Questionnaire and answers

In 1993 the FBI had a Behavioral Analysis Interview guide which they made available to local law enforcement agencies. It included five pages of sample interview questions along with explanations for detectives on how to interpret responses.

The West Memphis PD incorporated the FBI’s model questions in a 32-point questionnaire used on possible suspects during the first weeks of the investigation.

Two of the FBI’s sample questions were:

8.) What do you think should happen to the person who did this to _______________?

The innocent person will indicate some significant punishment, such as going to the penitentiary or receiving the death penalty. In contrast, if he is guilty, the suspect will try not to answer the question. He likely will say “It’s not up to me” or “who am I to pass judgement?” or may indicate the offender should be asked the reason for committing the crime. The underlying explanation for this evasion is that were he to suggest a penalty, he would in effect be prescribing his own punishment. In the event a guilty suspect does indicate severe punishment, any accompanying nonverbal behaviors will likely believe the sincerity of the answer.

12.) If we can identify the person who did this to _________________, do you think they should be given a second chance?

This is a question similar in principle to the punishment question. A truthful person is rarely in favor of giving a guilty person a second chance, the guilty suspect on the other hand will often indicate some type of leniency or be noncommittal about it.

These became question #2 on the WMPD questionnaire:

2. What should happen to someone who did something like this? Should they have a second chance?

This sounds way too easy. Like when the Mentalist asks the person who committed the crime to raise their right hand. But who knows, maybe there’s something to it. Let’s check how various suspects responded.

Steve Skaggs (5/8): “Kill him”

Damien Echols & Jason Baldwin (5/9 outside Baldwin’s home; interviewed together, answers noted on same page): Echols: “Death penalty” | Baldwin: “Same”

Damien Echols (5/10 at WMPD station): “if for fun death — mental just locked up / should have 2nd chance”

Deanna Holcomb (5/11): “do it back to them / no 2nd chance”

Christopher Wahl (5/11): “Do the same thing to him only in public — no second chance.”

Frankie Knight (5/11): “shoot them — no 2nd chance”

Jerry Nearns (undated, probably 5/14): “Shot, same thing as what was done to kids”

Edward Lynn Lucas (5/13): “Eye for eye”

Tim Dodson (5/14): “To death”

Thomas Polletta (5/14): “Be shot”

Bobby DeAngelo (5/15): “Hope you shoot him. No.”

William Welch (5/15): “Do same to them — [??? ?? ????]” (bad cop handwriting; maybe “give to public”)

Danny Leffler (5/15): “Elect chair”

(This list includes every response I found at Callahan, but I may have missed someone. Post any additions or corrections in comments below.)

* * * * *

[Added 8/30/2012:] I’ve been informed that this post is too cryptic and requires more explanation. So here goes, more explanation.

West Memphis police questioned Damien Echols three times in the week after the murders (May 7, May 9 and May 10). One natural question is, “Why was Damien Echols a suspect in the first week of the investigation?” The Damien Echols profile page on this site provides some background. Short answer: Damien Echols was a violent, unstable psychopath with homicidal fantasies, and some local cops knew this.

A related question is, “Did Damien Echols say anything when questioned after the murders to increase or decrease suspicion?” That’s where this post comes in.

The WMPD questionnaire item “What should happen to someone who did something like this? Should they have a second chance?” was not an attempt to gauge public opinion. It was a trick question based on the FBI’s “Behavioral Analysis Interview” guide. In general, according to the FBI’s behavioral experts, innocent people “will indicate some significant punishment” while guilty people will be evasive or “may indicate the offender should be asked the reason for committing the crime”.

WMPD officers posed this questionnaire item to several suspects between May 8-15. The Callahan archive records thirteen people’s responses to this questionnaire item, and only one person said the killer(s) should get a second chance: Damien Echols.

This doesn’t prove anything, of course. Echols and Baldwin both answered “death penalty” to this questionnaire item a day earlier. Police asked Echols this questionnaire item twice on consecutive days, which could be considered unfair or unscientific. This “behavioral analysis” trick question technique may be completely unscientific. (Some people consider the FBI’s behavioral sciences experts glorified psychics puffed up by pop culture mythologizing.) On the list of evidence against Echols, this would be waaaaaaay down the list. But it is interesting.

36 thoughts on “Questionnaire and answers”

  1. I think a great point supporters raise is the fact that police did single out Damien as soon as the bodies were discovered, for good reason or not, he definitely was profiled. And the fact that 3 teenage boys(troubled/psychotic or not) who actually seemed to have a lot of freinds/girlfriends, would kill 3 little boys for a “thrill kill,” just seems out of the scope of reason.

    With that said, the amount of evidence/coincidence that is presented against them is borderline overwhelming. Looking at each piece of “evidence,” you can argue or explain away a good chunk of it, but there is a lot that you just can’t explain away. Same goes for Terry Hobbs or even a mystery killer(s), there’s just some evidence that is hard to explain away that these guys were actually the murderers.

    Fascinating case.

    1. The police considered Echols a suspect early on, but it’s not accurate to say they “singled” him out. He was one suspect among many. The police considered many suspects, theories and profiles.

      For example, the police checked out a number of transients. On May 7, same day they first questioned Echols, the police brought in Paul Patrick Champagne and Gary Ray Chadwick.

      They also checked out several people with psychiatric problems or who had been institutionalized (Echols fell into this category too). They checked out sex offenders, or just men whose neighbors said they seemed like maybe sex offenders. They checked truckers, Vietnam veterans, ice cream vendors, cub scout leaders, adult men who liked playing with children. By my count, the WMPD checked out around 85 suspects between May 6 and June 2, all of whom were profiled in some manner.

      My argument is that (1) considering Echols a suspect early on was entirely appropriate based on his history, and (2) increased attention to Echols as the investigation developed was entirely appropriate based on the evidence.

      1. David,
        Have you seen the ‘new’ evidence released by Baldwins defense team this week stating that the fibers found at the crime scene did not match those taken from Echols or Baldwin’s homes in 93. According to the reports the orginal trial experts were wrong about the evidence. I never thought the fiber evidence was strong enough to prove guilt anyway, so I am curious what others think of this. Well, I don’t find that any phyiscal evidence is that strong. For me, I am torn because of the confessions and lack of alibis.

        1. Hi Jane,

          A few quick pointers in regards to the letters released about the fibers. Not all of the fibers were tested, just some. There is some question as to not only the validity of the tests but also of the testers. As far as the tests go, fibers were already tested once and that can change the color and shaping of the fibers making a “match” or “not match” that much more difficult. Also, it is noted in the letter that the fibers were not in good condition at all seeing as it is 20 years later.

          Also, the only thing we have now are letters. No reports have been made public. This to me is another red herring or “bone” to throw to supporters once again to keep the money flowing. After all, it has been over one year since the Alford pleadings and the WM3 are no closer to any type of exoneration than they were when they made the pleas. This evidence would mean so much more and would carry much more weight if it had been put forth in a court of law or during the evidentiary hearing to be examined and cross examined. As it stands, it looks like just one more publicity stunt.

          1. Thanks for the info Lucy. I only saw what was reported on the local news and they made it sound as if it were completely true.

      2. “The police considered Echols a suspect early on, but it’s not accurate to say they “singled” him out. He was one suspect among many. The police considered many suspects, theories and profiles.”
        Really? Case # 93-05-666 says it all!

      3. Really well i wonder why the police took their sweet time checking the public bathroom near the murders where there was a man washing blood off himself the business called the police and by the time they got there the man was gone i bellieve thats the real killer

        1. That was probably one of the reasons they were questioning transients earlier. While it may seem like some gross error on behalf of the police, it isnt really.
          There are a few things to keep in mind
          Bojangles entered the reasturaunt about 8:30pm
          The three kids were reported missing by the parents at 7:00 and were last seen at 6:30. At that point there was no real reason to believe that this was a case of kids staying out to late. The real search didn’t even start until the next morning.
          Another thing to point out is that the employees who called the police said blood was dripping from his fore arm. The big problem with that is for him to have committed the murders he would have had to use the water to clean the bank off and that would have cleaned the blood off of his arm. It was also a mile away, if it was from the murdered boys it would not still be dripping after walking a mile.

  2. You say “Short answer: Damien Echols was a violent, unstable psychopath with homicidal fantasies, and some local cops knew this.”

    Let’s not go quite THIS short on the answer. As you’re aware, the reality is that Steve Jones and Jerry Driver were juvenile probation officers who handled Echols’ case when he was a teen. Both were born agains who did not, shall we say, appreciate Echols Wiccan interests. Or, we could watch the interview with Driver in PL3 wherein he admits that he has contacted “Dr.” (mail order degree) Griffis 2 years before (Terry Hobbs committed) these murders and asked him for information on cult killings.

    So, when the murders occurred, there was a ready-made theory.

    In fact, as you know – Steve Jones stood at the crime scene and announced “it looks like Damien Echols finally killed somebody.” Of course, there was no evidence at that point…. aside from their theories about “devil worshipers.” And, from there, it was “build a case against Echols”, not “who committed these crimes.”

    A quick Google of Steven Jones also shows that his opinion now is that the WM3 are innocent and that the question to get them was (quote) “a witch hunt.”

    A witch hunt that continues to this day among some of the dimmer bulbs out there…. like the folks who run this site.

    1. In fact, as you know – Steve Jones stood at the crime scene and announced “it looks like Damien Echols finally killed somebody.”

      Do you have a source for this story? I’ve been trying to track down the source, with no success. I suspect it’s apocryphal.

      1. JivePuppi has it –

        It looks like the original source is Lt. Sudbury –

        It’s also in Devil’s Knot –
        Leveritt, Mara (2003). Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. Atria. ISBN 0-7434-1760-7.

        And cited in the New York Times –

        …BTW, you know there is a reason that both JivePuppi and Callahan (both of who started out “neutral leaning toward guilty”) became supporters — after reading and compiling the largest archive of materials on the net.

        1. Callahan is actually comprised of more than one person.

          Who is behind the website?
          We’re Greg, Christian, and Monte. Although Greg and Christian are supporters of the WM3, and Monte isn’t, the website doesn’t contain our opinions about the case.

        2. Did you actually READ what you quoted?

          In this one, the claim is made that Jones said “Looks like Damien finally killed somebody.” Who heard it? Where is this guy’s statement/testimony? Or is it just hearsay?

          “ON THE DAY AFTER THE BODIES OF THE THREE BOYS WERE FOUND I had a conversation with Steve Jones, a Juvenile Officer for Crittenden County, Arkansas. In our conversation I found that Steve and I shared the same opinion that the murders appeared to have overtones of a cult sacrifice. During our conversation Steve mentioned that of all the people known by him to be involved in cult type activities one person stood out in his mind, that in his opinion, was capable of being involved in this type of crime. That person was Damien Echols.” (emphasis mine)

          How is a conversation had the next day support your argument that Jones made this statement right after the bodies were discovered?

          It’s also in Devil’s Knot –
          Leveritt, Mara (2003). Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. Atria. ISBN 0-7434-1760-7.

          I’m not even going to touch Leveritt. Considering her obvious slant, there’s really no point. That book isn’t good for toilet paper.

          “A juvenile parole officer named Steve Jones, who made the initial discovery, is
          quoted as saying, “It looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone.””

          Again, hearsay. No statement, no testimony, nada. Someone talking out their ass.

          And I tried googling Steve Jones. I can’t find where he’s changed his opinion. But then again, Steve Jones is a pretty common name. Link please if you have it?

          …BTW, you know there’s a reason I went from supporter to non just like you claim JivePuppi and Callahan went supporter (good call btw Lucy). It’s because I got sick and tired of being lied to by the supporter movement just like you did above. So I looked stuff up for myself. In your world the WM3 are free and that’s a good thing. The truth is a lot sadder.

          1. Again, hearsay. No statement, no testimony, nada.

            That’s my conclusion too. Many supporters have repeated the “Looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone” quote, but no one can point to an original source. Fishmonger Dave just points to other supporters who have repeated the quote, not an original source. Urban legends are not evidence, no matter how often they’re repeated.

          2. When I first saw Paradise Lost on HBO, many many years ago, I thought they were guilty as hell. Then when the second movie came out it swung me the other way. I do believe in coearsed confession’s and believe it happens often enough, however I do see a lot of truth in what Misskelley said, but I see him being lead around a bit and wanting to satisfy the people he sees as authorities in the room.

            Someone said earlier that the more they read that the more unsure they are at this point, and I feel the same way. If I were to believe you all I’d be chasing my tail. Everyone here talks of proof but how do readers ever know if any of you have PROOF?

            I don’t see that there was a motive, not that there always is one. Rational people try to rationalize things, things that don’t always make sense to us but do to disturbed people.

            If I could know the truth about 3 cases this would be at the top of my list..

          3. “Changing sides”

            1) The only thing Paradise Lost 2 successfully demonstrated was that Mark Byers was certifiably insane

            2) Despite his insanity, one can understand why he would change his sides. Hollywood and the millions of people they influenced can affect even the crazy…or maybe Byers truly thinks it’s Hobbs. Either way Hobbs is someone’s opinion worth completely ignoring.

            So this Steve Jones is a juvenile parole officer from WM who initially thought the crime was committed by DE, but has since changed his mind?

            If true, thats something I suppose. Not exactly earth shattering. Link?

            From my experience, the preponderance of people that have changed their mind have been from supporters to nons.

          4. “Hobbs is someone’s opinion worth completely ignoring.”

            Excuse me, I meant Byers opinion should be ignored, not Hobbs.

    2. I guess the other three people misheard Echols confessing and bragging too, eh? Mass delusions all around.

      Look out for a new wave of retarded wm3 supporters now that Johnny Depp has “shared ink” with Echols. It says more about Depp than it does about Echols, IMO.

      1. Your mention of Depp and I don’t know that many people know this but he used to collect the artwork of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. So it would appear that he likes having the mojo of a killer around him.

  3. He said ‘IF MENTAL , give a second chance ” which to me seems a VERY reasonable answer .
    I have just watched what I guess is the ‘first’ documentary (?) I live in New Zealand. Our National Radio interviewed Echols yesterday and I am curious, so i’ve watched that doco, and now I’m here looking at your information
    So I am trying to read as much as possible. It IS an interesting case. One thing that has made a big impression on me so far , in my reading,and viewing, is the appalling lack of education on display, in the doco, in transcriptions , interviews etc etc…there are obviously serious issues of poverty that need addressing in Arkansas ! Another thing : a JUDGE chewing GUM while presiding over a murder case , unbelievable !
    I can see that it would be hard to be ‘different’ in a town like this , if you’re not a bible thumpin’ fundamentalist you’re probably a commie/criminal/ satan worshipper … scary stuff indeed.

    Anyway , i’m enjoying your site, lots of good information – you have a link on the side to a website ” WM3 Hoax ” but the link is dead … any idea where this site might be ?

    1. Hi Matilda!

      Couple of points if I may:

      Chewing gum really isn’t that big a deal. I mean, they’re stuck in that courtroom for hours at a time. If he’d been blowing huge bubbles I might see an issue, but just chewing gum? Not so much.

      Read “To Kill A Mockingbird”. Yeah, I know it’s fiction but Harper Lee did a good job of describing the times Scout was living in. The judge in that case chewed tobacco on the bench.

      Second, I’ve actually considered asking Truth if I could write a guest column concerning your statement about the 3 being ‘different’. You have to remember, the documentary people WANTED the people of Arkansas to look like inbred, bible-thumping rednecks. Just like they wanted Damien, Jason, and Jessie to appear innocent.

      The saying that floats around is “they read Stephen King, wore all black, and listened to Metallica”. Perfectly mainstream in 1993 even in Arkansas.

      Third, “you were probably a commie/criminal/satan worshipper…” They ARE criminals. All 3 had records prior to being arrested for killing Chris, Michael, and Stevie. Commie, I don’t know. Satanist? Again, don’t know. But criminal can be and has been proven.

  4. What did they get in trouble for before the murders ? I’m considered a criminal in the eyes of the law too but I’m sure as hell not capable of commiting murder. I just have had problems dealing with a heroin addiction. My opinions from here on out will probably not be taken seriously after revealing that information about myself. I don’t know enough about the case to have a strong conviction on the issue of their innocence or guilt. Even if I did would anyone view my opinion to be as valid as an upstanding citizen. There is a big difference between a criminal and a phycopathic murderer.

    1. J,

      If you look to your left under “The Case Against The WM3” you’ll see sections with profiles for Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley. The site creator has the information you’re looking for right there.

      1. Yeah i’ve been looking through it. It really does look like they were guilty. It makes me think there’s something the public doesn’t know about and never will. I don’t think they would release a prisoner who they were sure was guilty of murder, let alone three prisoners. The state must have thought that they would lose if it went to trial again, that’s the bottom line, there’s no way around that. I’ve dealt with the law and i’ve been to prison and I don’t believe for a second that the state would release a prisoner who they thought was guilty. They had to have known something that the public doesn’t.

    2. Even if I did would anyone view my opinion to be as valid as an upstanding citizen.

      I don’t believe heroin addiction disqualifies someone from being an upstanding citizen.

      There is a big difference between a criminal and a phycopathic murderer.

      I agree completely. Lots of people have criminal records of some sort; very few people fantasize about torture and murder.

      From 1994 to 2007, WM3 supporters tried the damndest to pin the murders on John Mark Byers, father of one of the victims. Byers had a long record of petty crime before and after the murders — mostly drug dealing and burglary — and supporters played up that record. Since 2007, WM3 supporters have been trying their damndest to pin the murders on Terry Hobbs, stepfather of one of the victim. They have dredged up every bad thing anyone has ever accused Terry Hobbs of doing. But there’s nothing in either Byers’ or Hobbs’ past that screams “psychopathic mass murderer”.

      Read the page “Damien Echols profile” (look in the left sidebar). Echols circa 1991-94 clearly was a dangerous psychopath who fantasized about torture and murder. Thomas Harris could not have written a more obvious “psychopathic mass murderer about to snap” character if he tried.

      1. Read the page “Damien Echols profile” (look in the left sidebar). Echols circa 1991-94 clearly was a dangerous psychopath who fantasized about torture and murder. Thomas Harris could not have written a more obvious “psychopathic mass murderer about to snap” character if he tried.

        Mass murder is actually 4 or more people killed in a continuum.

        Don’t take my comment as being smart either, just often hear you on pick apart others opinions. Wouldn’t want you to loose any credibility now.

        Wouldn’t want you to

        1. “Mass murder is actually 4 or more people killed in a continuum.”

          I’ve never head this. Do you have a citation? I’m happy to be corrected on proper English usage.

      2. In case Alex doesn’t come back, I’m jumping in here.

        The FBI classifies two or more murders as a spree. I thought a spree killing and mass murder were one and the same, but according to the link below they are not.

        Mass murder requires four victims at one time. Spree needs two, so according to the FBI, the WM3 are indeed spree killers:

        “The validity of spree murder as a separate category was discussed at great length. The general definition of spree murder is two or more murders committed by an offender or offenders, without a cooling-off period. According to the definition, the lack of a cooling-off period marks the difference between a spree murder and a serial murder. Central to the discussion was the definitional problems relating to the concept of a cooling-off period. Because it creates arbitrary guidelines, the confusion surrounding this concept led the majority of attendees to advocate disregarding the use of spree murder as a separate category. The designation does not provide any real benefit for use by law enforcement

        1. I misread – I thought Alex was talking about spree killings.

          This is what the FBI say about mass murder:

          Generally, mass murder was described as a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident (e.g. the 1984 San Ysidro McDonalds incident in San Diego, California; the 1991 Luby’s Restaurant massacre in Killeen, Texas; and the 2007 Virginia Tech murders in Blacksburg, Virginia).

      3. whats the difference isnt that kind of what law enforecement did to Damien ?Dig up every mistake this kid made to prosecute him?And honestly i dont believe a word from Hobbs .Check out his body language then check out Damiens .I think WM3 are innocent!Nothing will make me feel differently .If you know anything about body language you should be able to see it !!

  5. After seeing Paradise Lost, I was on the fence. I read Life After Death and was not convinced. This is how I found your website and wanted to learn more. However after reading your “Damien Echols profile” I can definitely say that there is absolutely nothing there to convince me of his guilt, moreover it only emphasizes the short sightedness of his “evaluators” how can you possibly conclude that Damien Echols was “a dangerous psychopath”? His profile describes a deeply unhappy teenager living in extreme poverty with parents that have so little means that they are willing to sign him (read sell him) over to the system to get him any treatment deemed necessary. Poor people with no insurance and no resources will say anything to get medical help provided by the state. Especially if they are dealing with a difficult teenager and are at their wits end, and yes, are unsophisticated and believe in the opinions of educated people. I myself was an extremely unhappy teen and can see through these so-called evaluations you have posted here, as will anyone who has had any experience with youth workers or living “in-care”. By the way, I also spent several years living in the country as a kid, and all of us would collect skulls that we found in the fields. Nothing morbid about it, its part of country living. The fight that happened with Deanna’s new boyfriend is easily explainable and does not make Damien anything close to a “psychopath”. In fact he gives a clear and concise synopsis of this in his book. All of the stories about Damien killing animals are third party hearsay (A friend told me). You say “Thomas Harris could not have written a more obvious “psychopathic mass murderer about to snap” character if he tried”. I cannot disagree more. Instead of convincing me of his guilt, you have convinced me that Damien’s voice should be heard.

    1. Wow, just wow.

      I’m not sure what to say to this as I had the 100% opposite reaction.

      Did you also torture and kill small animals as a child? You do know that is the hallmark of a sociopath.

  6. Did anyone read “Almost Home” written by Echols some years ago? Most of “Life After Death” is very similar. I almost quit reading the latter because I thought it was the same book. It was slightly different, less detailed, and had more added to the end. I was on the fence, but more so siding to the “Innocent” side. When I read the books and watch the movies after researching this, and other sites, it makes me feel duped at how much information is left out, and how Damien has such a poor me, they locked me up for no reason attitude. I really don’t know if they did it or not, and I would have hated to be on that jury. I feel really badly for all the family members..

    1. *** By locked me up for no reason, I meant into the Mental Institutions, not Prison, or Death Row. If he is innocent of the murders, I agree, poor him.

    2. I really dont think that is Damiens attitude .I saw a documentary where he takes full responsibility for the way he acted years earlier and mistakes he made. I would be upset to if i were on death row for a crime someone else committed. Just because he was odd or different does not make him a murderer im odd im different am i a murderer also lol dont think so i give a hand to Damien for being strong and never giving up!!!! One thing i do agree with is i also feel bad for all the families six families actually lost kids in my eyes and the poor boys who were killed may never get justice and thats sad!!

  7. Tell you what disturbs me about the questionaire and answers Echols gave. The final questions asks ‘what are your feelings about this? ( the killings.) his answer : I have no feeling about the deaths. It takes a lot to excite me. Nothing keeps me excited for long.
    If that doesn’t scream psychopath I don’t know what does. A shocking triple child killing in a small town, the residents of which are left truly horrified. However this creature refers to the crime as exciting . Not to him though, why ? The crime itself Didn’t last long enough for you D? Had to hotfoot it out the woods before he really had time to take stock. No i suppose only the fanfair afterwards where he was front and centre was the exciting part. Not even Human I swear!

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