Damien as asked to go to his room. He has been kept there until he was picked up for court. He hasn’t been a problem since, just some very strange actions at times. It is our opinion that Damien needs mental health treatment.
In a psychological evaluation dated 9/15/92, Echols offered his own account of the incident.
While at the Detention Center, he reportedly grabbed a peer and began “sucking blood from the peer’s neck”. According to Damien, he relates that the peer was aware that he was going to do this. Staff reports that Damien was not remorseful for his behavior. Damien indicated that he sucked blood in order to get into a gang. He denies that it was any type of ritual.
… Damien laughed when he was called “a blood sucking vampire”. He relates he does not know why people think this. He was placed in isolation in the Detention Center until he could be admitted to Charter Hospital. The other peers were afraid of him. Damien denies that he rubbed the blood all over his face.
… He denied intent to harm himself or others at the time of the exam. He did admit to sucking blood out of the peer’s neck. He related that the peer had hurt his neck, and he subsequently sucked the blood.
Charter Hospital of Little Rock, September 1992
On Monday, September 14, 1992, Damien was transferred by court order from the detention center back to Charter Hospital of Little Rock. His initial assessment included the notations “family no support/no involvement at this time” and “could be a danger to others”. His case file lists his diagnosis as “psychotic” or “psychosis” on at least fifteen different pages.
A psychosocial assessment dated 9/15/92 reported:
Damien Echols was able to answer all the questions that were posed to him in an intelligent and factual manner. He seemed to withhold no information and readily answered questions concerning his religious beliefs and the fact that he believes that he is a vampire and does worship the devil. It was the social worker’s opinion that Damien was not disclosing information for the purposes of schock, that he was simply disclosing what he currently is believing. Damien did appear to be oriented to person, place and time. He was not evidencing any psychotic symptomatology at the time the interview was being completed. However, his behaviors could best be described as odd and bizzare. Damien smiled at inappropriate times. He cut his eyes back and forth as if he was responding to external stimulation. He seemed to be giggling at something that he was saying or a private joke that was unknown to this social worker.
Charter staff set out a series of goals for his treatment, such as “Damien will develop the ability to deal with angry, resistant feelings in a non acting out manner that is non-aggressive towards others during hospitalization” (405) and “patient will be able to distinguish reality as demonstrated by ability to appropriately respond to environment stimuli” (400).
His case file notes various behaviors that disturbed staff and fellow patients during this Charter stay. An educational therapist reported that Damien “glorified cult behaviors with peers – possibly for attention and shock factor” (412) and “would frequently make growling noises to scare the other students and to get their attention” (384). A treatment note dated 9/17/92 noted, “Unusual behaviors centered around his occult involvement. Using his experiences to arouse interest in peers. Could be danger to others.” (412) A nurse reported the same day, “continuing to make bizarre sounds around peers … continuous talk of Satanism to peers” (428). The next day, a nurse wrote, “continues laughing strangely and getting peers to feed into his satanism” (429). According to his discharge summary, “He did not demonstrate bizarre and unusual behavior with exception on one occasion, he did bite a male peer; however, this was in a fight type manner.” (458)
Though the court order committed Echols to Charter Hospital for a period “not to exceed three months”, he was discharged on September 28, 1992, after fourteen days. On a page of staff goodbyes, one nurse wrote, “Cut out the scare tactics and keep up the good stuff”, while his educational therapist added, “Let people like you for You!” His discharge summary reported optimistically, “At the time of discharge, it was felt that Damien’s behavior had stabilized to the point to where he no longer needed to remain in an acute care setting. He was not considered a danger to others at the time of his discharge. … Damien has contracted that he will not attempt to harm anyone after the time of discharge.”
Though not mentioned in the Exhibit 500 documents, the murder investigation turned up several reports of Damien Echols’s cruelty to animals and fascination with animal skulls.
On June 14, 1993, detective Bryn Ridge took a statement from Jason Baldwin’s uncle, Hubert Bartoush, regarding Jason’s alibi. Jason’s cousin, Joe Bartoush (age 12 or 13), was present and volunteered a story about Damien Echols.
On 10-27-92 I was at Lakeshore Trailer Park with Damien Echols when he killed a Black Great Dane. The dog was already sick and he hit the dog in the back of the head. He pulled the intestines out of the dog and started stomping the dog until blood came out of his mouth. He was going to come back later with battery acid so that he could burn the hair and skin off of the dog’s head. He had two cat skulls, a dog skull and a rat skull that I already knew about. He kept these skulls in his bedroom at Jack Echols house in Lakeshore. He was trying to make the eyeballs of the dog he killed pop out when he was stomping. Damien had a camoflouge survival knife to cut the guts out of the dog with.
Heather Cliett (Jason Baldwin’s girlfriend at the time) told police a similar dog story in a June 7, 1993, interview. A handwritten police report on the interview reads: “[Heather] States that one time at the skating rink Damien told her that he stuck a stick in a dogs eye and then jumped on it and then burned it.”
On May 27, 1993, after the murders but before the arrests, Damien’s friend Chris Littrell told police, “Damien likes to put sharpened sticks through frogs to see how long it takes them to die.” It’s not clear if Littrell actually saw Damien do this, or if Damien told him he liked to do this, or if Littrell heard the story from a third party.
Blood of Innocents (p 222) recounts a May 31, 1993, meeting between WMPD officer Bryn Ridge and two friends of Echols. (The BoI passage seems to be based on a police report of the meeting; the Callahan case archive doesn’t include such a document.)
[Garrett Schwarting] and [Murray] Farris told police they had talked with Echols in Farris’s home two weeks after the murders, where the strange teen told them some incredible stories.
Echols once placed gasoline on a cat, put a bottle rocket up its rear end, then lit it. He kept a collection of animal skulls and occult paraphernalia. He once placed a young boy in a noose until the boy turned blue and nearly passed out.
Several people reported that Damien kept an animal skull in his bedroom. Deanna Holcomb told police that Damien kept a skull in his bedroom. Domini Teer told police Damien had a cat skull in his bedroom. A Sheriff’s department investigator searched the Echols home on May 19, 1992, after the runaway incident and found a dog skull in Damien’s bedroom. At trial Damien explained, “It was a skull me and my step-dad, Jack Echols, had found and I just thought it was kind of cool. And before he gave it to me, he bleached it out and everything to make sure there wasn’t any germs or anything on it. It was a decoration for my room.”
There were rumors that Damien sometimes brought a cat skull or dog skull to school. One classmate told the local newspaper that Echols frequently brought a cat skull to class. “While everyone else was working, he was just playing with that skull.” Damien’s mother told law enforcement officials in May 1993 and again in September that Damien kept a dog skull he had found. She conceded that he brought the skull to school, but only once for “show and tell or some type of science project”.
Baby Sacrifice Rumors
A bizarre rumor appeared intermittently in Damien Echols’ psychiatric records. He reportedly talked about having a baby with Deanna Holcomb, then using the baby as a human sacrifice.
This rumor appeared in a phone message from Jerry Driver taken down at Charter Hospital on the afternoon of June 1, 1992. Driver was a juvenile officer in charge of Echols’ case, and he was calling to arrange Echols’ transfer from the detention center to a hospital. Whoever took the message wrote, “Court-ordered to Mid South Hospital. Suicidal, self-mutilating — made pact [illegible] girlfriend & Devil to sacrifice 1st born.” (176)
An Admission Psychiatric Evaluation from Charter Hospital dated June 2, 1992, included this anecdote: “There was a conversation that concerned staff at the detention center. Reportedly, Damien and his girlfriend were going to have a baby and then sacrifice the child. Damien denies this type of behavior.” (186) The same rumor appeared in Charter reports dated June 25 (92) and September 28 (82).
An Oregon social worker’s Intake Summary report on Damien and family dated August 17, 1992, similarly noted Jerry Driver’s belief that “Damien and several others of his associates are involved in a satanic cult” and that “Damien and his girlfriend were planning to have a child, so that they could offer it as a sacrifice to Satan”. The social worker added, “Damien denies any involvement in satanic cult or beliefs in Satanism. He expressed considerable displeasure with Mr. Driver in making such assertions.” (466-468)
Jerry Driver appears to have been irrationally fixated on Satanism. The Oregon social worker’s report also reports Driver’s assertion that “the authorities in Arkansas suspect that Damien’s parents are involved in this satanic belief system”, which was definitely not true. Driver’s claims about Echols and Satanism warrant skepticism, including the baby sacrifice rumor.
However, the baby sacrifice rumor came up again in three police interviews during the murder investigation. On May 11, 1993, two WMPD detectives interviewed Deanna Holcomb. When they asked her about Damien, she told them:
I ran away with Damien. I went to a hospital in Memphis and he went to one in Little Rock. I found out that he plained to kill our first born if it was a girl. Damien would not do it he is a coward and would have tried to get me to do it. That’s when I knew he was nuts and I had nothing else to do with him.
Did Deanna Holcomb actually hear Damien say he wanted to kill their baby? Or did she hear the story from Jerry Driver or someone else? It’s difficult to tell.
On May 27, 1993, WMPD detective Bill Durham re-interviewed Chris Littrell, a friend of Damien Echols and Domini Teer. Littrell was a fellow Wiccan, though more bookish and right-hand path in his approach. Durham’s report on the interview included this tidbit: “Chris said that he also heard that Damien plans to marry Dominic, after the baby is born, so he can get a bigger government check. Damien no longer plans to kill the baby.” This implies that Echols was again talking about baby sacrifice in spring 1993, when Domini Teer was pregnant with his child.
Tony Hodges passed along the same rumor in his 6/23/93 statement: “I heard from Garrot Schwarting that Damien was into Satan worshipping, so I quit speaking to him. Schwarting also told me that Damiens girlfriend, Domini, was pregnant and that the baby would be sacrificed.”
Counseling Sessions and Social Security Application, January-February 1993
The Exhibit 500 documents include nothing from October through December 1992, but they pick up again in January 1993 when Echols resumed counseling. His new counselor was Sherry Dockins, a social worker with the East Arkansas Regional Mental Health Center. After their initial session on January 5, Dockins wrote this summary:
18 yr old single white male referred to MHC by Charter Lakeside after his discharge from their program. Damien was hospitalized due to suicidal [ideation? intent?]. Prior to hospitalization he was arrested for terroristic threatening and assault & he is currently on probation for these charges.
Damien reports his problems begin age 8 when his parents divorced and soon remarried. “They were constantly fighting — tried to ignore it but finally started fighting back.” Reports stepfather was arrested for sexually abusing his sister x3 months ago. Mother divorced him and remarried father. Sister, mother and father currently live in Portland, Oregon. He has little contact with family. Currently lives with stepfather — Jack Echols because “its the only way I could live here in Ark.” They do not get along — but — rarely see each other. Damien is planning to move in with girl friend and her mother when they get an apartment. Reports he and Domini (GF) have been together for long time? Damien wants to live in West Memphis because of his friends and “its where I belong”.
Describes self as feeling “neutral/nothing” most of the time. Denies current suicidal/homicidal ideation. Reports history of self mutilation — cutting self with knives/razors. Last time was 3 months ago. Denies symptoms of depression “I usually don’t smile”. He quit school in 9th grade (this year) because he was not allowed to return to his previous school (Marion High School). Reports sleeping most of day and then going to Domini’s house. He has a part-time job with Alderson Roofing at night. Relates that he tends to “trance out” when by himself. He has done this since the 5th grade — “it feels good”. States he does not like to come out of this state because “I have to deal with what’s going on”. Reports he thinks alot about life after death — “I want to go where the monsters go”.
Reports history of alcohol/drug usage — coke, acide, pot, alcohol. Denies current usage. History of psychiatric tx — has received inpatient tx at Charter of Little Rock 2x, St. Anthony’s in Portland, Oregon for susbance abuse (last year).
Reports being harassed by local authorities as “they think I’m a Satanic leader.” He admits being caught with Satanic items and with handwritten books about witchcraft. Denies cult involvement. Is interested in witchcraft for past 8 years. He has tried to steal energy from someone else and influence others minds with witchcraft. States that he was able to do these things. Describes self as “pretty much hate the human race”. Relates that he feels people are in two classes — Sheep & Wolves (wolves eat the sheep).
Dressed in black, wearing silver cross and earring studs. Intense eye contact. (41-42)
Dockins filed an “Individual Progress Note” after their second session on January 13.
Damien reports one of his biggest problems that he would like to work on is being able to forgive others. When questioned about this he reports that he is very angry with family members and with other people that have “let him down”. He wants to be normal but feels that he has never been normal. … He discussed issues of power and control. He states that he could make things happen. He believes very much in magic. Damien stated “I don’t believe anything until its proven”. … Damien’s affect and mood was flat. He did not smile during the session. (48)
At their next session on January 19, Echols asked the counselor, “Mom told me to apply for disability — what do you think?” Dockins’ “Individual Progress Note” for this session is short but chilling.
Damien relates that he is trying to find a way to live on his own. He does not get along with step-father. Reveals a history of abuse as he talked of how he was treated as a child. Denies that this has influenced him stating “I just put it all inside.” Describes this as more than just anger — like rage. Sometimes he does “blow up”. Relates that when this happens the only solution is to “hurt someone”. Damien reports being told at the hospital that he could be another “Charles Manson or Ted Bundy”. When questioned on his feelings he states “I know I’m going to influence the world — people will remember me.” (50)
On January 20, psychiatrist David Erby filed a short “Individual Progress Note” based on his own session with Echols.
[Damien has] had three psychiatric hospitalizations. Each has been associated with anger, thoughts of killing others and thoughts of killing himself. He’s not currently suicidal or homicidal. He’s been on Tofronil 15 mg. at bedtime for about a year. He’s found that that’s been somewhat helpful. He’s not experiencing any side affects with it, he’s tried to stop it and had some discontinuation symptoms. We discussed that some tonight. (51)
On January 25, Sherry Dockins filed a longer “Individual Progress Note”.
Focus of today’s session is spent talking with Damien about his feelings of death. He brought with him to session a poem that he had written during the past week. The theme of this poem centered around death and power. Damien explained that he obtains his power by drinking blood of others. He typically drinks the blood of a sexual partner or of a ruling partner. This is achieved by biting or cutting. He states “it makes me feel like a God”. Damien describes drinking blood as giving him more power and strength. He remembers doing this as far back as age 10. He does not remember where he learned to do this.
Damien believes that there is no God. He feels that society believes there is a God because society is weak. He wants very much to be all powerful. He wants very much to be in total control. We discussed how some of this is related to his experiences as a child. He acknowledges that some of this is related to his childhood abuse trauma issues but he feels that it is who he is now.
Damien relates that a spirit is now living with him. The spirit was put inside him last year. He indicates that a month ago the spirit decided to become part of him and he to become part of the spirit. This is reportedly a spirit of a woman who was killed by her husband. When questioned about how he feels with this spirit or what the difference is, Damien is able to relate that he feels stronger and more powerful with this spirit. He has not seen the spirit but does hear the spirit. In addition, he also reports conversations with demons and other spirits. This is achieved through rituals. He denies that he is satanic, seeing himself more as being involved in demonology.
It becomes more noticeable today in talking with Damien that he has many things from childhood that he simply does not remember. This is believed to be a dissociative response to trauma issues. Damien is agreeable to beginning to talk about what he experienced as a child that he remembers. He is also agreed to continue to discuss his issues with power and control as related to his practice of rituals. Therapist encouraged him to continue writing and to bring the writings into the sessions as a way of communicating his feelings.
A: Damien’s affect and mood today continued to be bland though there was more emotion when talking about drinking blood. (52-53)
Dockins filed a shorter “Individual Progress Note” on February 5.
S: Damien is seen today for a scheduled session. He is dressed completely in black and is noted to have cuts on his R arm and hand.
O: Damien relates that he cut his arm & hand as a way of permanently marking his skin. The name Domini is cut into his arm. Session continues focused on Damien’s self concept and image. Relates feeling very angry yesterday when running into previous girlfriend. “I controlled it — I can do anything”.
A: Affect and mood — flat (54)
The Exhibit 500 dossier includes no records of counseling sessions between February 5 and May 5, 1993. It’s unclear if Echols stopped going or if there’s another reason for the gap.
Exhibit 500 does include several documents associated with Damien Echols’ application for Social Security disability benefits in early February 1993. Echols claimed that his mental illness left him unable to work. In an application form dated 2/2/93, to the query “Describe your pain (or other symptoms)”, Echols wrote, “Mentally Disturbed”. (109)
A Supplemental Interview Outline form dated 2/2/93 requested various bits of personal information, family relationships and daily habits. For the query “Describe any changes in these things since your condition began”, Echols wrote, “I am a sociopath”. (111)
On a Disability Report form also dated 2/2/93, to the query “What is your disabling condition?”, Echols wrote, “I am going through treatment at the Mental Health Center and have been in several mental hospitals.” For “Explain how your condition now keeps you from working”, Echols wrote, “Because when I try to take a time out my employers don’t like it. Violent, medicine makes me sleepy, vomit & headaches”. (123)
A subsequent page on the Disability Report form requested information on hospitalizations. Echols listed his two Charter Hospital of Little Rock stays and under “Reason for Hospitalization” wrote, “Homicidal, suicidal, manic depression, schizophrenia, sociopathic”. Below that, Echols listed his stay at St. Anthony’s (sic) in Portland, Oregon. Under “Reason for Hospitalization” this time, Echols wrote, “Homicidal, suicidal, manic depression, schizophrenia, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sociopathic”. (125)
The Social Security Administration determined that Echols was 100% disabled due to mental impairments. At the time of the murders, he was receiving full Social Security disability benefits.
Doctor’s Appointment on May 5, 1993
Exhibit 500 includes one last counseling session. Damien Echols and his mother went to EARMHC on the morning of May 5, 1993, the day of the murders. A physician (signature difficult to decipher) talked to Damien, renewed his Imipramine prescription and filed a handwritten Physician’s Progress Report. In the Exhibit 500 dossier, this report on Echols’ 5/5/93 counseling session (page 61) was photocopied at an angle such that the first few words of some lines are cut off. (Out of 509 pages in the dossier, this was the only page misaligned in this way.) Here’s what we can read:
- – - – - – - – - t of Dr. Erby on 1-20-93. He
- – - – - – - – ut at times he is impulsive
- – - – - – - things that may be harmful to
- – - – - – He has impulses to do strange
- – - – - rmful things to himself. He
- – - – es suicidal thoughts. He says
- – - kes to read, swim, playing pool,
- – likes to work with animals, snakes,
- zards & spiders. He is bothered if
- nakes are killed even if they are poison.
- e has not seriously considered a vocation.
- he mother seems dedicated, but insecure.
He seems to enjoy people being concerned about him.
A few hours after this session, Damien Echols acted on one of his impulses to do strange and harmful things.
Confronted by material from Echols’ psychiatric records, WM3 supporters often respond, “OK, that proves he had problems, but it doesn’t prove he killed anyone.” That’s true. But this material does prove many things.
It proves that people who considered Echols dangerous, violent and potentially homicidal in 1993 had very good reasons for doing so. This was not a fantasy concocted by stupid Bible Belt rednecks who thought wearing black, listening to heavy metal and practicing Wicca meant someone was evil.
It proves that West Memphis law enforcement officials, faced with a bizarre mutilation homicide, were entirely justified in including Echols on their list of people to question.
It proves that the profilers who worked for the defense on appeal, Brent Turvey and John Douglas, were either dishonest or incompetent when they dismissed Damien Echols as a possible killer.
It proves that professional journalists who have written puff pieces about Damien Echols for People, Rolling Stone, the New York Times, GQ and elsewhere have failed to do even minimal research.
It proves that people who say “I was just like Damien Echols at that age” have no clue what they’re talking about. (If you read this whole page and still believe you’re just like Damien Echols, please get some psychiatric help before you kill a bunch of people.)
Thanks to Sheer, Mary7875, Addict and many others for their help and prior research. And thanks to Christian for making Exhibit 500 available at the Callahan case archive.