John Mark and Melissa Byers in better days.
John Mark Byers alibi.
The following is a comparison of Mark Byers alibi to the statements of those who could potentially corroborate it. Mark Byers gave an extensive interview to the police on May 19, and this is the basis for much of the timeline presented below. In contrast, there are only minimal notes for family members of other victims. Although much of Mark Byer's time is not corroborated, this is not the same as saying it could not be. For example, he describes two occasions in which he went to Robin Hood Woods with Dana Moore, mother of victim Michael Moore, on the night of the fifth. Although she is his alibi, a detailed accounting of her evening is not available. Statements that refer to events in which the person was not present was not considered corroboration. For example, neighbor recounting Mark Byers saying he was angry at Chris for breaking into the house is not confirmation of Chris breaking into house. (Although it is confirmation of Mark Byers being angry.)
May 5th: 3 pm until dawn May 6th.
Summary, overview of corroboration.
- 3:10 - 3:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Got home from clinic. Chris didn't have key to house. Mark arranged for Ryan to let Christopher in the house on days Mark wasn't there. Ryan wasn't yet there. Corroboration: Ryan notes he got there at 3:38 (referenced below). Chris's grandfather gave this version: "I was on my way up to the schoolhouse, which was right near their, you know, when Mark saw me and told me he was going to pick up Chris by himself." DK, p 312.
- 3:30 - 3:50 pm Mark Byers statement: Ryan arrives. Ryan waits with Mark for Chris until 3:50. Corroboration: Ryan Clark interview notes: "States he got home at exactly 3:38pm. -- Chris was not @ home."
- 3:50 - 4:50 pm Mark Byers statement: Takes Ryan to court. Stays at court until 4:50. Corroboration: Christine Roberts (below). Ryan Clark, interview notes: "Ryan had to be in court @ 4:00pm. --his dad took him. Dad dropped him off @ court [no mention of Mark Byers staying with him for nearly an hour]."
- 4:50 - 5:10 pm Mark Byers statement: Goes to pick up Melissa Byers from work in Memphis. Corroboration: Ryan Clark, interview notes: "[Dad] told Ryan he was going to go pick his mom up from work and go look for Chris. Notes, Christine Roberts (neighbor) says: ". . .were at court with Chris father and left 5:00"
- 5:10 - 5:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Returns from Memphis with Melissa. Finds Chris has tried to break into house. Corroboration: Statement, Ryan Clark: "Dad told him that Chris had broken a seal on the window to get into the house." Testimony, Melissa Byers: "Melissa Byers: - And I got home around 5:20 - you know, between 5:00 and 5:30, I got home - sometime - you know, and I - Fogleman: - And how did you get home? Melissa Byers: My husband came and picked me up from work." Notes, Christine Roberts, neighbor: "[Mark Byers, upon returning to court] saying he was pissed off at Chris about breaking out window + taking food."
- around 5:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Leaves Melissa, goes to get Ryan at court. Finds Chris in street on skateboard. Returns to house with Chris. Punishes Chris "2 or 3 licks." Corroboration: Melissa Byers corroborates Chris returning to house and punishment by Mark Byers. Melissa Byers, court testimony: "Fogleman: Ok. And did Christopher come home? Melissa Byers: Yes, my husband brought him home. [snip] Fogleman: Did he get spanked? Melissa Byers: Yes he did, uh Fogleman: Ok. Melissa Byers: He got a good talking to and then uh - about three swats with a belt 'cause he could have been run over." Notes, neighbor, friend, Bobby Posey: "Daddy whipped him + was going run away."
- 5:30 - 6:00 pm Mark Byers statement: Mark left home to get stepson Ryan at court. Chris under carport. Returned with Ryan. Statement, Ryan Clark: said they returned 5:30 to 6:00, closer to 6:00. Testimony, Melissa Byers: "Byers: My husband left to go back to court to sit with my son, and Christopher was given a paper sack to go out under the carport and pick up paper and stuff. You know, as part of his punishment." Christine Roberts, notes: "[Mark Byers] returne (sic) [to court] 6:30."
- approx. 6:00 to 6:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Began looking for Chris around house and calling to neighbors. Corroboration: Statements, Melissa Byers and Ryan Clark.
- 6:30 to 7:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Drove around neighborhood looking for Chris with Ryan and Melissa, streets mentioned were Ingram, Goodwin, Wilson and McCauley. The only name Mark Byers gives in this initial hunt is the Garner family. ". . . we went up to the Garner's house and asked if they knew where Steven lived. [in JMBs statement it makes clear asking for Steven is in seeking Chris.]" Statement, Clint Garner and mother: "[Officer] Ridge: Somebody came by? Garner: Uh, Ryan did. [snip] Ridge: Okay, and what was it he was talking about when he came by? Garner: He came by looking for Chris. Ridge: Okay, about what time do you think that was? Garner: Um, right when it was getting dark Ridge: Okay, sometime before dark 7:30, would that sound right to you? Garner: Around in there. Ridge: How about you Mrs. Garner, is that sound right to you about 7:30? Mrs. Garner: 7:30 it May Even Be Close to 8. Ridge: You were here when he came by? Mrs. Garner: Yes sir." Although not in his statement, Ridge includes Melissa in the investigative report: "Clint stated that Melissa Byers had brought Ryan to his house and that the time was about 7:30 pm or just before dark." Mark Byers does not mention his encounter at the Poseys. Notes, Bobby Posey: "[following above excerpt] Chris left + dad came to soon + asked Chris where Chris - on Goodwin + Dad stated going to have to whip him again." In this time period but not mentioned by Mark Byers, but Jimmy Sellers stated Mark Byers spoke with police officers outside the Flash Market at 6:30. Police logs mention two officers there at that time Meek and Covington. No corroboration of the encounter at Flash Market from Mark Byers, the officers, Ryan or Melissa.
- About 7:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Encountered black officer in front of Dollar General Store on Broadway. Melissa Byers and Ryan Clark corroborate this incident. No confirmation from officer or identification of the officer by name.
- Before 8:00 pm. Mark Byers statement: "And it's now, you know, dark's going to be coming on pretty soon. So I called the Sheriff's Department, and the guy answered. I told him my situation, who I was. It was the dispatcher. Just whoever answered at the Sheriff's Department, which was a little bit before 8 o'clock. And he said, you need to, he asked me where I lived, and I told him. He said well, you need to call the West Memphis Police Department."
- 8:09 - 8:30 pm Mark Byers statement: Called WMPD to inform them of missing child. Officer Regenia Meek responded. Corroborated by WMPD police log, Officer Regenia Meek, Melissa Byers, Ryan Clark and Dana Moore.
- Shortly after 8:30 pm (indefinite) Mark Byers statement: Going door to door to find them. Encounters "little boy and girl that Christopher would play with" (live on 14th) who said "we saw 'em going in the Robin Hood area." No corroboration or identification of these two children.
- After 8:30 (indefinite) Mark Byers statement: Mark Byers together with Ryan, encounter Dana and Terry Hobbs outside Moore's house. All converged looking in the woods. No corroboration from Hobbs or Moore. Ryan does not include this in his account. This may be the same as the following event, described in more detail.
- After 8:30 (indefinite) Mark Byers statement: "It's now probably 8:30. It had got dark. And Terry [Hobbs] said, well, he was going to spread out down, you know, towards where they were found. I don't know how far down that way he went, but he was going to look that way and my son, Ryan and I and Richie Masters, just somehow Richie Masters showed up to help look. And my son Ryan and I think, Brett Smith. Richie Masters goes with Brett Smith's sister.* So that's how they were kind of together. So, we're looking in that area kind of where the loop is." No corroboration from Terry Hobbs. In notes from his interview, Richie Masters tell the story of the search in the Robin Hood Woods [beginning 9:15] including Ryan Clark, Brit Smith, Robbie Young but leaves Mark Byers out of the narrative. In the interview notes from the interview of Robbie Young, Young recounts this search [called at 8:45, searched until 10:00 pm] including Brit Smith, Richie Masters, Ryan Clark, but does not mention Mark Byers. In the interview notes of Brit Smith, Brit Smith, his mother, Richie Masters, Ryan Clark, and Robbie Young are all described as being in on the search [initiated after an 8:30 phone call from Ryan Clark]. Mark Byers is not mentioned. Ryan Clark, in his interview notes, describes the above search including Britt Smith, Richie Masters, Robbie Young, and Britt Smith's mother [waiting in car while they searched]. He does not include Mark Byers. Melissa Byers corroborated a portion of this, although her times are unclear. She said Ryan Clark, Mark Byers, and her went to the woods once. She did not enter the woods. *The comment "Richie Masters goes with Brett Smith's sister [Michelle]" probably refers to the fact they were dating [confirmed in Robbie Young's interview notes] not that Michelle Smith was part of the search.
- Approximately 9:00 Mark Byers statement: Mark Byers returns home after abovementioned search of Robin Hood Woods to change from shorts and flip-flops to boots and coveralls. Melissa Byers in testimony corroborated that Mark Byers had been wearing shorts and flip-flops, although did not describe when he returned to change clothes: "Davidson: Ok. Uh - do you remember what your husband was wearing at the time [before getting ready to go to Shoney's]? Melissa Byers: Shorts. Davidson: Shorts. What kind of shoes? Melissa Byers: Just like khaki shorts and a t-shirt and some flip flop things, just like sandals."
- Approx. 9:45 - 10:15 pm Mark Byers statement: Mark Byers returns to searching Robin Hood Hills. Encounters Officer Moore and they search Robin Hood Hills further. Note: The 9:45 to 10:15 is not from Mark Byers statement but from Officer John Moore's log and testimony. Corroboration, testimony Officer John Moore: Fogelman - Alright after taking this report from her [9:23 on report] did you participate in any of the search? Officer Moore: Yes sir. Fogelman: Alright and what involvement did you have in doing that? What did you do? Officer Moore: Okay, I went down, down the street from Catfish Island to an area and I met with Mr. Byers and he and I searched an area off Goodwin Street. From E & B trial: Officer Moore: Uh - the other officer said that there were some people over on McCauly and I went over in that area. and did an initial search that night. [snip as he describes the place while pointing at map] Fogleman: Were you by yourself in doing that? Officer Moore: No sir, Mr. Byers was with me."
- 11 pm Mark Byers statement: Mark Byers returns home. ". . . it was right at 11. I called Regina Meek, and I asked her, you know, what the situation was. She said, I'm telling my commander about it. She said, and he'll inform the next group. [snip] Before I left the house, I picked up the phone, and I called the Sheriff's Department the second time." No corroboration from Regenia Meek.
- After 11 pm, indefinite Mark Byers statement: Mark Byers and Ryan go in car to back of Blue Beacon Car Wash to area where bodies were found. Ryan, 14 years old, drives the car. Mark encounters two black men. Interview notes, Ryan Clark: No mention of going around Blue Beacon with stepfather. This absence is all the more strange in that it involves the location where the bodies were eventually found. In contrast, Ryan makes these statements (following the abovementioned search of woods with Smith, Young and Masters: "When they came back out Britt's mother was waiting on them. They went back to Ryan's house to see if Chris had came home. They left again and just drove around and looked in a couple of empty houses. Came home at midnight & his dad made him go to bed." Ryan's testimony also seems to contradict this: Q. Did you go on the north side of the ditch? Ryan Clark: Yeah -- well, I didn’t. My friend Richie did." The two black men were not identified. This incident is perhaps associated with this: The following note was filed under Blue Beacon employees: "Scott Kelin - manager [snip - comment on gunshot] 10:00 pm Man two young white males stated looking for son, small car, toyota older model." In court testimony Kelin said he left work between nine and ten. Note: Byers automobile was an Isuzu, not an older model Toyota. Finally, Melissa Byers describes this incident in court testimony even though it is clear by her testimony that she was not there.
- Approximately midnight, indefinite. Statement, Mark Byers: Mark and Ryan returned to house. 12 to 1 a.m. heard car backfire on Wilson. Met Steve Branch's grandfather, Dana Moore, Terry Hobbs and a friend of Terry Hobbs. "So we stood there talking, then we just went back to the woods and said let's make another pass through." Potential corroboration: The midnight meeting is contained in Blood of Innocents (BOI), p. 42 although the source is not given (this book often repeats parts of Mark Byers statements). The joint trip to the woods including Byers is not corroborated. Ryan said he was sent to bed at midnight and did not confirm any trips to the Robin Hood Woods with Mark Byers.
- 1:30 to 1:45 a.m. Statement, Mark Byers: Mark and Melissa encounter "Sgt. Ball." Notes regarding corroboration: Captain Ball was the CO for the 5/5 11 pm shift. Being the commanding officer, it is likely he spent most, but not all, of the evening at the station. In the dispatch logs he is listed with dispatches at 11:53 pm, 11:57 pm, 12:45 am, 3:26 am and 4:06 am. And it is possibly to likely that he was out of the station at other times. There is no statement form Captain Ball confirming this meeting with the Byers. Melissa Byers does not mention this meeting in her accounts of the evening.
- After 1:45 a.m. Statement, Mark Byers: Tony Hudson comes to Byers house. Mark, Melissa and Hudson go on Service Road to Mid-Continent Building. No corroboration. No interview of Tony Hudson. Melissa Byers does not mention this during interview or testimony.
- Probably 2 or 3 o'clock (a.m.) Statement, Mark Byers: Mark Byers returns home. Tony Hudson leaves to make "a few more rounds of the neighborhood. And it's probably 2 or 3 o'clock by now. So, we just sat there waiting for daylight." [preceding quotes from 5/19 statement] Melissa Byers, testimony: "Ford: But I - I can understand that, but do you know about what time you would have gone back home from been - you know, as oppose to actually been out looking somewhere? Melissa Byers: 2- 3:00 in the morning, and that's just a guess. I have no - I couldn't say for sure."
- Until 4:30 am. "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, father of one of the victims said." West Memphis Evening Times, May 7th, 1993. Note: It is unclear how Byers knew where the bodies were found to within fifteen feet inasmuch as the entire area had been cordoned off. The time he finished searching that night is in contradiction of his 5/19 statement of searching until "probably 2 or 3 o'clock."
There are several reasons why the alibi of Mark Byers is anemic.
First, there are a number of people that he specifically describes being with at key times who give statements recalling the events that don't include him. These include Clint Garner, Clint Garner's mother, Ryan Clark, Brit Smith, Robbie Young, and Richie Masters.
And then there are those never identified. The two black men at the Blue Beacon, the black girl and boy on 14th, the police officer at the Big Star.
And there are those who either weren't interviewed or else were interviewed and their statements regarding their interactions with Mark Byers that night didn't appear in the West Memphis Police Department documents. These include Dana Moore, Terry Hobbs, Jackie Hicks, Captain Ball and Tony Hudson.
And finally there are those that were interviewed or testified that in parts didn't provide much clarity to JMBs whereabouts. These include Melissa Byers and Ryan Clark.
Guide to the summary given below:
There are different levels of corroboration or contradiction. Multiple corroboration is when multiple witnesses have provided statements that are in agreement. This isn't always possible because sometimes there are not multiple witnesses. Single corroboration is when at least a single witness corroborates and no witness contradicts. Potential corroboration is when a witness gives a statement that may confirm a purported event, but the discrepancies are such that it may be referring to another event. No corroboration is when there is no statement that confirms or denies. Negative corroboration is when statements exist that should corroborate but the corroboration is noticeably absent. Potential contradiction is when the statement that could corroborate has a seeming contradiction. Contradiction is when the statement that could corroborate contradicts.
Summary of times:
Below is a table of people who encountered Mark Byers that day and evening, according to Mark Byers. (The exceptions being Bobby Posey and Jimmy Sellers who stated they encountered Byers). The corroboration columns only addresses whether they corroborated the encounter or event with Byers.
- 3:30 - 6:30 pm. Corroborated by one or more of the following: Ryan Clark, Melissa Byers, Christine Roberts.
- 6:30 - 8:00 pm. The general event of driving around the area is corroborated Ryan Clark and Melissa Byers. The event of encountering a police officer is corroborated by Ryan Clark and Melissa Byers but not the police officer. The event of meeting with the Garners has negative corroboration. Sighting by Jimmy Sellers not corroborated.
- 8:00 - 8:30 pm. Meeting with Officer Regenia Meek has multiple corroboration from all parties involved.
- 8:30 - 9:30 pm. No corroboration for meeting with black children on 14th Street. No corroboration for meeting with Dana Moore and Terry Hobbs and going to woods with them. Negative corroboration from multiple sources for going with Ryan Clark, Robbie Young, Brit Smith, and Richie Masters to the woods, although Melissa Byers mentions that Mark Byers and Ryan went to woods with her. She said she did not go in.
- 9:45 - 10:15 pm. Corroboration for searching area with John Moore.
- 10:15 - 12:00 am. Negative corroboration/contradiction for searching Blue Beacon area with Ryan Clark. No corroboration for contacting Regenia Meek.
- 12:00 am. Potential corroboration for midnight meeting with other victims families. No corroboration for searching the woods with these family members.
- 12:00 - 2:00 am. No corroboration for meeting with Officer Ball. No corroboration for going with Tony Hudson and Melissa to Mid-Continent Building.
- 2:00 - 3:00 am. Corroboration by Melissa Byers as to ending search. Contradiction with earlier statement that he searched until 4:30 am.
- 3:00 - 6:00 am. No corroboration, possible contradiction, noted above.
||No corroboration / contradiction
||3:38 - 4:00 Meets Mark at home, goes to court.
approximately 5:45 - 6:00 Picked up by Mark from work.
Before 7:30 driving around neighborhood.
7:30 encounter with officer at Big Star.
8:10 - 8:30 Officer Meek, Dana Moore visit.
|8:30 - 9:30 trip to Robin Hood Woods
11:00 pm trip to Blue Beacon
after midnight trip to Robin Hood Woods
||5:10 - 5:45 Picked up from work, Chris returned to house and spanked.
6:00 initial search for Chris. Before 7:30 described trip around neighborhood. 7:30 encounter with officer at Big Star. 8:10 - 8:30 Officer Meek, Dana Moore visit. Melissa Byers then described that she sometimes went out searching sometimes waited at home but gave no specific confirmation of other events in the search. 2 - 3 am she and Mark Byers finished searching for the night.
|Did not corroborate visit to Garners.
Did not corroborate visit to Mid-Continent Building with Tony Hudson.
Did not corroborate encounter with Captain Ball.
Seemingly contradicted Mark Byers searching until 4:30 am.
||4:00 - 5:00 at court. Mark Byers returned at 6:30.
||Before 8 pm visit to his house. Byers did not mention in this visit.
||6:30 pm visit to Flash Market. Byers did not mention in this visit.
|Clint Garner and mother
||Before 7:30 visit to Garner house.
|Officer at Big Star
||7:30 pm. unidentified.
|Officer Regenia Meek
||8:10 - 8:30 at Byers household.
||11:00 pm call from Mark Byers.
||8:30 at Byers household
||After 8:30 trip to Robin Hood Woods
After midnight trip to Robin Hood Woods
|Little boy and girl along 14th
||After 8:30 pm. Children never identified or interviewed.
|Brit Smith, Richie Masters, Robbie Young
||8:30 - 10 pm. Describe visit to Robin Hood Woods without including Mark Byers.
|Mother of Brit Smith
||8:30 - 10 pm (same as above). Not interviewed.
||No statement from Terry Hobbs corroborating the following events mentioned in Mark Byers statement. After 8:30 trip to Robin Hood. Midnight meeting. Midnight trip together to Robin Hood.
|Officer John Moore
||9:45 - 10:15 search around Robin Hood Woods.
|Two black men
||After 11 pm, in back of Blue Beacon. Not identified.
|Steve Branch's grandfather
||Midnight meeting and trip to woods. No statement from Jackie Hicks.
|Friend of Terry Hobbs
||Midnight meeting and trip to woods. Not identified.
||Encounter, 1:30 - 1:45 am. No corroboration.
||Trip to Mid-Continent building at approximately 2:00 am. No interview or corroboration.
Mark Byers, commentary
John Mark Byers