On May 5, 1993, three 8-year-olds -- Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore -- were reported missing. The next day, their bodies were found in a creek. They had been brutally beaten.
One boy had died of blood loss, and the other two drowned. Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin, teenagers at the time, were convicted of the brutal murders and have been in prison for nearly 16 years.
When I came across this case while doing researching for school, I was shocked. To say the evidence surrounding the case is sketchy is an understatement. Nobody who testified was able to say that they saw the suspects walking or driving (the boys didn't have licenses) to the crime scene, and the stories people tossed around were absurd. One man said Mr. Echols levitated him; a woman said he wore dog skins around his neck. Lyrics from the suspects' notebooks, Stephen King novels and Mr. Echols' interest in heavy metal music were used as evidence against the teenagers. There is no DNA evidence linking the trio to the crime scene; however, there are two hairs found on two boys that could possibly match up to a victim's stepfather. A knife found in the creek was never proved to belong to the suspects.
Police failed to test blood found at the crime scene. They moved the bodies from the scene prematurely and lost evidence. They also put physical evidence into grocery bags.
During a 12-hour interrogation, Jessie Misskelley, who is borderline mentally impaired, made a confession that was completely false. Only 46 minutes of it were taped. He mixed up times; he changed the time of the murders from 9 in the morning to 6 at night. He also said the boys were raped, although seven forensic scientists testified later that they were not. He later withdrew the confession, saying he was intimidated by the police to make a confession in the first place, but the damage was done. All three boys were found guilty.
The next time you start doodling lyrics in your notebook, be careful. It might be used to sentence you to life imprisonment without parole, life imprisonment plus 40 years, or death.
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Trisha Pintavorn is a freshman at Lakeside High School