Ever hear of the Robin Hood Hills Murders? How about the West Memphis 3? Me neither until I saw a documentary on HBO the other night called Paradise Lost. To my goth readers you probably already know all the details. To my other readers, if I have any, please read on.
I’m a little sketchy on all the details and names since it’s been a few days since I saw the movie but I will provide links to other sites that can do this much better justice than I can.
I believe it was in 1993 that three children were brutally raped, tortured, mutilated, and eventually murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas. West Memphis is one of those towns in the deep south you think doesn’t really exist anymore. They’re, for the most part, fundamentalist Christians to the point of zealotry. They cried out for a quick arrest to be made. Eventually they arrested 3 teens. One, their alleged leader, goes by the name of Damien Echols. Damien Echols is kind of like someone I know. He dressed in black, listened to heavy metal, and studied alternate religions. In fundamentalist towns, people like this are seen as devil worshipers. One of his friends whose last name I believe is Misskelley, I could have the spelling wrong on that, has the IQ of a nerf ball. He was allegedly held under police questioning for 12 hours, even though only I believe an hour and a half of tape exists. He confessed to being part of the murders even though his testimony contradicts some of the facts of the crime scene. After his conviction and subsequent life sentence Damien Echols was then tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for these murders. The third teen, whose name escapes me right now, was also sentenced to life after his trial.
The thing is the police so bungled their case against Echols I don’t think they would have gotten a conviction in any other state that isn’t predominantly a backwoods, bible thumping, inbred, white trash state like Arkansas. Evidence was mishandled. Leads were not followed up on. One of the prosecutions star witnesses who professed to be an expert on the occult received his degree from a mail-order college.
Damien Echols didn’t help his own case though. He wasn’t always Damien. He allegedly took the name Damien after the Catholic priest Father Damien who helped the lepers in Hawaii before succumbing to the disease himself. But, as my wife pointed out there’s also Damien from the Omen trilogy and Father Damien in the Exorcist movies who banished the demon in I and then was possessed by the demon in III. According to the movie he might have been a follower of Alistair Crowley and Anton LaVey, two self-admitted Satanists. But on the other hand I have read the works of Crowley and LaVey. Does this make me a Satanist? Hell no. (Pun intended) Reading those books made me even stronger in my faith in Christ and God. I think what sealed Damien’s fate was that he admitted to believing in Wicca. To those who don’t know Wicca is a belief in mother earth instead of God and is also known as white magic. To the fundamentalist redneck hicks of West Memphis he might as well as said that he was a satanist.
Also one of the victim’s step-father has an air of suspicion swirling around him. His wife died under mysterious circumstances. Some of the victims had bite marks and the step-father had all his teeth removed stating either they fell out, the dentist, removed them, or he lost them in a fight. He is also a gem cutter, which requires surgeon-like precision, which is what the county coroner said was required in order to inflict such wounds. And one of the victim’s biological father believes that the WM3 are innocent.
I don’t know if Damien Echols committed these murders or not. Only seven people know, as my wife put it, the victims, the accused, and God. And God’s not talking right now. Anyway, my point is that the West Memphis 3 deserve a retrial. And the only way they are going to get a fair trial is to take it out of Arkansas. In order for a fair trial it must be taken to a religiously neutral or mixed state. Otherwise it’s just another case in which their only crime was being “different”.
I mean no disrespect to the victims. My condolences go out to their families.