A Brief History
On May 5, 1993, 3 innocent 8 year old boys were murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas, the apparent victims of 3 Satan worshipping teenagers. While horror movies and scary stories around the campfire are overflowing with tales of Satan worshipping miscreants kidnapping and sacrificing humans, often virgins or children, for some sort of Satanic ritual or another, the real life news stories have documented such horrors actually occurring, even in these modern times.
In the West Memphis incident, the 3 little boys were missing as of the early evening on May 5, 1993, causing parents and neighbors to start looking for them. Failing to find the boys, the parents called the police and a more intensive search was mounted the next day. A shoe spotted in a drainage ditch led police to discover the bodies of the boys. Searchers were horrified to find that the boys had been stripped of their clothes (which were found nearby, mostly inside out) and that the boys had been tied up, their hands tied to their ankles in a “hog tie” fashion. The little bodies bore the marks of injuries, including one body exhibiting mutilation of the penis and scrotum. Two of the boys were found to have drowned in addition to their injuries, the other boy being killed directly from injuries.
Investigators, including those hired by defense attorneys, later disputed findings that the boys had been raped, and whether the castration of one of the victims was intentional or a by product of a vicious attack. Some speculated that at least some of the injuries to the bodies may have been due to animals biting and/or eating the dead bodies after the murders. Sadly, the boys were best friends and classmates at the local 2nd grade and were all fellow Cub Scouts.
The 3 suspects were teenagers, 16, 17 and 18 years old, 2 of which were high school dropouts. Their record of behavior and reputation was not good. The 18 year old had been adjudicated mentally disabled and was on Social Security Disability for the condition, and had spent some months in a mental institution. The 18 year old suspect had reported to investigators that he had gained “super powers” through the drinking of human blood.
At first, 2 other teens were suspects, juvenile delinquents that had left the area shortly after the murders, but were later released, even after failing polygraph tests. One even briefly admitted that he “might have” killed the boys, but quickly back tracked on that statement.
The other “suspect” in the case was the obligatory unknown but suspicious Black Male, a man that had been seen at a Bojangles restaurant, earning this mystery man the moniker “Mr. Bojangles.” Despite the restaurant manager telling the police that this suspicious Black Male had entered the restaurant bleeding and had left blood in the bathroom, the police did not check the bathroom until a day later. The bumbling officer that investigated did find the blood residue, but later reported “losing” the sample he took. Investigators did find a single hair believed to be from a Black Male on a sheet that one of the victim’s body was found wrapped up in.
Police apparently were convinced the murders had overtones of some sort of cult or Satanic ritual, and the 18 year old suspect was believed to be somewhat interested in such things. The 18 year old allegedly failed his polygraph, but did not initially confess. The 16 year old, with an IQ of 72, was questioned without his parents or an attorney, and confessed to the killings, but then recanted. In a supreme act of injustice, someone in the police leaked some of the interview with the 16 year old and his confession became front page news, definitely tainting the prospective juror pool. Months after his first confession, the 16 year old was interviewed again, this time with an attorney present, an attorney that strongly cautioned the boy not to make any statements. The teenage suspect ignored his legal advice and spilled his guts to the police, detailing the murders and abuses of the victims.
Another somewhat bizarre twist to the story is that of a Vicki Hutcheson, the mother of another 8 year old that was at the police department the day the boys were being searched for on an unrelated matter. Her son was present at the station and told the police that the 3 missing boys were murdered at “the playhouse.” Sure enough, the bodies had been discovered near where the lad had indicated, and police pressed the little witness for more information. The boy told police he had personally witnessed “Satanists” committing the murders, all while babbling in Spanish. The alleged witness gave conflicting and inconsistent accounts and failed to pick the suspects out of a lineup. As had become expected in this case, an unknown police employee leaked the information from the juvenile witness to the press, and the public was regaled with lurid and sordid accounts of Satan worshipping murderers conducting their dark rituals right under the noses of the good people of West Memphis. Hutcheson, about as credible as her son, had told police that she had attended a Wiccan meeting in another Arkansas town a couple weeks after the murders with the 18 year old and 16 year old suspects, during which time the drunken 18 year old had bragged about the murders. Of course, Vicki later recanted her story, saying that her statements had been coerced by the police through intimidating interrogation. Not surprisingly, the suspects also complained of intimidating and coercive police interrogation techniques.
All 3 defendants pled not guilty, and the 18 and 17 year olds were tried together, the 16 year old tried separately. The 16 year old was convicted of a count of first degree murder and 2 counts of second degree murder, earning him a sentence of life plus 40 years. His appeal was denied. The other 2 defendants were convicted on 3 counts of murder, the 18 year old getting a death sentence and the 17 year old sentenced to life in prison. Appeals by the 17 and18 year old convicts were not upheld, despite widespread public outcry over the conduct of the police investigation and interrogations.
In the years following the terrible murders and the circus like investigation and court proceedings, numerous attempts were made to discover more information about the case, and other developments also came to light, such as the recanting of her testimony by Vicki Hutcheson, a knife owned by the father of one of the victims that supposedly had blood from both the father and his son on the blade, and most damningly the revelation in 2008, that the jury foreman had engaged in misconduct during the trial of the older defendants.
Further attempts at appeal went on from 2007 through 2011, until a deal was finally struck between the 3 convicted murderers and the State, in which the 3 would plead guilty in a special manner called an Alford Plea that did not actually admit guilt, but admitted that the evidence was such that a guilty finding by a jury would be likely. Their previous convictions were thrown out, and their new pleas taken as new convictions as part of the deal, allowing them to be released from prison. Their sentences were commuted to time served, which was about 18 years and 2 ½ months.
The West Memphis Case resulted in a lot of media attention, including celebrity involvement in trying to get the convictions thrown out. Numerous books and articles have been produced about the case, as have television shows and documentaries about the “West Memphis Three” as the suspect/convicts have been labeled.
Were the West Memphis Three really guilty? Where those teenage “killers” really Satan worshipping ritual killers, or wrongly convicted victims of circumstances and police misconduct? Did the justice system deliver justice for the 3 little victims? Why did those nice little boys die so horribly? These questions remain either unanswered or incompletely answered. A quick check of our website reveals some Satan related articles, and some browsing of the internet will reveal all sorts of bizarre incidents of people trying to invoke Satan in rituals that sometimes include actual murder, though sometimes of animals instead of people.
(Just be sure you do not confuse Wicca or similar “black magic” or “natural” practices with Satan worshiping, as the 2 practices are not necessarily related.)
Question for students (and subscribers): Were the West Memphis Three really guilty? What if the 18 year old convict had been executed? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Ramsey, William. Abomination: Devil Worship and Deception in the West Memphis Three Murders. Amazon, 2014.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Thomas R Machnitzki (thomasmachnitzki.com) of the West Memphis Three victims memorial (Arkansas) after new paint was applied, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.