Note regarding Danny Holbrook
Full Moon Rising
emergence of the full moon, bone white as it breaks through wispy
clouds can infuse the psyche with a sense of dread. Sociologists refer
to the possible association between the lunar cycle and crime as The
Transylvanian Effect. Although scholarly studies of this phenomenon
have relegated it to the status of
popular myth, the events that took place in Arkansas were both defined
and driven by the phases of the moon.
In 1993, a touch of
madness gripped the city of West Memphis during a pair of full
moons. First, on May 5th, when the three children disappeared,
then 29 days later on June 3rd when Misskelley confessed and the
police arrested him and two other teenagers for the murders identifying
witchcraft and Satanism as their motives.
This cycle of lunar
madness began much earlier. In 1992, Jerry Blackwood Driver, then
fifty three years old, had taken on the job as chief juvenile intake
and probation officer for Crittenden County. Driver had consulted
a cult expert regarding the increased incidence of what he perceived as
Satanic graffiti. According to the Memphis paper, The Commercial
Appeal, Driver also fancied himself an expert on such matters having seen
voodoo rituals when he worked as a pilot making transport flights out
of Haiti. Driver would go on to conduct his own seminars in cult
connections to crime (Devil's Knot, p. 45).
Driver would cite Damien Echols as the source of some of his
information on local cult activities and how local Satanists would soon
be performing human sacrifice.
Um, during this same interview uh, Mr. Echols was asked um, what was
the extent of the cult activities was in Crittenden County and the West
Memphis area was and he told us that it was fairly extensive, that
there was 3 or 4 groups in West Memphis it's self. They were further
uh, along in their activities then he may or may not of been and by
that uh, he said that he meant, uh that they had reached the end of
their animal sacrifice uh portion uh to received power and that the
next logical step would be the sacrifice of a human. [Jerry Driver police interview, December 3, 1993]
Together with his assistant,
Steve Jones, Driver patrolled Crittenden County on nights of the full moon
intent on preventing human sacrifice. From Blood of Innocents:
"In his office in Marion, Driver kept a calendar where he took note of
lunar cycles and dates said to be of importance in occult circles.
Throughout the summer of 1992, Driver and Jones kept watch of those
dates; then, when the sun went down, they'd hit the roads into the
countryside, to local woods, spots under viaducts, and other locations
where they believed groups of youths gathered for rituals.
"We went everywhere in the world that summer, every time there was a
witches' Sabbath, we were out in force," he told detectives. "And
whether that did any good or not, I don't know, but to my knowledge,
nothing happened that summer." [BOI, page 97]
Driver and Jones were the probation officers for Echols and Baldwin, respectively. Jones would go on to discover the bodies.
According to the Blood of Innocents, some were concerned the next full
moon after the murders might bring another round of ritual sacrifice
[page 159]. This concern was specifically connected to obtaining a confession from Misskelley:
"He's [Misskelley's] lying his ass off!" [Detective] Durham told them.
The detectives huddled. This was it. They'd go for the kill.
They couldn't afford to miss another opportunity, not on the afternoon of a night that promised a full moon. [Blood of Innocents, page 168]
A tip dated May 12
declared: "Need to check out Donny [sic] Holbrook as a suspect.
40-45 yoa - W/M [snip] he can't pay his bills but claims he just got
back from London, England. He is supposed to be crazy." [West Memphis Police tip notes]
Holbrook, lived at 509
Johnson, near where it intersected with McAuley, in the
neighborhood of the victims. His sister, Becky Hinkle, lived on
Barton near the Poseys, whose son told the police Chris Byers passed by
house on the evening of the disappearance after being whipped by his
stepfather. The Hinkle children, peers of the victims, were among
those who stated they saw a mysterious and threatening white van.
Detective Ridge met with Holbrook on Thursday, May 13th and jotted down a series of
sketchy notes. "Says he has moon madness w/ full moon.
I saw jar of glue on sink - Saturday - He was there on Saturday working
on House 901 Goodwin. Empty. Must have gotten glue with
other personality." [Notes, Bryn Ridge,
6:20 pm, 5-13-1993]
Detective Ridge went on to make these startling summary notes regarding Holbrook: "Received information that Danny
Holbrook was in town almost immediately after incident and is unsure of
whether or not he was out of town during the period of the
murders. Danny has told of how he has killed people in the past
and seems to have a dual personality. Danny was raped by males in
the past and is a very crazy person." [Notes, Bryn Ridge,
above note places Holbrook spending
Saturday working on a vacant house at "901 Goodwin." There is no
901 Goodwin, the first residence is numbered 1202. There was,
however, a vacant house at 1901 Goodwin which, according to police logs
was visited twice during the morning of the sixth during the search
for the missing children, first at 8:19 a.m. by Patrolman Reese then
again at 11:03 a.m. by Reese and officer #251 Stan Burch. Such notes are unusual in themselves - only two other
vacant area houses were identified as being visited that morning in the
May 6th police log. Officer #252 (Reese) 8:19 a.m., "1901 Goodwin on Foot."
May 6th police log, 11:03
a.m. Officers Reese and Burch. "Next door to 1905
Goodwin, empty house."
1901 Goodwin is next door to 1905. (3)
The house at 1901 Goodwin was also next door to the family home of Bryan Woody, whose testimony placed him
as the last one seeing the victims alive. Woody said he was visiting
his mother on Goodwin when, at noon, he learned of the children's
Holbrook's timeline and alibi
Although the sketchiness of the notes make it difficult to determine a full
accounting of Holbrook's whereabouts, an unambiguous alibi was put
From the May 13 interview notes: "Danny
Holbrook saw Sunday night when teenager was raped 3:58 AM London,
England time." (These are the same notes that mention he was at "901" Goodwin on Saturday.) Validation
of his alibi is presented second-handedly. "Danny Holbrook was
named as a
suspect in the homicide. However it was proven to Inspector
Gitchell that Danny Holbrook was out of the country at the time of the
incident." [Det. Ridge, undated report] And, in another
note: "Received information was in town immediately following
this incident. Additional Comments: Was here afterwards.
However had been in Europe. No way this person was
involved." [Undated notes, Ridge/Gitchell]
Which dates do these refer to? If the above information is correct, the only sensible order would be:
Other than his alibi, Holbrook would appear to be an excellent suspect.
He lived in the area, he claimed to have murdered before
(possibly a delusional claim), he claimed to have been sexually
assaulted in the past, and he professed to being affected by the moon. The alibi is troubling. Most of us pass our lives without
witnessing a major crime. In the instance of Danny Holbrook, he
cemented his alibi by saying he was present at a rape during his brief
trip to England. (4)
- Late Sunday night witnessed a rape in London (Sunday, May 2/Monday morning May 3).
- Returned from England "immediately" after the West Memphis murders. (May 6 or 7).
- Working on house at "901" Goodwin (Saturday, May 8).
- Interviewed by Detective Ridge (Thursday, May 13).
In the late 90s Holbrook initiated a protracted and unsuccessful
lawsuit regarding the conditions in the Crittenden County jail.
He passed away on July 14, 2007 at age 55.
According to his funeral notice, he was an army veteran.
According to NASA lunar cycle charts, the moon would have been
considered completely full beginning at 10:32 pm, Central Standard
Time, May 5th, and then again at 8:02 am, June 4th, reflecting the
hour's difference for daylight savings time.
The other two area vacant houses visited were at 1208 S. McAuley
and 1120 WE Catt. These were not described as vacant in the
police logs, their vacancy determined by cross-reference. There
are only two sources of search information: two pages of notes
summarizing the search efforts (the visit to 1901 Goodwin is not
mentioned there) and the police logs.
According to the 1993 City Directory, the houses on the south side of
Goodwin were in consecutive order, beginning five houses down from the
intersection with 18th Street: 1823 Goodwin (Woody), then 1901
Goodwin (vacant). Although 1905 Goodwin is omitted in the 1993
directory, the 1989 and 1991 City Directories lists 1905 Goodwin as
next door to 1901.
- (4) As a side note, this calls to
mind the case of another famous area murder. After the assassination of Dr. King
in Memphis, his killer, James Earl Ray, in spite of being poor,
managed to flee to London.