Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The West Memphis Three

Witness

Certain that they had their prime suspect, police would focus their investigation toward looking for evidence which would enable them to arrest Damien Echols. Any known associates of Damien were questioned. Both Damien and close friend Jason Baldwin received many visits from police who would often park nearby at night in the hope that such intimidation would break them.

On 6 May 1993, the day the bodies were discovered, WMPD received a call from Don Bray at the Marion County Police Department to inform them that a young boy was there who claimed to know something about the murders. Aaron Hutcheson had been at the police department with his mother Vicky Hutcheson when he had told Bray that the boys had been "at the playhouse." WMPD officers told Bray that the location was near where the boys were found. However, no playhouse was found when the police took Aaron to the crime scene. Later Aaron claimed that he had actually witnessed the murders, claiming first that he had seen men in the woods dressed up and talking Spanish, then later related that he had seen John Mark Byers kill the boys.

Despite the obvious inconsistencies in the boy's many stories, police attempted to get him to identify Jason and Damien in a photo line-up but he was unable to do so. He did not actually identify any of the three adolescents until after Jessie's confession to police in May. Jessie often babysat for Aaron and knew him well. Eventually the prosecution decided not to use Aaron's testimony because his story changed so much and because other witnesses placed him well away from the crime scene at the time of the murders. Despite this, the media quickly learned that the police had a witness to the crimes, severely prejudicing the case.

Disappointed that she would no longer be receiving any reward for Aaron's assistance to the police, his mother Vicki Hutcheson, agreed to let the police wire her house in an attempt to tape Damien talking about the murders. She did not know Damien personally so asked Jessie to arrange for Damien to come to her home. Although Jessie claims he did not know Damien, he was able to arrange for Damien to meet with Vicki just prior to his arrest. The entire conversation was taped but no information helpful to the police was recorded. Police claim that there was nothing audible on the tape at all, although Vicki Hutcheson claims she had heard the tape at WMPD and everything could be heard clearly.

The next day, Vicki Hutcheson made a statement to police that two weeks after the murders she had gone with Jessie and Damien to an Esbat (a ritual observance of the full moon within Wicca and other Wiccan-influenced forms of Neopaganism) in Turrell, AR. She claimed that Damien had driven his red Ford Fiesta to the empty field where the Esbat supposedly occurred. Although Damien Echols did not have a driver's license and did not own or have access to a Ford Fiesta, and Vicki was not able to identify anyone else attending the Esbat or even find its location, Vicki Hutcheson was still used during the trial as a corroborative witness to Damien and Jessie's Satanic involvements. After the trial Vicki admitted that she had made up the story.

The police became even more convinced of Jessie's involvement when William Winfred Jones told them that Damien, while drunk, had bragged to him about murdering the boys. Before he could testify in Jessie's trial, however, Jones recanted his statement, telling police that he had in fact lied about these events, he had only heard rumors of Damien's involvement. Both of these witnesses' statements led police to Jessie Misskelley for questioning. It seems that the offer of a reward for assisting police in arresting the killers was too much for some people to resist.

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