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

Timeline of evidence against Echols

Timeline of the appearance of the evidence deemed significant by the jury in determining the guilt of Damien Echols.
The wax evidence was never presented to the defense.
Blue entries represent major events in the case.  
Green entries indicate when evidence was uncovered or reports were dated, not when it was provided to the defense.

A Twilight Kill, Part Nine: The Case Against Echols.

    Perhaps Echols' personality and comportment at trial were as responsible as anything else for him being found guilty. Each defendant displayed a different demeanor in the courtroom. Jessie Misskelley was balled up with his head tucked down. Jason Baldwin looked on wide-eyed as though his foot was snagged on a railway track as an oncoming train approached. Damien Echols was sometimes mugging, sometimes appearing to be in another world, detached from the concept that his life was on the line. While Baldwin's list included only six items, Echols' list had sixteen entries.

    Nine of the items on the Jury's list as to factors deciding Echols guilt were related to personality, behavior and his testimony.
    Echols took the stand in his defense. From the jury notes, it was a disaster for him. The jury concluded that he lied regarding visiting the crime scene, that he lied during his testimony and came to the general conclusion, "dishonest." Others pertaining to his character included, "wierd," "manipulative" and the cryptic "inappropriate thought patterns."    

    The prosecution cited how Echols presented himself during his testimony. "And so it went through and he reeled off a number of things and he kept saying - just looking real flat, unemotional..." [Davis closing arguments, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    Echols blamed his medication.

Echols:  I'm on imipramine. It's for manic depression.
Davis:  Does it have a calming effect? Does it sedate you to some extent?
Echols:  Makes you sleepy. [Echols testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    One bit of outrageous behavior was cited by the jurors: Echols blew kisses to the parents of the victims. Perhaps this was in response to the threats they called his way.

    The remainder of Echols list.
Echols Versus Ridge

    As to what was considered most important in determining the convictions, the jurors ranked the witnesses. Taking spots 1 and 3, were Detective Mike Allen and Medical Examiner Frank Peretti. These presented evidence describing the crime, not pointing to who was guilty. Taking second place was Bryn Ridge.

    Ridge interviewed Echols on May 10th, the Monday after the murders. Although Echols was at the police station all of the afternoon and into the early evening, no recording was made of their exchanges. Ridge had to rely on his summary notes.

    Ridge was concerned that Echols knew too many details consistent with the crime. When Echols was asked how the victims died, according to Ridge he said, "that they probably died of mutilation, some guy had cut up, cut the bodies up. Heard that they were in the water, they may have drowned. He said at least one was more cut up than the others." [Ridge testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    The prosecution exaggerated the specificity. "And then he tells Detective Ridge, when Detective Ridge asked him, "How do you think they died?" -- "Mutilation. Two of them probably drowned.  One of them was cut up more than the others." Coincidence? He just guessed? Did the police even know that two drowned at that point? [Fogleman closing argument, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    When Echols took the stand, he denied even having said what Ridge had in his notes.  

Prosecutor Davis:  You indicated that you heard they were drowned?
Echols:  No. I indicated I heard they were mutilated.
Davis:  So when he put down in his response to that question, "Heard that they drowned," he [Ridge] made that up, too? That just isn't true?
Echols:  They made up a lot of stuff so far... [Echols testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    Echols defined the battleground. He accused the police of lying. The jury would have to choose one or the other as telling the truth.

    The defense tried to demonstrate what Echols said was common knowledge.

Val Price:  Do you recall the Commercial Appeal newspaper article on May the 7th, 1993.  Read the headline right there, please.
Echols:  "Mutilated Bodies of Three Boys Found in Bayou."  [ibid]

    Beyond specific knowledge, Ridge portrayed Echols as having a sinister character. Ridge recalled a seemingly malevolent response by Echols regarding his view of evil.

Fogleman: What did he say about uh doing evil, about how that would return?
Ridge: Doing evil would be returned three times, in other words, that the evil done would be returned in revenge three times back to the doer. [Ridge testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    Echols' attorney brought up that Lieutenant Sudbury, also present during the interview, had written more benign notes.

Price: (Reading from questionnaire) Have you ever wondered what it would be like to kill someone even if you didn't go through with it?  I believe the answer is on 19: Only out of anger to beat someone up. Whatever you do comes back to you three times, so does good.
Ridge:  I don't remember that portion.  [ibid]
 Echols versus Ridge
The battle of testimonies between Damien Echols (left) and Detective Ridge (right) became a key factor in determining guilt.

Satanic follower

    The jurors made the note under Echols, "Satanic follower" connected by dashes to "Anton Lavae" and "Alesister Crowley" (correctly Anton LaVey and Aleister Crowley).

    According to Ridge, he asked Echols who his favorite authors were. Ridge said Echols answered, "Anton LaVey, Satanist book and likes Stephen King novels because they are scary." [Detective Ridge testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    Echols denied ever having read Anton LaVey.

Davis:  Who told him Stephen King was one of your favorite authors?
Echols:  He asked me did I like him. I said, yes, I did.
Davis:  Did he ask you about Anton LaVey?
Echols:  Yes, he did.
Davis:  And what did you tell him?
Echols:  I said I haven't read anything by him, but I am familiar with him. [Echols testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    Echols was presented with some scrawlings on a paper. It included a coded alphabet. Parts of the code were translated including Echols' name and the names of his newborn son, Jason Baldwin and Aleister Crowley. The prosecution pounded Echols about Crowley and Satanism.

Davis:  Had you studied Aleister's book pretty carefully?
Echols:  Never any book by him in particular.  I have never saw any of his. [ibid]

    Echols admitted a potential interest in Crowley, but repeated he never read anything by him. After Echols said he had written down the code out of boredom the prosecution asked:

Davis:  Do you do any satanic incantations out there while you are bored?
Echols:  No, I do not. [ibid] 

    When the defense realized the source of the document they strongly objected. They had been caught off-guard and were astounded - and livid. They had never seen the document before, were concerned about the fact it was illegally obtained from Echols prison cell, about the chain of custody and the fact it was a photocopy. If they had seen it before, perhaps they would have noted the English writing (the translation of the code) was not written by Echols. The opening line had been mistranslated. It did not read "Damien ----- Echols." It read "Damien loves Domini."

    Burnett ruled that, since the evidence had not been made available to the defense, the document would not be made available to the jury - however, Echols testimony regarding it stood.  

    This was the only connection made between Echols and Crowley beyond the prosecution repeated assertions and the speculations of Dale Griffis.

Cryptic code
The state presented this as evidence of Echols' interest in Crowley.
The first line correctly translates as "Damien loves Domini."

    Also suggestive of malevolence was the statement Echols admitted to have made during an argument he had with his father: "I'll eat you alive." This statement was presented by Jerry Driver in his December 1993 interview. As Driver was Echols probation officer and Echols was a juvenile at the time, it was of questionable admissibility.

Carried knives

    Although the knife found in the lake was cited as evidence against Baldwin, it was not on the jury's list against Echols. The jurors did mention "carried knives." This was related to testimony from his ex-girlfriend Deanna Holcomb. Her statement to police about Damien carrying a knife was not made until two weeks before the trials.

    The defense asked about the late arrival of her statement. 

Holcomb: It was um - a week or two ago.
Davidson: A week or two ago, would - would it have been February the 14th? Does that sound right - Valentine's day?
Holcomb: Yes sir. [Holcomb testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial] 

Wax on book, shirt

    There were two pieces of physical evidence cited by the jury: the fibers (previously discussed) and "wax on book, shirt."

    According to the state crime lab expert, Lisa Sakevicius, "On the item, my E-2 item, which was a [victim's] shirt, I did find a blue wax." [Sakevicius testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial] Among items seized from Echols trailer during the execution of the search warrant was a book with some candle wax, the title, "Never on a Broomstick."  

    Out of the presence of the jury, the defense asked why they hadn't received any reports about wax.

Scott Davidson:  Your Honor, we'd also request a copy of the report of Lisa Sakevicius - if there is one - regarding any candle wax.
Fogleman:  I don't know if there is one.  She said that what she puts in her report is when there are matches.  She claimed that didn't match anything. [Bench conference, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    In his closing statement, the prosecution argued the wax's presence was a sign of Satanic ritual. Furthermore, even though the prosecution had previously stated that Sakevicius had declared the waxes did not match and that was why the defense was not provided with a report, the prosecution argued the waxes from the shirt and book could be matches.

Remember this book that just comes from the library? See all this stain on the back of it? You all go back there and look a that and kindly tilt it in the light and look and it, and see if that isn't blue wax to you. See if that doesn't look like some blue wax to you. [snip] Well, we got one of the boys' shirts that had that blue wax on his shirt. . . [Davis, closing arguments, Echols/Baldwin trial]

Rumors and confessions

    It all went wrong from the time of the discovery of the cub scout cap. Jones and Sudbury with their speculations of the occult killings planted the seeds of wild rumors. These rumors found particularly fertile soil among the area youth.

    Like urban legends, the harder the source of the rumors was pursued, the more illusory the claim became. In one instance, Loretta Smith, a fourth grade student in a nearby town, told police that Michelle Elinburg had said that her brother, "Damien Elinburg" was the murderer. A music teacher from the same school reported that four or five of her students said that the murderer was someone named Damien who was a "satist or a devil person."

    Officer Bill Durham of the West Memphis police headed to the town to investigate. Three people including the chief of police, identified a photo of Damien Echols as the one they knew as Michael Elinburg. Michelle Elinburg was brought in. She provided a written statement saying that she had never told any such story to Loretta Smith. Loretta Smith, in turn, wrote: "It was all a lie and I'm sorry that I said it ok I promise to god that I will not say it again. I will never say it again and Michelle did not say what I told you I was the one who made that up and she did not tell me anything." The police also ran down Michael Elinburg who was certainly not the same person as Damien Echols.

Elinburg and Echols
Three persons, including the chief of police and another officer identified
Michael Elinburg (left) as being the same person as
Damien Echols (right).

The Skating Rink Girls

    Several youngsters came forward saying they overheard Echols confess at the local skating rink. Jennifer Ball said she had heard that Damien Echols was going to kill two more virgins. She also described an encounter at the skating rink in which Damien followed her with his eyes. Then,

While we were walking out of the blue Amanda [Lancaster] started saying shut up shut up. I looked at her & asked her wat was wrong.  She said that she could hear Damien in her mind saying "Bitch you're gonna die, you know to much."  (Last year Amanda had P.E. w/Damien. She said he would sit there & enter her mind. It really freaked her out.) [Jennifer Ball statement, June 10, 1993, for each statement, spelling is as in the original.]

    Amanda went on to say "Jennifer Harrison had said that she thought Damean had done it cause he new way to much, and he went around Horseshoe the same day the murders had happened, and had dog intestents around his neck." [Amanda Lancaster statement, June 10, 1993]  

    Joni Brown, aged 14, said she was at the skating rink on Friday, May 14th, 1993.  She said her friend Whitney Nix told her she overheard a Robert Burch say he and Damien Echols murdered the three victims and were going to kill two more. Brown also said Toni Cissell had overheard Damien confess. In turn, fifteen-year-old Toni Cissell stated she had heard this story from Jennifer Ashley and Crystal Hensley.

    Whitney Nix, 12 years old, stated she had heard this from a friend Nicol Bumbaugh. And here the story ends, for now, inasmuch as Ashley, Bumbaugh and Hensley interviews are unavailable to follow this to its ultimate source. Nix went on to relate this story about Echols.  

My friend Natalie told me that he went to her Church one night and it was a lord super and he droped the brade and he would not drinke the o jushe. [Nix statement, June 15, 1993]
The Softball Girls

    Two young children who professed to hear Echols confess were to testify at trial. They became known as the "softball girls." Following the leads from child to child to determine who overheard what spun the police in dizzy circles.

    Shortly after the arrests, the police received information that a Jenni Deacon, aged 13, had overheard Echols say he killed the children. When interviewed, Jenni Deacon stated she had been at J.W. Rich Girls Club softball field on the first of June but that it was her friend Rachael Myers who had told her that she (Myers) had overheard the confession. In turn, Rachel Myers had said a Shelly Wolfe had overheard Damien confess while at a softball park. Ridge interviewed Wolfe who said she had heard this from Shannon Boals.

    Shannon Boals, aged fourteen, described it a bit differently. 

Around May 21, 93 [6:30 or 7:00 written above line] I was at the Girls Club in West Memphis at my softball game and this girl name Michelle Carter told me that Damien Echols came up to her and said that he killed those boys and I just said really and she said yes.  [Shannon Boals, September 7, 1993]

    Returning the favor, Michelle Carter (age unknown) said she was told by Shannon Boals. "About 2 weeks ago at my ballgame at the Girls Club I was told by Shannon Boals from Marion that there was a boy named Damien that said he killed the boys and he didn't cut their thing off he bite it off."  [Michelle Carter interview, June 9, 1993]

    Trey Boals [15 y.o.], Shannon's brother, said he and David Smith heard a David Way state he had overheard Echols confess. David Way [18 y.o.] said he heard this from David Smith. There are no notes regarding David Smith's version. 

     While conducting the interview with Shelley Wolfe, Detective Ridge encountered Katie LaFoy.

Thirteen-year-old Katie LaFoy said she was present at the softball field at the Girl's Club (on Shoppingway, near Balfour) on the first of June, when Damien spoke to a group of girls including a "Jody Medford." Although Katie said she missed the beginning of the conversation, she did hear Damien say, "yea that I’m going to do it to some more people too." She said she had heard enough to know he was referring to the homicide. Damien then went on to threaten them so they would not talk. Katie said Jason Baldwin was there. [Ridge notes, LaFoy interview]  
    In a June 7th statement, 14 year-old Jodee Medford said during the week of May 24th, she had overheard Damien Echols talking to a group of five or six people at the Girl's Club. She did not recognize the people, but Jason Baldwin was not among them. She said she heard Damien say "that he had killed the 3 little boys and that before he turned himself in - he was going to kill 2 more and that he already had one picked out." She said Jackie Medford and Christy Van Vickle were with her. In a June 11th statement she changed this, saying Damien had said this to a group including Jason Baldwin.

    Her sister, ten-year-old Jackie Medford, confirmed part of the story, saying she was there with her best friend Christy and her sister Jodee when she heard Echols say he killed the three little boys.  She did not recognize any of the people to whom Echols was talking. 

    Although not mentioned as being there in her sisters' or mother's statements, twelve-year-old Jessica Medford said she was sitting with her mother when her cousin, Katie Hendrix asked Echols a question and Jessica overheard Echols answer he killed the three boys. 

    Donna Medford, the mother of the Medford girls, said she drove a carload of the children home after the ball game including her daughters Jodee and Jackie, Christy Van Vickle and Katie Hendrix. Noticeably absent from her account was Jessica Medford. "They all started talking at once telling me about what the wierd black haired boy had said that night. The all said they heard him say that he had killed those 3 little boys." [Donna Medford, June 7, 1993] According to Donna, Katie Hendrix went on to say "... he had said he was going to bite her titties off. When he left she yelled 'Did you really kill those 3 boys & he yelled 'yes'." [ibid] Donna Medford said she did not overhear Echols say anything, but she did see him there that night. Katie Hendrix does not have an interview folder. 

    Eleven-year-old Christy VanVickle in a June 11th statement said two weeks ago she was with Jackee Medford at Girls Club. She said she saw Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin talking to a lot of people. "I heard him say that he killed the three boys. It scared me so I walked away. I didn't hear him say any thing else." [Christy VanVickle, June 11, 1993]

    The statements of Christy VanVickle and Jodee Medford were each one short paragraph. They were called as witnesses. The gist of Jodee Medford's testimony was: "I heard Damien Echols say that he killed the three little boys and before he turned himself in, that he was gonna kill 2 more and he already had one of 'em picked out." [Jodee Medford testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    Jodee Medford went on to elaborate her account. At about 6:30 pm she walked around the corner of a concession stand and saw Damien Echols about 25 feet away. Echols was talking to a group of six or seven people. Jason Baldwin was nearby and his girlfriend, Heather, was standing next to him. In contrast to her June 7th statement, she testified Jackee and Christy were not with her.

Prosecutor Fogleman: Ok. And uh - where - were you with your sister Jackie at that time?
Medford: No sir. [snip]
...cross examination, Echols attorney, Scott Davidson. 
Davidson: Ok. Did - when you say you heard this conversation, did you see, uh - Christy?
Medford: Uh uh.
Davidson: She wasn't around?
Medford: No sir. [ibid]  

    Jodee didn't inform the police or authorities for two weeks. Jodee testified she had never seen Echols before and did not know who he was until after the arrests when she saw him on television.

    Christy VanVickle did not add much to her statement during testimony.  She said she was with Jackie Medford when she overheard Echols confess. 

Davidson: Ok. And were - who were you with at the ballpark?
VanVickle: Um - Jackie Medford.
Davidson: Jackie Medford?
VanVickle: Um hmm.
Davidson: And anybody else?
VanVickle: No sir.   [VanVickle testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]

    In contrast, Jackie Medford had stated Jodee Medford was with them and in her testimony Jodee Medford had stated she was alone. VanVickle did not quote Echols words, just that "I heard, um - Damien Echols say that he killed the three boys." [ibid] Christy could not provide any details about the context or tone of the confession. Among the twelve instances when she answered she didn't know or couldn't remember:

Davidson: Did - what did he say before you say that he said he killed those three boys, what did he say before that?
VanVickle: I don't know.
Davidson: What did he say after that?
VanVickle: I don't know.
Davidson: And how close were you to him?
VanVickle: I wasn't close.
Davidson: You weren't close. Did he scream it?
VanVickle: I don't know.  [ibid]

    Like all of the softball girls, Christy VanVickle only came forward after the arrests.
    Jury's ranking of witnesses, 1 through 10.
  1. Mike Allen, assisted in discovery of victims
  2. Bryn Ridge, present throughout investigation
  3. Frank Peretti, medical examiner
  4. Michael Carson, jailhouse informant
  5. The Hollingsworths
  6. Lisa Sakevicius, fiber and trace evidence specialist
  7. Deanna Holcomb - Echols carried knives.
  8. Dale Griffis, occult expert
  9. VanVickle, softball girl
  10. Medford, softball girl
    Along with declarations of witches' numbers and the implied malevolence of black shirts, the accusations of young girls helped transform this case into a Salem-like witch trial. Among items entered into evidence was a library book checked out by Echols and written by Cotton Mather, one of the Puritan chroniclers of Salem.

    There were many rumors of confessions, without exception they came from children and teenagers. In the case of the softball girls, there were several witnesses who gave contradictory stories that Echols had confessed at the Girl's Club on multiple nights under multiple circumstances, in front of a crowd or not, with Jason present or not, with Damien either making a short declaration or else answering questions. The names of the girl's friends who were with them at the time also changed between accounts. From the many claims of casually overheard confessions at the softball park and at the skating rink, two made it to trial. Two children, one aged fourteen, one eleven, took the stand to accuse Damien Echols. 

    Echols was found guilty. He was given three death sentences. He is currently on death row.

Echols, order of execution
        Damien Echols, order of execution.

Continued in, A Twilight Kill, Part Ten: Later Evidence. 

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