"Just remember boys, it all started here."
--John Mark Byers, to documentarians Bruce Sinofsky and Joe Berlinger, early 1990s
Arkansas --The West Memphis Three, remember them? They've been in prison for 13-years now. I don't personally think that Jessie Misskelley, Damien Echols, or Jason Baldwin committed the murders. For a good overview, check some of the links below, and watch both Paradise Lost documentaries (and do a few searches of your own).
Make up you own mind. "Paradise Lost 3" is being released this year [Ed., 11.18.2008--I assume it's going to be released sometime in 2009 with the recent developments in the case.], and a movie based on Mara Leveritt's investigative book, "Devil's Knot " is being made into a major motion picture. Who did it? I think--in my own humble opinion--that it was John Mark Byers with some unknown accomplice(s). It's even possible that one-or-more of the WM3 know the details of some of it, though if this was so one would think we would know the truth by now. Byers has a criminal record, and some members of the West Memphis community have alleged he was a drug informant working for Tennessee Police [Ed., 11.18.2008--Correction, The West Memphis PD.]
He sure acts like one:
In July 1994, Byers was arrested for contributing to the delinquency of a minor for allegedly instigating a knife fight between two youngsters [Ed.-At-gunpoint.]. That same month, he was arrested for burglary. During that summer, neighbors filed restraining orders against Byers for allegedly whipping their sons with the metal handle of a flyswatter, and firing shots at their home. Byers was on probation when he was arrested for selling Xanax to a narc in 1999. He served 18 months. (lacitybeat.com)Both Melissa and John Mark Byers had a long history of drug abuse and criminality. With so many different-takes on the murders at Robin Hood Hills, and constantly changing his story, John Mark Byers presents a great picture of the guilty who are yearning to confess their numerous-crimes. Many individuals with a personality disorder tend to incriminate-themselves subconsciously, but most people have this tendency towards confession.
Byers illustrates plenty of examples of this in "Paradise Lost 2"--so-much so that it becomes unsettling. One of them has a chilling resonance with the occult, namely the graveyard footage in both documentaries that have the shadow of a Christmas star throwing a pentagram (inverted) onto Byer's forehead. One could call it poetic. I noticed this image in the first Paradise Lost, and Berlinger and Sinofsky put emphasis on it in the second film. It's a Jungian moment that is absolutely breathtaking, and I can recall nearly falling out of my chair when it hit me. But just listen to his statements on nearly everything--almost all of it is about hurting or punishing someone, something, and how much of a "man" he is. He plays the victim well, but not the innocent. His voice sucks too, by the way. The man cannot sing.
Aaron Hutcheson is an overlooked-aspect in the WM3 case--he might have actually witnessed the murders (he was nine, so he's not even certain today), but was pressured and coached by West Memphis Police into never mentioning he felt Byers was at the scene of the murders, and was the murderer of the three children. Rumors were also rampant in the public and the media and fear gripped West Memphis.
It was known that John Mark Byers had younger associates who he would use to harass other children for him as part of his abusive M.O. Again, this pattern resurfaces in the charges against him from the 1994-incident when he was alleged to have forced two young men into a knife fight at gunpoint.
Hutcheson seems to hint at some kind of knowledge of this type of behavior exhibited by Byers:
Aaron, who is now 19, is convinced the three boys were killed by Christopher Byers’ stepfather, Mark Byers. West Memphis officials have acknowledged that Byers, a former drug informant, once was considered a suspect. He was never charged. Aaron contends Mark Byers hated kids. Aaron is sure he told the police in the first interviews about Mark Byers. (Arkansas Times, 10.07.2004)Aaron's mother was told by West Memphis Police Detective Gary Gitchell "... and Marion police officer Donald Bray [to] sign an "affidavit of silence" pledging themselves never to mention that Aaron had named Mark Byers." There is no such thing, and it's a telling example of the lack of police procedure surrounding the Robin Hood Hills murder case. The detectives were assuming that most of the people they interrogated/interviewed were completely ignorant and would simply capitulate under pressure to their version of events, just as Jessie Misskelley did in his forced confession.
They had already decided where the case was going, and became angered when they got answers that didn't conform with this preconception. It's possible they also succumbed to the rumors about the murders. Many of them bizarrely suggested a "Satanic panic." This doesn't even qualify as an investigation in this light. Why the Marion policeman was asked to sign the phony-document is unclear, though it could have been a good cop/bad cop approach on the part of Gitchell and Officer Bray. This is all very peculiar procedure. Yet, why didn't the prosecution and investigators look-into the fact that Byers told them early-on that he felt the murders "...might be retaliation for his work as an undercover drug informant. His wife would name two pawnbrokers as possible suspects." (Commercial Appeal, 04.21.2002) In what could be a connected event, around 9:30 pm (some sources cite 8:42 pm) on what must have been the night of the murders, Bojangles restaurant manager Marty King was informed by a female patron that a Black man was in the women's restroom covered in blood, cleaning himself.
According to King: "I found a black gentleman sitting in the women's restroom on the commode with his head in his lap. He was about 5'8" or 5'9", 165 lbs, real thin man. He had his head in his lap and there was blood dripping off of his forearm." West Memphis Police Detectives Bryn Ridge and Mike Allen scraped blood off of the walls of the women's bathroom...and promptly lost the evidence. Nobody was ever punished for this, not even a verbal-warning or forced leave without pay. Nothing. There is no physical evidence linking the West Memphis Three to the murders of the three eight-year-olds, and we can thank the local Police that there is none whatsoever.
There is something more to this. Something that includes a convergence of incompetence and criminality on the part of the West Memphis Police Department, and maybe even the Sheriff's Department. It's as if they are protecting John Mark Byers to hide their own sins. I really wish there was no Paradise Lost 3 being made, I really do. Free these men, but at the very least, give them another trial that includes this new DNA evidence. [Ed., 11.18.2008--No dice so far.]
Byers now lives in Tennessee. Expect more news about him, this guy loves attention. I would expect him to be in the new documentary. You think he ever watched Robert Mitchum in "Night of the Hunter"? I do. If it proves anything, it's that Arkansas is brimming with incredibly stupid citizens who don't qualify to sit on a jury. My grandparents left there for a reason, and they never looked back.
"John Mark Byers" on Myspace (Adult Swim):
An Update on the Death of Melissa Byers:
A Medical Report on Melissa Byers:
A Recent LA City Beat Article on the WM3:
John Mark Byers' Criminal-Background:http://www.prisonpotpourri.com/JUVENILES/WESTMEMPHISTHREE.damienechols/The%20strange%20demise%20of%20Melissa%20Byers%20-%20By%20Mara%20Leveritt%20-%20December%2026,%201997.html
The "Bojangles Incident":