There was a very strange court hearing in Marion yesterday. Some accounts:
WREG Memphis: New Possible Suspects In 1993 West Memphis Murders
Trench Reynolds: WM3 defense accuse new ‘suspects’ with pot smoking gay tryst scenario
Here are two newspaper article currently behind pay walls. Jody Callahan writes in the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
An attorney representing the mother of one of the boys murdered in the infamous 1993 West Memphis case filed affidavits in court Wednesday naming four men, all of whom have connections to the case, as the killers.
With West Memphis Three member Jason Baldwin a spectator in the Marion, Ark., courtroom, attorney Ken Swindle presented sworn statements that he says implicate Terry Hobbs, David Jacoby, Buddy Lucas and L.G. Hollingsworth in the killings. Although all four have been involved in the case over the past 20 years, none has ever faced any charges.
Swindle is representing Pam Hicks, mother of victim Stevie Branch, in her lawsuit seeking to examine the evidence that belonged to her son. Swindle contends this new evidence serves as proof that authorities are no longer actively investigating the case, since police have not followed it up, and that Hicks — formerly married to Hobbs — should be allowed to see her son’s belongings. A ruling in the case is expected by Monday.
Just a few weeks shy of the 20th anniversary of the murders of Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore, the controversial case still captivates and divides the public.
Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Misskelley Jr. were convicted of the killings in 1994, with Echols sent to Death Row. However, as questions about their guilt continued to mount, aided by the money and star power of numerous celebrities, the three won their release in 2011. While some were angered with that decision, others praised it as delayed justice.
According to a pair of sworn statements submitted by Swindle, four other men brutally murdered the three boys in the infamous case after the children surprised them while they were drinking and smoking pot.
“He murdered those boys,” Swindle said, indicating Jacoby, who was standing in the back of the courtroom Wednesday after he was subpoenaed to appear.
Jacoby, who earlier came under suspicion after a hair consistent with his DNA was found near the murder scene, repeatedly denied any involvement.
“They’re terribly wrong,” Jacoby said. “All I did was walk out there in the woods with other people, looking for those kids. They said they found my DNA, my hair near the scene. I can see that. I was out there looking for the kids.”
Mark Byers, stepfather of victim Chistopher Byers, was also in the courtroom Wednesday. As he has in the past, the volatile Byers threatened violence against those he believes killed his stepson. His target Wednesday was Jacoby.
“There was a guilty party in this room today who killed my son. It’s all I can do not to grab ahold of him,” Byers said. “If it had been 1993, I probably would have done it.”
As the media pursued Jacoby out of the courthouse, Byers followed. Jacoby told Byers he was “terribly wrong” in his accusations, to which Byers responded, “Liar. You’re a liar.”
Bennie Guy and Billy Stewart both gave sworn affidavits to Swindle, saying that Buddy Lucas admitted his involvement to them.
According to Guy, Lucas confessed to him in March 1994, then again a few months later.
“Well, me and L.G. Hollingsworth and them two, we done it. We killed them little boys,” Lucas said, according to Guy.
In July 1995, Guy added that he was arrested and found himself sharing a cell with Hollingsworth, who died in a car accident in 2001.
According to Guy, he convinced Hollingsworth to admit his guilt and share details. Guy said that Hollingsworth told him that he and Lucas had been walking in Lakeshore Trailer Park when Hobbs and Jacoby drove up, asking where to buy marijuana.
Lucas and Hollingsworth directed them to Stewart, then went along for the ride. At that point, Stewart tells a similar story, but says that when they drove up to buy weed, he saw Hobbs kiss Jacoby. Stewart added that his son also saw them kissing on a later occasion. He said that a few days after the murders, he also delivered pot, cocaine and crystal meth to Hobbs at a Memphis gay bar called J-Wags.
In April 1995, Stewart said that Guy told him of Lucas’s confession, so he asked Lucas about it. Lucas confessed again, he said, giving details.
According to the affidavits, Lucas said that the quartet drank whiskey, smoked pot and drove around, eventually ending up in the wooded area where the murders took place. Lucas told Stewart that Hobbs and Jacoby made the two teenagers wrestle after they got to the woods.
At that point, both Guy and Stewart say that the boys surprised them by riding up on their bikes. Hobbs ordered them to chase down the boys. Lucas then told Stewart that he and Hollingsworth were forced to hold the boys while Jacoby and Hobbs beat them. They then stripped the bodies, dumped them in the water and hid the bicycles. The bodies were found the next day.
Lucas couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
And Gary Meece writes in the West Memphis Evening Times:
The “West Memphis 3” case took yet another strange twist in its long, convoluted history Wednesday as a lawyer for a slain child’s mother, Pam Hicks, alleged that her ex-husband, his guitar-playing buddy and two teens killed three Cub Scouts on May 5, 1993.
The allegations came in two affidavits delivered to Judge Victor Hill at the end of a hearing on access to evidence in the case, with lawyer Ken Swindle urging that the information in the 80-page packet be considered before making a ruling in the case.
The allegations against Hobbs, David Jacoby, L.G. Hollingsworth and Buddy Lucas were based on sworn statements given by Bennie Guy and Billy Stewart to Swindle, based on alleged admissions from Buddy Lucas.
Guy said Lucas confessed to him on two occasions in 1994.
While sharing a jail cell with Hollingsworth in 1995, Guy claims he talked Hollingsworth into giving details on the killings. Lucas also supposedly confessed again to Stewart in 1995.
The new suggested narrative, with many parallels to the original case, goes like this: All four met up during a drug buy in Lakeshore Trailer Park. The four drove around getting high until they ended up at Robin Hood Hills, where the three boys surprised them. After the teens captured the boys,, Hobbs lost his temper when a boy kicked him, prompting the others to begin beating the boys. Hobbs used a pocket knife to mutilate two of the boys, the affidavits allege. The four stripped the bodies and dumped them in the water and hid the bicycles, the papers allege.
Hobbs never has been a suspect in the case and repeatedly has denied any involvement in the killings.
Jacoby, who was in the courtroom Wednesday answering a subpoena, denied any involvement in the killings when asked by reporters while the adoptive father of one of the boys, John Mark Byers, just a few steps away, made barely veiled threats against him, in the florid style prominently featured in “Paradise Lost” documentaries about the case.
There has been a long history of claims of alternative suspects in the case, most notably John Mark Byers.
Terry Hobbs is the stepfather of victim Stevie Branch. Hobbs has became a favorite target of so-called “supporters” of the West Memphis 3, based on some inconsistent statements about his whereabouts on the evening of the killings and a strand of hair found in one of the boy’s shoelaces that could possibly be his, based on DNA.
Jacoby was a friend of Hobbs. The two have said they played guitars together early in the evening on May 5, 1993, and later searched for the missing boy.
Hollingsworth, who died in 2001 in an auto accident, told investigators in the original case that Echols made incriminating statements to him shortly after the murder. Hollingsworth had complex ties to the case, having spent part of the day around Domini Teer, Damien Echols’ then 15-year-old pregnant girlfriend; having been in an auto accident that day in a car with his aunt, Narlene Hollingsworth, a major witness in the case, and having been at the laundromat where Narlene Hollingsworth was headed when she and her family saw what they testified were Echols and Teer walking in muddy clothes near the murder scene on the evening the boys were killed. L.G. Hollingsworth, who gave confusing and contradictory statements to investigators, also told police that Echols had made incriminating statements to him shortly after the murders.
Lucas also had ties to the case, having told original investigators that Jessie Miskelley, a Highland Park neighbor whose confessions were pivotal in the original case, cried while giving him the shoes Miskelley wore the evening of the murders, telling Lucas that he and Echols and Baldwin killed the boys. Lucas told investigators in initial questioning almost 20 years ago that he was at a family barbecue at Highland Trailer Park on the evening of the murders. Lucas later recanted his story about Miskelley’s admission to him, failed a lie detector test about why he changed the story and then told investigators he lied about the changes in his story because he was scared.
Earlier in the day Wednesday, Judge Hill appeared ready to order that the personal effects of the 8-year-old victims be handed back to the families.
“This is their property,” he said. “The state cannot take it from them.”
Both sides, in a hearing that mostly involved cleaning up lingering issues in an October ruling on access to evidence, attempted to dial back his enthusiasm, with Swindle, representing Pam Hicks, formerly Pam Hobbs, telling the court that his clients simply wanted to see the physical evidence.
“We don’t want it back; we just want to see what’s there,” said Swindle.
West Memphis City Attorney David Peeples noted that state law demands that the items be retained and also continued to argue that the West Memphis Police Department, which has made overtures to Hicks about allowing her and some other family members to see some of the personal effects, is under no obligation under the State Freedom of Information Act to allow review of any physical evidence. Peeples noted that careful preservation of the items could prove crucial if further breakthroughs in forensics yield new evidence.
“We owe it to the victims, to the families, to the men who have been convicted in this case that the evidence be preserved,” said Peeples.
The hearing in the courthouse in Marion involved somewhat fine points of law, with Judge Hill promising a ruling on Monday on motions sought by Hicks’ attorney. Still at issue is whether the FOI extends to the review of physical evidence and whether Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington has an ongoing investigation into the murders, despite the convictions and guilty pleas of the so-called “West Memphis 3.”
Swindle said the affidavits had bearing on whether Ellington is conducting an ongoing investigation into the murders of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers. .
Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols and Jessie Miskelley, all area teenagers at that time, were convicted of the murders in 1994.
The three dead boys were found May 6, 1993, in a muddy ditch in a formerly wooded area near the service road in West Memphis; Miskelley’s multiple confessions described how the boys were beaten, tied up and drowned; Branch and Byers were mutilated and raped, according to Miskelley’s statements, which he has since disclaimed. The three were released in August 2011 under a plea deal in which they pleaded guilty but were allowed to continue to assert their innocence.
Baldwin was in court Wednesday, although he admitted to the swarm of TV reporters afterward that he had not paid much attention to the proceedings. Baldwin was not a party in the motions.
Baldwin told the reporters he was going to school and trying to get his life back together and he embraced his mother, Gail, for the cameras.
Also on hand for the camera was John Mark Byers, who has attempted to claim standing in the motion to see the evidence.
Byers held up a copy of the papers that Swindle had given Judge Hill and claimed that the document would exonerate the so-called “West Memphis 3.”
Danny Owens, an assistant to Swindle, also drew the attention of the cameras as he claimed Ellington had not actively investigated evidence delivered to his offices on Feb. 22, 2012.
The court actions Wednesday stemmed from Judge Hill’s ruling in October stating that Hicks, who was not present for the hearing Wednesday, would not be allowed to see evidence in the case.
Much of the argument Wednesday revolved around once again whether Ellington had an ongoing investigation into the killings. If the case is not ongoing, then the materials are subject to be opened under Freedom of Information rules.
The position of the prosecutor’s office, as set forth once again on Wednesday, is that the case of the “West Memphis 3” is closed, and hence the records are open, which is not the case with the ongoing investigation.
If these newspapers ask me to take down their reposted article, I will do so.
Callahan has added the Bennie Guy and Billy Stewart affidavits to its Pam Hicks and John Mark Byers v. WMPD et al page. (Thanks, Frank.)