Todd Moore (father of murder victim Michael Moore) and Terry Hobbs (stepfather of murder victim Steve Branch) have both written guest columns for the Jonesboro Sun this summer.
On June 6, the Sun published a willfully ignorant editorial titled “Justice Unserved”. Todd Moore’s guest column ran on June 12.
Father of WM3 murder victim certain who killed 3 boys
by Todd Moore
I am the father of West Memphis triple murder victim Michael Moore. I am writing this in response to your editorial in the June 6 edition of The Sun titled “Justice Unserved.” It has always been my opinion that justice was served when Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley were convicted in 1994 for the brutal murder of my son and his friends.
The three men who slaughtered my son were convicted by two juries that found them guilty in 1994. Despite this, the Arkansas Supreme Court generously granted the murderers the opportunity for a new evidentiary hearing to be held Dec, 5, 2011, to show evidence they claimed proved their innocence. They could have been granted a new trial to prove these claims of innocence. Instead of presenting their “new evidence” in open court last December, they opted to plead guilty to the murders in August 2011 in exchange for time served.
Second District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington agreed to accept the defense’s plea offer for vague reasons we still don’t understand. Family members learned of the deal only at the last minute. The district attorney was new to the case. But whatever the rational, this continued to make the convicts guilty as a matter of law.
The defense team avoided sharing the results of the tests of everything with us by preemptively entering a guilty plea for their clients. Thanks to the plea deal, we may never know exactly what the defense found when the evidence was retested. Absence of DNA evidence does not prove the West Memphis Three (WM3) are innocent. The killers washed most of the evidence away in the water- filled ditch where they drowned my son. There was plenty of other evidence to convict them in 1994 without positive DNA. Most murderers are convicted without DNA evidence.
The defense attorneys for the WM3 had nearly 20 years to find “the real killer” and failed to do so. After nearly two decades and untold millions in donated funds spent, the best they could do was find a hair that may or may not have belonged to Terry Hobbs, step- father of victim Stevie Branch. It was allegedly found on a shoelace used to tie my son. It has never been proven to actually belong to Terry Hobbs.
Even if it was Terry Hobbs’ hair, that fact would prove nothing. Our sons were best friends, and my child spent considerable time in Terry Hobbs’s home and could have picked up the hair on his shoe. This would be “secondary transfer” and makes the hair of no probative value. The defense has even admitted as much. Terry Hobbs did not murder my son. No credible law enforcement official believes so. Neither did Mark Byers, Mr. Bojangles nor any of the other defense red herrings.
Contrary to your editorial, it is not up to police or the prosecutor to continue to look for “the real killer.” The real killers were arrested and charged back in 1993, were found guilty in 1994 and then admitted their guilt in 2011 after getting a lucky break. To his credit, Prosecutor Ellington has stated many times that his door is open to any new leads and evidence presented to him by the WM3 defense teams.
So far, nothing compelling enough to reopen the case has been presented to him. District Attorney Ellington stated as much the day your editorial appeared. This means despite the defense’s grandiose claims prior to the pleas, not one iota of credible evidence has been presented to show their clients’ innocence or even to view the convicted as anything less than what they are as a matter of law and as a matter of fact: guilty.
The WM3 defense team has been well-funded by numerous celebrities who were misinformed by the biased “Paradise Lost” documentaries. These one-sided films left out nearly all of the evidence that demonstrated the guilt of the WM3. They caused thousands of people to support the release of the convicted child killers with a very limited unndcrstanding of the actual facts of the case.
Mr. Wessel, it appears that you, like so many others, got most of your misinformation about this case from these inaccurate documentaries. If you would take the time to dig a little deeper and actually read the case file documents, you would know that there was ample evidence to convict these three men for murdering my son. These documents are readily available on websites such as www.callahan.8k.com.
Here are just a few examples of what was omitted from the documentaries:
• Jessie Misskelley confessed to the crime at least five times to police, prosecutors, even his own attorneys with his hand on a Bible. Misskelley confessed the first time after less than four hours of police questioning. That questioning was done with permission from his father. He continued to repeatedly confess in the year that followed.
• Damien Echols amassed a mental health record 500 pages long in the years immediately prior to the murders. In his own handwriting, he classified himself as a “homicidal, suicidal, schizophrenic, sociopath” just a months before he brutally murdered my son.
• Read Damien Echols’ current Twitter account to discover his deep-seated interest in skulls and the occult. There he also recently described artwork depicting a man sawing off his own arm as “breathtaking.” In addition, Echols is obscenely profiting off the death of my son by selling his narcissistic books, promoting his self-serving movie, and tattooing murder groupies with his “mark.” For two hundred dollars, you can have this sociopath tattoo an “X” on your arm. These Twitter posts and money-making schemes are a slap in the face to me, my family and my dead son.
• The movies omit the fact that these three men had no alibis. Damien Echols’ and Jessie Misskelley’s alibis completely fell apart on the stand in the 1994 trials. Jason Baldwin’s attorneys didn’t even bother to present an alibi.
• Fibers consistent with a robe in Jason Baldwin’s home and a shirt in Damien Echols’ home were found on the victims. Blue candle wax found on Chris Byers’ shirt was consistent with candle wax found in Damien Echols bedroom.
• The crime lab found that three different knots were used to hogtie the three victims with their own shoelaces. This points toward multiple killers rather than one killer. Witnesses say that Mr. Bojangles, the disoriented man near the crime scene that night, had a cast on one arm. No one person could have subdued and hogtied three energetic young boys–not Terry Hobbs and certainly not the one-armed Mr. Bojangles.
• A knife that could have been used in the murders was found in a lake behind Baldwin’s home. It was a unique knife with a place hold a compass on the end that witnesses described as similar to one owned by Echols.
• A car full of eyewitnesses placed Echols near the crime scene, covered with dirt, on the night of the murders.
• Numerous friends, acquaintances and cell-mates came forward with tales of confessions from all three defendants.
Throw out one or even several of those facts, and there would still be enough to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
I sat through those trials. The basic facts need to be put out there. Otherwise, it makes a mockery of my son’s short life.
Then on July 15, the Jonesboro Sun ran a letter from Capi Peck called “Investigate Hobbs”. The Sun published Terry Hobbs’ response on July 26.
Stepfather of WM3 victim says attacks unconscionable
By Terry Wayne Hobbs
The numerous falsehoods and distortions contained in Capi Peck’s letter of July 15 make it is difficult to decide where to begin. I’ll just start with her most outrageous implication. I obviously had nothing to do with the murders of my beautiful stepson, Stevie Branch Jr., and his beloved friends Christopher Byers and Micheal Moore. No legitimate law enforcement officer ever has made this unconscionable claim.
Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin always have been guilty of those gut-wrenching atrocities. Two juries convicted Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin in 1994. Last August, those convicts stood before the world and, despite whatever spin is put on it, conceded they slaughtered these precious children. Yet, Ms. Peck considers the convicted child killers worthy of her friendship and support.
I can’t tell whether Ms. Peck’s next major falsehood is an outright lie or a simple ignorance of the law. Judge Laser did not “let the WM3 out of prison because a jury hearing all the evidence available would acquit them.” It was the exact opposite. Judge Laser allowed the three killers to enter pleas after he was convinced there was a factual basis to do so. In other words, quite contrary to what Ms. Peck wrote, the judge took the Alford pleas only because he felt the murderers could be found guilty again if their cases went to trial.
Ms. Peck’s version of the events of May 5, 1993, is a complete distortion of what actually happened. The West Memphis Police Department did not consider me a suspect for a very good reason — there was absolutely no basis for them to do so. Further, the police located and arrested the actual murderers. Juries convicted the reasonable parties. The killers later entered pleas that made them guilty as a matter of law. These facts are incontrovertible to anyone but a conspiracy theorist.
Ms. Peck was a cog in the West Memphis Three propaganda machine that generated millions of dollars purportedly to fund the defense. By some estimates, as much as $10 million to $20 million was raised. Ultimately, the money simply reaffirmed the three child murderers are indeed the guilty parties, yet let them walk out of prison.
Prosecutor Scott Ellington recently said the defense has not brought forward a single shred of evidence that would justify the reopening of this case. That must be difficult to explain to gullible donors who were told new evidence would be presented at hearings and would result in new trials. Instead, millions of dollars reportedly spent to investigate and develop new evidence led to three pleas. A year after these plea bargains, the killers remain just as they have been since the day they butchered Stevie, Michael and Christopher.
Most legal observers agree Misskelley wouldn’t have been granted a new trial due to his multiple confessions. Echols and Baldwin would have faced uphill battles due to the evidence against them, including their own admissions of guilt. This is likely why all three decided to plea out rather than go forward with the evidentiary hearings. From news accounts, the defense team subsequently sent Prosecutor Ellingon a “West of Memphis” DVD and unsworn hearsay declarations that would be inadmissible in an Iranian court of law. Apparently $20 million won’t buy as much as in the past.
I previously have been held to be a public figure and therefore am somewhat vulnerable to libelous attacks such as the one Ms. Peck launched on your editorial page. Let me suggest in closing that if anything should be investigated, it isn’t me as the defense’s latest (and probably not last) red herring suspect. No, the focus should be on what actually happened to the millions raised that allowed the murderers to roam the streets but in the process didn’t purchase one iota of exculpatory evidence. That is the true scandal here. There never will be an exoneration because the actual killers were investigated, arrested, convicted and finally conceded they did it. No governor in his or her right mind would issue pardons either.
I understand Capi Peck is a wonderful baker. She should stick to pastries and leave law enforcement, legal proceedings and fundraising for legitimate causes to those more capable and skilled than she is. Ms. Peck, please allow those of us who truly mourn for the actual three victims, some closure. Stevie’s horrific murder devastated me, my ex-wife and our daughter. We deserve peace no matter how much additional money can be generated exploiting this precious boy’s death. That is a matter of simple decency and actual justice. If you have any sense of shame at all you will come to realize as much.
It is the right thing to do — even if it requires someone to bake more after murder groupies no longer blindly throw money into the bill.
Note: the Jonesboro Sun put both these guest columns behind a pay wall. This site does not have permission to reprint them. If the Sun asks me to remove them, I will.