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Evidence in West Memphis Three case missing or destroyed

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 10:02 PM CDT
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WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. (WMC) - It’s a case that has captured the nation and certainly the Mid-South.

Now, evidence from the case of the West Memphis Three is either missing or destroyed. It’s evidence that Damien Echols’ attorneys wanted to do new DNA testing on. Almost 30 years ago, three eight-year-old West Memphis boys were found murdered and three teenagers were charged in the murders.

“I’m not the judge. I’m not the jury. But they never had any physical evidence that connected us to this crime,” Echols said in 2012.

Echols is correct. Investigators never found any evidence that tied him, Jason Baldwin, or Jessie Misskelley to the murders of the boys, Stevie Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers. They were found nude and hogtied in a creek in a wooded area in West Memphis. Their bikes were found by a pipe nearby. The boys were so mutilated, investigators thought the murders were part of some kind of Satanic ritual.

The three teens were arrested after Misskelley said they committed the crime after 12 hours of interrogation. The three have always maintained their innocence. They were released after prosecutors agreed to an Alford plea, in which the men maintained their innocence but pleaded guilty. It allowed them to get out of prison after almost 20 years.

Even though they said they didn’t murder the three boys, they are technically convicted killers. And that is why Echols has attorneys who want to use a new DNA test called M-Vac, a wet vacuum system that can find more DNA than older tests.

Echols’ attorneys got a letter from the custodian of records for the West Memphis police department saying some of the evidence ended up lost, or misplaced, and some destroyed by fire. A source said the evidence was transferred to shipping containers where there was a fire, and some of the evidence was destroyed.

Echols tweeted, “New technology and evidence in science would now allow us to test DNA in amounts so small that it would have been previously impossible. The state of Arkansas continues to attempt to prevent this testing from happening.”

Terry Hobbs, the stepfather of Branch who was under suspicion but never charged, said he welcomes new DNA testing.

“I’d like to see this put to rest. It’s affected a lot of lives, but for some reason it keeps being brought up,” said Hobbs.

Attorneys for Echols have submitted a formal request to inspect the records that are available, involving cataloguing of the evidence as well as information on the loss of the evidence. Echols said in 2012, he will never give up his mission to exonerate himself.

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