Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The West Memphis Three

The Victims

Christopher Byers
Christopher Byers

According to the families of the three boys, they were last seen together between 5:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. on the evening of 5 May 1993. The three boys had finished school for the day at Weaver Elementary School at 3:00 p.m. Steven Branch went home but left shortly afterwards, according to his mother Pam Hobbs. Christopher Byers's step-father, John Mark Byers, arrived home at 3:10 p.m. but Christopher was not there, his brother Ryan arrived home at 3:30 p.m. Chris did not have a key to the house and was expected to wait outside until Ryan arrived to let him in.

John Mark Byers drove Ryan to the courthouse for a 4:00 p.m. appointment. After dropping Ryan he drove to pick up his wife, Melissa Byers from work. They both arrived back at their home at 5:20 p.m. to find that Chris was not at home, although there was evidence that he had been there. Soon after, John Mark Byers left home to pick up Ryan, but on the way he found Christopher riding a skateboard. He took Christopher home where Byers gave him "two or three licks" with a belt, in the presence of Melissa, as punishment for not staying at home as instructed. Before returning to the courthouse to pick up Ryan, Byers instructed Christopher to clean up the carport area. He was last seen doing this at 5:30 p.m. by Byers.

James Moore
James Moore

At 6:00 p.m., Diana Moore saw her son (James) Michael riding bicycles with Steven Branch and Christopher Byers but had been unable to stop them before they rode off. Chris had been sitting on the back of Steven's bike.

At 6:30 p.m. John Mark Byers claims that he arrived home from the courthouse with Ryan to find that Chris was again not at home. Melissa was inside on the phone with her boss and had not been aware that Chris was gone again. John, Melissa and Ryan Byers left their home at 6.30 p.m. to drive around the neighborhood in order to find Chris. During the course of this search Byers informed a police officer of his son's disappearance. According to Byers, he was told to wait until 8:00 p.m. before making an official report with the police. Byers explained to the officer that the reason he was so concerned was that Chris had never disappeared like this before. This statement was later contradicted by Melissa Byers, during an interview on 25 May 1993, when she told police that Christopher had disappeared on several other occasions for hours at a time.

Steven Branch, victim
Steven Branch, victim

John Mark Byers called the West Memphis Police Department at 8:00 p.m. to report that his step-son Christopher was missing. In response to this report Officer Regina Meek went to the Byers' home. Fifteen minutes later, Diana Moore spoke with John Mark Byers, informing him that she had seen the three boys at 6:00 p.m. Byers stated that this was the first time he had been aware that Chris was not alone. Together with Diana Moore, Melissa Byers and Ryan Byers, John Mark Byers began to search the Robin Hood Hills area, the last known location of the boys. It was already dark by then, according to Byers. At some time between, 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Byers went home alone to change out of the shorts and thongs that he had been wearing, into a pair of overalls and boots. At the time that he left, the search party consisted of Ryan Byers, Ritchie Masters, Brett Smith and his sister, along with many others. They were soon joined by Officer Moore from the West Memphis Police Department, who continued to search with them from 10:20 until 11:00 p.m.

When John Mark Byers arrived home at 11:00 p.m., he called the Sheriff to request a search and rescue team. He was told to call Denver Reed, the leader of the Crittenden County team the following morning. He and Ryan left the house again and drove to the Blue Beacon Truck Wash. Here he told the people inside that he was looking for Chris and two other boys. He then drove his vehicle around the back. For some time Byers and Ryan shouted for the boys and honked their horn. Still unable to find the boys, Byers and Ryan drove back home. They were met there by Melissa, Terry Hobbs, Steven Branch's grandfather, and Diana Moore. After a short discussion, the group decided to make another attempt to search for the boys in the woods.

At 1:30 a.m., Thursday 6 May 1993, Sergeant Ball of WMPD, drove to the Byers's home to inform John Mark Byers and Melissa Byers that a search for the boys was being conducted in the area. After he left at about 2:00 a.m., Tony Hudson, a friend of Byers, came to the house. Byers and Hudson left soon after to search the Mid-Continent building which was being rebuilt after having been blown over. They thought that the boys may have been hiding there. When they arrived, they saw a black van nearby. It was locked and they assumed that it belonged to one of the workers at the site. They continued their search for an hour before they returned home with the intention of resuming their search in the morning.

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