The Victims The Place Time It Was The Crime The Investigation The Convicted
The Victims The Place Time it was The Investigation The Crime The Convicted

A Twilight Kill

    The phases of the moon are tricks of light and shadow. For the moon to be full, it must rise when the sun sets. On May 5th, 1993, as daylight disappeared, the round moon crested the Memphis skyline. The Mississippi River, at that time turbid and swollen from a season of floods, separated the Tennessee metropolis from its Arkansas namesake, West Memphis, a trucking hub and home to 30,000. With dusk deepening over the small town, three eight-year-old boys had already been missing for two hours. By the next day they would be found dead, brutalized, hog-tied and sunken in a ditch. 

    Dana Moore, mother of victim Michael Moore, saw the three at a distance. Her son was in his cub scout uniform aboard his bicycle while his second grade schoolmates, Chris Byers and Stevie Branch shared a bike. Childhood friend, Kim Williams reported accompanying Michael and Stevie to the edge of a patch of woods called Robin Hood Hills. Another childhood friend said Chris Byers dropped by his house. This neighbor said Chris told him his stepfather had whipped him and he was running away from home.

    Mark Byers, the stepfather of Chris, was a hefty six foot five. Full-bearded and sporting long hair often tied back in a ponytail, the left side of his face drooped from damage from seizures. Changing into overalls and a long-sleeved shirt he undertook a frantic eighteen hour search, patrolling the neighborhood with his wife, Melissa and his thirteen year-old stepson, Ryan. He would later complain of receiving virtually no help from the authorities. "I called the Sheriff's Department the second time. I said, look, I've had one police officer out here helping me look for these boys." [Mark Byers, May 19, 1993 interview] Byers would describe two occasions when his search took him to the area where the victims were found. "I was out looking until 4:30 a.m. I walked within 10 or 15 feet of where the bodies were found and I didn't see them." [Mark Byers, quoted in West Memphis Evening Times, May 7th, 1993]

    Terry Hobbs, wiry tough with a thick frowning mustache and a glassy gaze, was the stepfather of victim Stevie Branch. He described beginning his search well before nightfall, including passing near the discovery site. Recently, Hobbs' companion during his search has contradicted his account. Terry would wait until the evening closing time at his wife's restaurant to inform her of her son's disappearance.

    Within two years, Terry Hobbs, Mark Byers and Dana Moore would each be convicted of violent crimes. Hobbs shot and wounded his brother-in-law. Mark Byers would be convicted of using a gun to incite a child to engage in a fist fight. Moore would strike and kill a pedestrian with her car. Melissa Byers would die in the presence of her husband, the cause of death undetermined.

The victims
  The victims.  Left to right, Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch.

Continued in, A Twilight Kill, Part Two: True Believers

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