Jessie Misskelley profile

Who was Jessie Misskelley in 1993?

He was a ninth-grade dropout who worked odd jobs. He lived in a three-bedroom trailer with his father and his father’s latest girlfriend, though he frequently slept elsewhere. He got wasted most days. He had tattoos reading “FTW” (for “Fuck the World”), “AH” (an ex-girlfriend’s initials), “NWA” and “Bitch”, plus a skull & dagger.

He had had numerous run-ins with law enforcement. At a pretrial suppression hearing on January 13, 1994, the prosecution documented four occasions when Misskelley had been read his Miranda rights: sometime in 1988, twice in late October 1992, and in March 1993. (There was no mention at this hearing of what exactly Misskelley was accused of doing on these occasions.) In 1988 he received probation for stealing flags from school (Blood of Innocents, 165). And his violent streak landed him in trouble with juvenile authorities on numerous occasions.

History of Violence

Jessie Misskelley liked to fight. In some cases, he liked to beat up people younger and weaker than himself.

In March 1993, a 13-year-old girl named Tiffany Allen filed a police report charging Jessie Misskelley with punching her in the face. Allen described the incident in a later police interview:

We had gotten in to an argument, and he had been spreading a rumor around that he was having sexual intercourse with me to all these people, and I confronted him with it, and he kept saying all this stuff. So I slapped him and whenever he went away and everything, and for a year I didn’t hear anything from him. And two weeks sombody came up to me and said that he had been looking for me. And so I just didn’t worry about, and one day I was walking through the park and he was at the road and … he came up to me he started running at me. And my boyfriend stepped in front of me and he hit Carl … and then he hit me. And we started to walk away, and he started coming after us again, so we ran and his, a until one of my friends parents came and got us and took me to my house.

Dennis Carter described another incident:

States that about 4 or 5 months ago in Highland Trailer Park there was a little girl — 5 or 6 yrs old — that was throwing rocks — one accidentally hit Jesse — Jesse chased the little girl and threw a rock and hit her in the head. The little girl was crying and Jesse was laughing. Her name was Paula — they don’t live in Highland anymore — they moved about 1 month ago. They were renting a house trailer from David De???. The girl’s mother called the Police and a deputy came out and talked to Jesse. Jesse told his dad about it but his dad didn’t say anything to him about it.

Blood of Innocents tells another story from Misskelley’s juvenile record:

When he was eleven, he was accused of assaulting a young girl in Lakeshore. His parents claim Jessie had initially come to the girl’s aid after her boyfriend became abusive, but she jumped on his back when Jessie hit the young man. Jessie chased the girl, then hit her on the head with a rock or a brick. The girl “fell down and couldn’t get up,” according to the May 4, 1987, complaint by the girl’s mother. (163)

And going back even further, Blood of Innocents reports that Misskelley “once stabbed a fourth-grade classmate in the mouth with a pencil” (160-161).

The Blood of Innocents authors unearthed a June 1987 social worker report based on a court-ordered psychological exam.

“He gets so mad, he’s capable of hurting someone,” Shelbia [Misskelley, Jessie's stepmother] told the social worker. … [Shelbia] also said Jessie had a habit of breaking windows, and once required several stitches to his left hand after he punched a window in a fit of anger. “Mrs. Misskelley reported Jessie does not own up to his wrongs,” the report said, “that he always blames someone else. She denies Jessie becomes physical with she (sic) or her husband but will clench his fist and take his anger out on someone else or something slike breaking the windows. Mrs. Misskelley replied, ‘I don’t think he can control it,’ referring to his temper. ‘He needs some help.’” (163-164)

A Memphis Commercial Appeal profile from June 5, 1993, described Misskelley as “Tough, a Bit Troubled, but Kind to Kids”. The article quoted several neighbors who called him “respectful” and “well-mannered”, but also noted his violent streak:

Misskelley had a temper when pushed, McNease said.

“He was a fighter,” he said. “If you picked on him, he would bop you in the mouth.

“He whipped a grown man right out there the other day,” McNease said, pointing to the driveway to his shop. “If it hadn’t been for Big Jessie stepping in to stop it, he would have hurt that man bad.”

Drugs and Alcohol

Defense psychologist William Wilkins testified at trial that Misskelley “related to me that particularly in a period, I think, as I recall from about age thirteen to fifteen or so he huffed gas regularly, on a pretty regular basis, almost daily. He also had used alcohol and also had experimented with other drugs.”

Many people drink alcohol and smoke pot in high school with no ill effects, but huffing gasoline is an especially nasty way to get high. Huffing gas everyday in junior high is a really bad idea.

Several people interviewed by police noted Misskelley’s gasoline-huffing and heavy drinking. Dennis Carter told police a week after Misskelley’s arrest: “Dennis states that Jesse drank alot and smoked pot when he could get it … States that he also saw Jesse sniffing gas about 20 times. Also saw Jesse take mini thins — bought them at Delta in Marion — got high from those.”

Family Life

Like Echols and Baldwin, Misskelley had an erratic and dysfunctional family life. His father married Shelbia Misskelley when Jessie was 4, and she seems to have been a caring stepmother. But Jessie Sr. and Shelbia had split up by 1993, and his father had a new live-in girlfriend. Dennis Carter told police that Jessie wasn’t happy with the new arrangement:

Dennis states that Jesse never says anything about his mother but does see her every now and then. States that he does not like his stepmother (Lee) at all — states that she stays drunk all of the time and so does Jesse’s dad. States that about 2 months ago he was spending the night with Jesse — when they came into the trailer around 6:30 pm — Lee was passed out on the couch wearing nothing but her panties. Jesse went and told his dad who didn’t say anything. States that Lee and Jesse’s dad both stay drunk all of the time.


Misskelley told police that he had smoked a couple joints and was drinking a bottle of Evan Williams whiskey on the evening of the murders. This certainly fits his personal history.

In his 6/3/93 confession, Jessie denied hitting any of the victims. In his many later confessions he admitted hitting Michael Moore, but he insisted that he didn’t know Jason and Damien planned to take things further than just beating up the three kids. This also fits his personal history. He just wanted to have some fun beating up kids, not torturing and killing them.