The “Other” West Memphis Three (part 1): Ain’t No Thing

 

there is no pain
or anger
that I am not
—Danzig, “Black Mass”

[1]

 

Pam Hicks’ lawsuit is latest evidence of the patience of parents of West Memphis victims in the face of decades-old unsolved murders….

Pam Hicks has been more than patient with West Memphis and Arkansas authorities.

On June 22, 2012, however, Pam was forced to file suit against the West Memphis Police Department.

The lawsuit doesn’t ask for any money.

Nor does the lawsuit concern West Memphis and Arkansas authorities’ devastating mishandling of her son’s murder investigation.

Nor does the suit question the continued refusal of authorities to investigate the unsolved triple child-homicide.

According to the suit, Pam Hicks asks only to see her deceased son’s possessions, which were seized as evidence after his murder in 1993, and which remain locked away by West Memphis Police although the case is, according to the State, “closed.”

“I just want to know that the things that are precious to me are still where they should be,”[2] Pam told reporters.

Pam’s attorney made clear that Pam does want to have to sue, but is “frustrated at repeated failed attempts” to view her son’s belongings.[3]

Nor was it difficult to see why. West Memphis authorities–as if they were not in the national spotlight and had learned nothing about public perception of their department–responded to Pam’s lawsuit, by the close of business that day, with a flat “No.”

West Memphis City Attorney David C. Peeples, with all the finesse of a lawschool freshman, promptly denied Pam’s request with the rote recitation that physical evidence, following convictions for any violent offense, is required to be “permanently impounded and securely retained” by law enforcement.[4]

For his part, West Memphis Police Chief Donald Oakes made it clear that his hands were tied, and that Pam “would need a court order for the department to hand over the evidence.”[5]

 

BLOOD EVIDENCE

Pam understands that police need to protect evidence. She very much wants the police to protect her son’s possessions. She also understands, that at least where her murdered child and two others are concerned, the record shows that West Memphis Police have proven completely incompetent in protecting evidence.

“I just want to have a peace of mind and ease of knowing that [police] still have it,” says Pam[6].

That police even still have the evidence is more than a valid concern, given that West Memphis police began their 1993 investigation by “losing” the only non-victim blood evidence in the case, losing what might have proved the most important evidence of all: blood scrapings collected from a restaurant bathroom where a unidentified and “disoriented” man, 1) covered in blood, was seen 2) at the time of the murders, 3) a mile from the location of the childrens’ bodies, where they were submerged in a drainage ditch in the woods—a drainage ditch that 4) ran directly between the restaurant and the crime scene.[7]

To clarify:

If a person were to begin at the location of the children’s bodies in the drainage ditch, and if that person were to follow the drainage ditch through the woods to where it intersects with the road, a mile away, then that person would emerge precisely at the restaurant in which a bloody and disoriented man locked himself in the bathroom at the estimated time of the murders on the evening of May 5th, 1993. )

Further—while the West Memphis Police would go on to collect “evidence” (later accepted unblinkingly in court) such as heavy-metal teeshirts and cassette tapes owned by Damien, Jason, and Jessie—Chief Inspector Gary Gitchell would explain that his department had lost the blood evidence it had scraped from the walls of the restaurant.

 

“NO NEFARIOUS MOTIVE”

“There is no nefarious motive” for keeping evidence from parents of the victims, Police Chief Oakes clarified for reporters on June 22, well aware of his department’s struggling image—a department that had, under Gitchell’s watch, been under investigation itself, along with the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office, for corruption, drugs, even murder, at the time of the child killings.[8]

“There is no nefarious motive, other than we want to protect this evidence,” said Oakes, who can claim the good fortune of not having been Chief when his department investigated the child murders.[9]

 

“BODIES OF LAW” V. “CRIMES WRITTEN ON BODIES”

For Pam Hicks, a depthless aching has been the only constant throughout the last two decades.

There was a period of time that Hicks—then “Hobbs”—along with nearly everyone else in West Memphis, Arkansas, knew that three teenagers killed her son, Stevie Branch, and two other little boys.[10]

If nothing else, the State of Arkansas’ explanation of the homicides provided a conclusion—not to Pam’s pain, not to the larger story of Stevie’s absence—but a conclusion to futures of the three bad guys in the State’s official story.

Then came the vertiginous transitional period during which Pam came to realize that West Memphis Police had botched their investigation and that the State of Arkansas had convicted the wrong persons for the crimes.[11]

Then came the period of nausea and horror as Pam came to believe that her own husband, Terry Hobbs, had murdered her son and two other neighborhood boys.

DNA helped her to believe: Terry’s was found at the crime scene, by way of his hair, tangled in a knot in one of the ligatures used to bind the children. [12]

In order to accept these facts alone–if not “the whole truth,” which remains in darkness–Pam had to rewrite a story carved in her heart.

 

UPDATE

“New” West Memphis Prosecuting Attny. Ellington gets it right

 

On Sunday night, 24 June 2012, Action News, broadcasting from that city in Tennessee that sits just east, over the border of Arkansas, reported that the new prosecuting attorney in the West Memphis had announced that he would allow the families of the murdered cub scouts to view the evidence in their childrens’ decades-old case. [13]

“This comes after the mother of one of the victims sued police,” noted Action News.

But it wasn’t the lawsuit that motivated Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington. Nor was it Pam Hicks’ pain alone. It was the parents of all three of the child victims.

“It’s been an ongoing time of grief for them,” said Ellington.

We’re trying to just reach out, show compassion, and be willing to at least show them some of these items and let them have some sort of closure. With these particular families, the loss of their children has been brought back to the surface over and over and over. It’s been a re-injury every time.[14]

Ellington’s decision is the closest thing to “good news,” in decades, for the victims’ families.

It is a hopeful sign indeed, that the State of Arkansas appears willing to help the parents of children whose murders remain unsolved.

It is also a consolation that Ellington’s open approach stands in stark contrast to the willful ignorance and defiant ineptitude of his predecessor, John Fogleman.[15]

Ellington has already agreed to review any new evidence in the case, while the defense offered a reward to the public for any information leading to the arrest of the actual murderer(s) of the “Other” West Memphis Three—Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore.

 

[UPDATE #2: ELLINGTON GETS IT WRONG AFTER ALL : See Attorney Scott Ellington and the New Doomed Generation ]

see also:

Background: West Memphis Today
The “Other” West Memphis Three(2): The Chosen Few
The “Other” West Memphis Three (3): Loser Occult
All posts on the West Memphis Three


NOTES:

[1] Glenn Danzig, “Black Mass.” Danzig 777: I, Luciferi. (CD. 2002)

[2] Quote is from “Arkansas mom files suit to see slain son’s possessions.” KAIT 8 News (Jonesboro, AR). Jun 22, 2012. http://www.kait8.com/story/18857249/arkansas-mom-files-suit-to-see-slain-sons-possessions

Allow me to address you directly, West Memphis Police Department and West Memphis City Attorney David C. Peeples.

I want to help you.

I want to believe in you.

I want to believe that you know better.

I want to believe that you have learned something in the last, oh, twenty goddamned years.

Which is why I am choosing to believe, in spite of evidence one way or another, that you responded to Pam so quickly because you aim at least to appear efficient, not because you are either 1) dumb as rocks, or 2) lacking any trace of compassion for the parents and loved ones of child victims.

Because I want to help you, West Memphis Police Department and West Memphis City Attorney David C. Peeples, I am going to remind you that so much as a silent fart in a the Mayor’s Office in West Memphis is subject to becoming not only another Oscar-nominated indie documentary film, but is in fact liable to face the full power of mass media, from mainstream news to the music industry to all of Hollywood.

Because you seem like smart and capable men, I would like help them solve the case of “How to Handle the Grieving Mother’s Request.”

In addition to letting all the parents “view” the evidence, take some pictures, guys. Lots of them. Video, even. Not just some crap shot off-the-cuff, either. Think a little before you act. You may have no legal duty to do so, but perhaps you could find a decent photographer on or off the payroll to put together a nice visual scrapbook for parents whom your predecessors, as well as a unknown killer or killers, left with so little else.

Because I want to help you, I am writing this article before any of my comrades in the above-named industries decide to ruin your careers.

But, that said, certainly you must also realize that if anyone needs to choose between saving your careers and trying to mitigate the suffering of the mother of a murdered child, whose killer(s) your department has yet to find…. Well, that’s no choice at all.

[3] Adrian Sainz. “Ark. mom files suit to see slain son’s possessions.” Associated Press. June 22, 2012 . http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iMEMs1UzRe6QYPM0eZcQwiDBveRw?docId=97d66d5d76f54fd3a5b38c8fb7609ef0

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] “Arkansas mom files suit to see slain son’s possessions.” KAIT 8 News (Jonesboro, AR). Jun 22, 2012.

[7] Mara Leveritt. Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three. New York, NY: Atria, 2003.

[8] Leveritt.

[9] Oakes quote is in Sainz. “Ark. mom files suit to see slain son’s possessions.”

Nor am I aware of any reason to disbelieve Oakes, who felt compelled, before reporters, to add: “I feel obligated to protect this evidence.”

Nor should we overlook that beginning a sentence with “I feel” is not standard police-speak, particularly in the facts-only-ma’am-world of Arkansas law enforcement.

I note this because I believe Oakes, for whatever my personal belief is worth. I possess no evidence, one way or another, of the veracity of Oakes’ statement to the press, but I believe him nonetheless.

It’s what’s we do, after all. Believe things in spite of a lack of evidence.

Sometimes it works out.

Other times, innocent persons suffer in ways often literally unimaginable to those guilty of believing and propagating falsehoods, whether out of ignorance of the facts or maliciously in spite of them.

Research into crimen falsi (“false crimes”—false accusations, wrongful convictions and executions—as well as its cousin, crimen magiae (once “the crime of practicing magic,” used by this writer as more broadly defined “magical crimes”), research that spans, of course, the last few thousand years and then some, has confirmed at least one thing: This is what we do.

[ See also Crimen Magiae ]

[10] Memorialized in an unforgettable sequence in Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills, in which a visibly distraught Pam explains to a reporter, “Just look at the freaks. I mean, just look at ‘em.”

[11] As Berlinger and Sinofsky hinted in their first documentary on the case, and as Leveritt thoroughly detailed in Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three.

[12] Also present at the crime scene was DNA rom Terry Hobbs’s friend, who happened to be with Hobbs on the night of the murder. If Terry and his friend are somehow “connected” to the unknown man in the restaurant bathroom that night, no evidence has been made public regarding such a connection. Terry Hobbs maintains his innocence.

[13] Kontji Anthony. “West Memphis Three attorney says families will view evidence.” WMCTV. Jun 24, 2012. http://www.wmctv.com/story/18868058/west-memphis-three-attorney-says-families-will-view-evidence

[14] Ibid.

[15] Personally–speaking not as “survivor” so much as a one who endures trauma (as is the case for any family of a victim of an unsolved crime), trauma that cannot heal without the help of attorneys and a few good cops–I also cannot help but appreciate the degree of sensitivity Ellington shows in noting the ongoing “re-injury” of the families’ wounds: multiple traumas caused not only by the killer(s) of their children, but by the very people charged with bringing them to justice.

 

2016-10-29T06:38:05+00:00