Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The West Memphis Three

I remember lying in bed one morning it was 1993, the clock radio was playing. I knew it was my girlfriends clock radio because I never let the actual radio wake me up, I always used the "beeping" part of it. I was already awake, staring at the ceiling. And that God-awful top 40 station came on with that God-awful morning zoo bullshit. They had some serious news that morning.

Three young boys had been found murdered across the river in West Memphis. They were naked. Their bodies were stabbed numerous times. At least one had been sexually mutilated. All three had their hands tied behind their back.

My hair stood on end. The ceiling began to spin.
"What the fuck!"

"Holy Shit!"

"West Memphis?"

These were very disturbing facts to say the least. But that was just the beginning. In the weeks that followed. The crack detective squad of the West Memphis police department would come up with some suspects and a theory of the murders that would knock your socks off.

It seemed, right under every ones nose, a group of three disaffected young teenage boys had formed a satanic cult right there in Crittenden County Arkansas. They started off by meeting in remote places, spray painting pentagrams and the number 666 on a few overpasses and train trestles. They wore black trench coats and Metallica t-shirts. Then the theory alleges they started mutilating stray cats and dogs in ritualistic fashion. And then after a time, perhaps because Satan himself told them to, they grabbed three eight year old boys off the street as they rode bikes together. Pulled them into the woods and killed them.

At the time I thought - "a satanic cult huh?" "What?"

But then, the local paper reported they had a confession from one of the killers. So that's that right? Bullshit.

Christopher Byers, Steven Branch, and Michael Moore are the eight year old victims in this case. They were running buddies. They all rode bikes together. All three of them had a dog at home. I grew up pretty much the same way, about 130 miles South of where they lived. And about 14 years apart. I'm sure a lot changed over the years. But not much changes in Arkansas.

I work with a guy who was roughly the same age as the victims were in 1993. He's from neighboring Marion in Crittenden County. I asked him about the murders. I asked him if he thought the guys who were arrested for it were the right guys? His answer made me think of my own hometown, back when I was eight: "Everybody knew they did it. They bragged about it up at the ball field." In the rural dirtysouth "the ball field" is THE gathering spot for families on most nights during the summer. Especially families with younger kids. It's a place where people gather watch the kids play and talk about whats going on in the world. The ball field is the main place (outside of church) where different families mingle. And like any good meeting place, there's always plenty of gossip. Back in June, 1993, there was only one thing on every ones mind; Who killed Steven, Michael, and Chris? So young. So innocent.

Where,in a town of less than 30,000,could evil come from? How could it happen here? Who would be capable of such a thing? The police where asking themselves the same question and in a small town like West Memphis, the pressure was on to solve it and solve it quickly. It wouldn't take them long.


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