Misskelley's Many Confessions
The West Memphis polygraph room and Misskelley. Other elements are
parts of a collage.
Jessie Misskelley, Jr. was 17 years old in 1993. In
his police subject description sheets he is listed as 5 foot 1 or 2 and
120 to 125 lbs. In spite of his small size, he had dreams of
pro-wrestling and often got together with friends for ad-hoc wrestling
matches. Steve Branch's grandfather, Jackie Hicks, who had been a
pro-wrestler, was derisive of these aspirations. ''It's a joke. It's an
insult to wrestling for anyone as little as him to call himself a
wrestler.'' [Commercial Appeal, February 6, 1994]
Jessie had regular problems in school, having to repeat
years and by age 11, he was only in the third grade. During the 9th
grade he would drop out. The book Devil's Knot documents IQ exams
given to him over the years. His scores were reported as 67 and 75 and
4th percentile [pp. 68-70, Devil's Knot]. To evaluate his competency
for trial, Jessie took another test and scored 72, equivalent
approximately to a third to fourth grade level [Dr. Wilkins testimony,
November 16, 1993 hearing]
On June 3rd, 1993, Misskelley made the first of several
confessions, implicating himself and Echols and Baldwin in the murders.
These confessions were the turning point in the police investigation.
Although Damien Echols had been a suspect from the very first,
virtually nothing had appeared to link Misskelley or Baldwin to
the crime. Within hours, Misskelley, Echols and Baldwin were arrested
for the murders. After his June 3rd confessions, Jessie would soon
claim his innocence - and he would soon confess again.
Detective Victoria Hutcheson
Prior to his confessions, Jessie's connection to the case
paralleled the actions of Victoria Hutcheson, "Vickie," a
detective who helped out the Marion Police. Misskelley was a close
friend of Vickie. He frequently babysat her children. She
described him as a helpful kid.
She would turn against him. She later lamented, "I loved
with all my heart. And, uh, for them to pick him for me to testify
against was just totally wrong." [Victoria Hutcheson statement, June
Vickie's involvement in the case was extensive and
complex. Beyond her detective work described below, she was a former
neighbor of the victims having lived at 1502 E. Barton until a month
before the murders. Her eight year old son, Aaron, was a close
friend of Michael Moore and Chris Byers. Aaron would give repeated,
contradictory and increasingly elaborate statements to the police
regarding what he had seen at the time of the murders. Notes from his
first statement say he saw Michael Moore picked up by a black man in a
maroon car on the day of his disappearance. In contrast, in Vickie's
initial statement, Aaron had stayed home with
her that afternoon and evening. In later statements Aaron described
being present at Satanic ceremonies, at the murders and being forced to
participate in the
murders. After the arrests he identified Echols, Misskelley and Baldwin
as being the killers. Still later he said Mark Byers was involved.
about the devil and you know that we love the devil..." Vickie
conveying her eight-year-old son Aaron's description of a
Hutcheson statement, May 28, 1993]
At the time the victims were found, Vickie and Aaron
Hutcheson were at the Marion police department. She was to be
interviewed by Detective Donald Bray as a suspect in credit card fraud.
The credit card fraud was pushed aside by the seriousness of the
murders. Since Aaron was a good friend of the victims, Bray believed he
might have some useful information. Bray also believed the crimes had a
connection. With Bray's help Vickie was to launch her
own investigation into the murders. Her investigations focused on devil
worshiping, the occult and Damien Echols. Misskelley was her entree to
Damien; he was a friend of
both Vickie and Damien.
At trial, Vickie described her motivations for "playing
Dan Stidham: You testified that you were going to play detective in
Hutcheson: I decided
that on my own. Those boys I loved, and I wanted their killers caught.
Stidham: Did that
thirty thousand dollar reward have anything to do with your decision?
Hutcheson: No. It
had nothing to do with it.
Stidham: Did you
ever tell anybody that you were going to get that reward?
Hutcheson: Not to my
knowledge, no. [Victoria Hutcheson testimony, Misskelley trial]
Stidham attempted to put on a witness, Rhonda Dedman, who
said that Vickie Hutcheson had spoken with her about her interest in
reward money. The prosecution objected as to hearsay and a long
argument ensued. If Vickie had said that she could not remember
whether she had spoken to someone about the reward, then Dedman's
testimony would be hearsay and could not be used to impeach Hutcheson.
If Vickie had said she didn't tell
anyone about interest in the reward, the testimony would be allowed to
impeach her. No one could remember Vickie's exact phrasing. Dedman
proffered her testimony but did not testify before the jury.
the punctuation added to the transcription makes a difference. "Not to
my knowledge, no." is ambiguous as to whether she is saying she didn't
remember while "Not to my knowledge. No." says that she did not talk to
others about the reward.
In the days after the murders, Victoria discussed the
crime with Misskelley.
Misskelley...he made mention after this came out that um he had
Chris Byers over by the Beacon that morning on the morning that you
know they were found and that Chris was in a pink shirt..." [Vickie
Hutcheson statement, May 28, 1993]
Even in this instance, Jessie was wholly inaccurate.
Chris Byers was in school on the morning and on through early afternoon
of his disappearance and
presumably dead by the morning of the discovery. He was described
wearing a white shirt in the missing children's reports and a pink
was not among the clothes recovered.
According to Vickie, Jessie went on to describe Damien.
"Jessie told me
about a friend of his named Damien and this friend drank blood and
stuff he just kept going on and on about how weird he was and stuff so
by the way you know the stuff that we knew the public knew that was
coming out in the paper and stuff I just thought how they were killed
was odd but you know maybe it was like a devil worshipping thing..."
[Vickie Hutcheson, ibid]
At Vickie's request Jessie introduced her to Damien.
Soon, she cozied up to him. She showed interest in the occult by
placing books around her trailer that the police had provided her. She
also admitted to making out with him. She tried to get him to confess
on tape. The police would claim these tapes
were unintelligible. Vickie claimed she listened to them at the Drug
Task Force headquarters. [Vickie Hutcheson
24, 2004] In all her
investigations, Vickie and the
police seemed oblivious to the dangers that courting a supposed
multiple child-murderer might bring to her or her eight year old son, a
professed witness to the crimes.
On May 19, a night with no moon, she stated Damien drove
her and Misskelley to an esbat - which she variously described as a
meeting of witches, or satanists, or an orgy. She said that after
participants started taking off their clothes, she asked Damien to take
her home, which he did.
Misskelley later stated he was unaware that Vickie had
told this to the police and denied going to any such meeting. Damien
would also deny that such an event took place - or that he drove
anywhere or had access to a car. Vickie would repeat the esbat story
as testimony. Years later, she would call the incident "a complete
fabrication." [Arkansas Times, October 7, 2004]
Vickie Hutcheson's May 27 interview. In the upper part, she passes
along the story that Robert Burch had admitted to the killings.
The bottom part is
a list of those she alleged were in the cult. In
Misskelley's early police interviews
he said he had heard that Burch and Echols had committed the
June 2nd and 3rd.
On June 2nd, Vickie Hutcheson took and passed a police
polygraph - although none of the questions were related to her trip to
the esbat. The police decided it was time to talk to Misskelley.
Also on June 2nd, the night before he confessed, Jessie
stayed over at Vickie's house. There had been local burglaries and he
was there for her protection.
At about 9 a.m. on June 3, 1993, Misskelley's father
knocked at Hutcheson's door. He told his son that the police wanted to
question him regarding the crimes. Detective Mike Allen drove Jessie to
Hutcheson named Jason Baldwin as part of the cult,
she stated she had
never seen him. [Hutcheson interview, May 28, 1993]
police spelled out a timeline for the events that day.
10 to 11 a.m.
Jessie interviewed by Detective Mike Allen regarding the
The notes from Jessie's early interviews says that he heard Damien
Echols and Robert Burch committed the crimes. Jessie stated he had
never been to Robin Hood and denied any Satanic activity.
pre-polygraph interview note. Detective Mike Allen.
11 to 11:30 a.m. Jessie was
read his rights. Detective Allen drove Jessie to ask his father for
written consent to polygraph his son, a minor. According to Jessie
(Jr.), "While we was on the way, he [Allen] told me if knew anything,
that there was a $35,000 reward, and if I could help them out, we'd get
the money." [Devil's Knot, p. 76] Misskelley, Sr. testified, "Mike
Allen was, and Jessie was joking about the, he said, forty thousand
dollar reward. He said if Jessie, if they get a conviction out of this
that Jessie would get the forty thousand dollar reward and he's gonna
buy him a new truck. And Jessie's laughing and said 'No I'm not
either.' He said 'I'm gonna buy my daddy a truck and I'm gonna take his
old one.'" [Jessie Misskelley, Sr., Misskelley trial] Detective Allen
that he did not remember speaking to them about a reward.
11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
After Jessie was read his rights again, the first of three polygraphs
began. According to Jessie's recollections, the polygrapher, Detective
Durham "insisted that his polygraph machine could read minds and that
it could if what was in their minds was different from what they said.
'I didn't know what was going on,' Jessie said. 'Because how could my
brain be telling him that I was sitting there lying? It got me
confused. Then he stood up and he was talking. He kinda spit on me. I
don't know if it was on purpose or
not, cause he was yelling when he did it." [Devil's Knot, p. 78]
notes regarding Misskelley's polygraph.
Approximately 12:30 p.m.
The polygraphs and post-polygraph interview are completed. Durham
declared to the other detectives that Jessie was "lying his ass off."
12:30 to 2:44 p.m. For the
next two hours Misskelley was interviewed aggressively by Inspector
Gitchell and Detective Ridge. Jessie described what went on. "I
kept telling Gary Gitchell I wanted to go home. He said I could go home
in a minute, then he kept asking me the same questions, over and over
again. From that point it just got rougher on down. They asked me, how
did I know so much about the murder if I didn't do it? I kept telling
him I didn't know who did it - I just knew of it- what my friend told
But they kept hollering at me. [snip] I had to go through the story
again until I got it right. They hollered at me until I got it right.
So whatever he was telling me, I started telling him back. But I
figured something was wrong, 'cause if I'd a killed 'em, I'd a known
how I done it." [Devil's Knot, pp. 78-9] None of the interrogation
this time was recorded.
The police notes from this time period include the
Gitchell drew a diagram, a circle. Inside the circle were three dots,
outside, Xs. According to Jessie, "Gitchell pointed to the dots and
said, 'This is you, Damien, and Jason. The Xs are police all around
you. You can be in the circle or out.' I said I wanted to be
out.'' [Devil's Knot, p. 79]
- Misskelley, Echols
and Baldwin (and others) were part of a Satanic cult.
- These meetings
- Baldwin called
Jessie the night before the murders and said they were going to hurt
- Echols had been
stalking the victims and had a photo of the three.
Gitchell then showed Misskelley a photograph of victim
Christopher Byers on the autopsy table. Jessie misidentified the photo
as "the Moore boy." He was covered to his neck by a
sheet. The photo had a profound effect.
Gitchell: During the
course of the interview with Jessie Misskelley, myself and Ridge were
present in the room. I walked out of the room for a moment to get this
picture and along with a small cassette recorder and a tape that I put
into the recorder. I first wanted to show him this picture just to see
what kind of response I would get from that. [snip, entering the
photograph into evidence.]
Fogelman: After you
showed him the picture, did you get some kind of response?
Gitchell: Yes, I did.
Fogelman: What kind
of response did you get?
immediately went back into the chair, and he just grasped the picture
and kept holding it. As a matter of fact, he wouldn't let go of the
picture. He would not take his eyes off the picture, and I even had to
take the picture from his hand and lay it on the desk. [Gitchell
testimony, January 13, 1994 hearing]
It is the policy of this site to not show photos of the
injuries of their victims. According to the Byers autopsy, Misskelley
have seen scratches, abrasions, a laceration and contusions:
have been shown the photograph, according to the police, "Jessie stated
that he didn't want to be a part of this that Damien and Jason killed
he did not. Will think about taking a polygraph test [none was taken].
I left room at which time Jessie informed [star] Gary Gitchell of his
being present during time of murders. Witnessed murder by Damien and
Jason." [Ridge notes, Misskelley interview, June 3, 1993]
- Mouth. Between
nose and upper lip
a 1/8" semi-lunar abrasion, a
1/4" abrasion on lateral
lower lip, a 1/8" abrasion on
midline of lips. A 3/16"
laceration on left upper lip.
- Upper face,
forehead, nose and eyes. A 3/16" abrasion on
aspect of bridge of nose. Two abrasions above left
eyebrow, 1" and 3/4". 1/2" x
1/2" contusion on right
eyelid. 1/8" abrasion
adjacent to medial aspect of
left eye. 1/8" abrasion
adjacent to lateral aspect of
left eyebrow. 3/4" old scar
on right forehead. 1/4 inch
old scar adjacent to the
bridge of the nose.
- Cheeks, jaw. Two
abrasions on left zygomatic
region and 1/4" by 1/8"
- Right ear.
Abraded and contused. Left ear. Contused.
In front of left ear, five
abrasions from 5/16" to 1
- Neck. Few
scattered abrasions, left
[Autopsy, Christopher Byers. Note, some items were edited out
because they referred to posterior views.]
Ridge left the room and Gitchell remained alone with
Jessie for about
20 minutes. According to Ridge, Jessie was given time to compose
himself. At 2:44 p.m., Jessie's first taped confession began.
Jessie's taped confessions.
I have researched this case for 10 years. An early turning
point in my evaluation of the case was reading Misskelley's transcribed
confessions. It seemed clear to me that Jessie was unable to
knowledge of the crime. He came across as a student who had no clue
about a subject and desperately floundered until the teacher
filled in the details. And, for Jessie, the police did fill in the
Sometimes this was in the form of statements.
The presence of a
now when its going on, when it's taking place, you under... you saw
somebody with a knife. Who had a knife? [Misskelley's first taped
confession, June 3rd, 1993.] [To this point there had been no mention
of a knife at the crime scene.]
The time of the
alright you told me earlier around seven or eight. [Misskelley's second
taped confession, June 3rd, 1993. There is no note that Jessie had said
the crime was at seven or eight.]
The scene of the
Ridge: ...and you
know where the little creek is that goes out to the expressway, and it
doesn't have a lot of water in it, but it's got some water in it, and
it's flowing through there... [snip] ...we're going to correct that
even further, that's the east side, Memphis side is the east side and
you were standing at the top of the bank on the west side...
[Misskelley's first taped confession, June 3rd, 1993. Jessie had made
no statements to this point describing the interior of the woods.]
The injuries. By
showing Misskelley a photo of Christopher Byers, the police presented a
picture of a victim with multiple bruises and a 3/16 inch long
on his face. Misskelley would go on to describe the victims as being
beaten and one having a cut on his face.
Sometimes Jessie was presented with information in the
form of a question in which
Jessie had only to agree with the police version.
Sticks as weapons.
Gitchell: Did you
ever use, did anyone use a stick to hit the boys with? [ibid] [Sticks
had not been brought up before this.]
The victims were
Ridge: Okay, when
you came back a little bit later, and all three boys are tied? [ibid]
[Jessie had not mentioned the boys were tied up - and he had said that
he had left, not that he had come back.]
The victims were in
Gitchell: Did you
ever see the boys in the water?
yep, down by the water.
how did the boys get in the water?
Misskelley: They um,
pulled pulled them in there, to the water. [Misskelley's second taped
interview, June 3, 1993. Misskelley had
previously said the victims did not get into the water.]
One victim was
castrated and had his penis skinned. [Misskelley had said a
was cut on the bottom.]
Gitchell: Now you're
talking about bottom, do you mean right here?
Gitchell: In his
Ridge: Do you know
what his penis is? [Misskelley's first taped interview, June 3, 1993]
Gitchell went on to testify that Misskelley did the
pointing even though Gitchell was saying "here" - a statement that is
meaningless without Gitchell pointing.
Gitchell: He was
pointing at his penis and saying he was cut on the bottom. So we were
clarifying what it is he was talking about.
Stidham: He was
doing the pointing?
Gitchell: Yes, sir,
Stidham: You were
not doing the pointing?
Gitchell: No, sir.
[Misskelley trial pre-hearing, January 13, 1994]
Sometimes the police corrected Misskelley when he gave
wrong information. Again he was presented with a photo of the victims
and was asked to identify who was who.
Ridge: Alright, you
got in front of you a picture, that was taken out of the newspaper I
believe, it's got three boys and these are the three boys that were
killed on that date in Robin Hood Woods, okay. Which one of those three
boys is it you say Damien hit? The third picture which will be
Gitchell: This boy
that's uh the Byers boy,
Gitchell: That's who
you are pointing at?
Ridge: If you read
the captions, the grisly slain from left, 8 year old Michael Moore,
Steven Branch and Christopher Byers. Okay, so you saw Damien strike
Chris Byers in the head? [Misskelley's first
taped interview, June 3, 1993] [Note: Jessie hadn't said head or
identified where the victim was struck.]
In spite of misidentifying photos of the victims twice,
Jessie still insisted:
Ok, so you know them by, by name and face, well enough to call them by
Misskelley: Mm-hmm. [Misskelley's
second taped interview, June 3, 1993]
newspaper photo shown to Misskelley during his confession. Even
the caption named the victims, Jessie again misidentified Byers.
Although much of what Misskelley said in these taped
confessions was in specific prompting by the police, Misskelley's
singular admission of direct involvement in the crime appeared
spontaneous. "Michael Moore took off running, so I chased him and
grabbed him and held him, til they got there and then I left."
[Misskelley first taped interview, June 3rd, 1993] This was presented
that Misskelley was aware one victim was located separately from the
others. Misskelley said that Moore ran toward the houses (he was found
separately in the oppositie direction) and he said that he brought
Michael Moore back, negating the idea that Moore was separate. "...he
runs out, going out the, out the park and I chased him and grabbed him
and brought him back." [ibid] As with many of Jessie's
statements, the police chose the answer that matched the crime
scene as Jessie demonstrating he had knowledge. In fact, Jessie gave a
smorgasbord of answers that could suit virtually any interpretation -
the three found together (brought him back), Moore found separately
(grabbed him and held him until they got there and then left - although
this doesn't explain what went on with the other two victims while
Echols and Baldwin were "getting there"), Moore found in the direction
of the houses, etc.
Even though his confession did not contain specific,
relevant, accurate and verifiable supporting information, Misskelley
about one thing.
I was there. [ibid]
The first taped statement begins "The place, we're in the
Detective's Division, today's date is 6-3 of 93, the time now is 2:44
p.m." Oddly, Misskelley's arrest warrants are also stamped 2:44 p.m.
and include a note saying that a taped statement had already been made.
"This defendant was arrested on the authority of arrest warrant
WS-93-1271 issued by Municipal Court Judge Pal Rainey. He was advised
of his Miranda rights and stated he fully understood his rights and
gave a verbal taped statement admitting his participation in reference
to the above listed charge." [Misskelley Arrest Warrant, June 3,
1993] Jessie is not notified of his arrest on tape.
Misskelley arrest warrant (one of
two), June 3rd, 2003, 2:44 p.m.
The Second Taped Statement.
A second shorter taped statement was taken that day. This
was briefer and focused on the discrepancy in times from Misskelley's
previous statements, the clothes they were wearing, whether the victims
were held by the ears, along with some miscellaneous matters. In this
only Gitchell asked the questions. Again, the questions provided the
details of the confession with Jessie agreeing to them, in some cases
Gitchell had to lead Jessie to the answer over the course of several
questions. In the police
log this taping is listed at 3:45 p.m. with the word "incorrect" added.
This taping probably did take place later, Gitchell estimated it at
5:00 p.m. The questions appear to
concerns put forward by Judge Rainey, matters to be cleared up before
the search warrants were issued.
The time is 9:06 pm.
This is W. P. Rainey
the municipal judge for West Memphis and Crittenden county I have just
sworn Detective Ridge and Detective Gitchell in here I have just read
transcript of what is going to be statement made by Jessie M Misskelley
on 6-3-93. I have completed
this statement and I had a question concerning what appeared to me to
be some obvious discrepancy in time based upon the information provided
to me tonight concerning the investigation I have questioned Officer
Gitchell about this and he is at this time about to explain to me the
discrepancies concerning Mr. Misskelley's initial statement that he was
in the woods by Blue Beacon at noon on the day that the children were
killed... [Judge Rainey, Search Warrant hearing, June 3, 1993]
Which Jason Baldwin?
During his confessions, Jessie described Jason Baldwin as
the main perpetrator.
He made the initial phone call. He had the knife (and thus performed
the castration). There were two Jason
Baldwins related to this case. Charles Jason Baldwin, pencil thin,
lived at Lakeshore. He was Damien's immediate friend and was convicted
for the crimes. Jason Howard Baldwin weighed in at about three hundred
pounds and lived on Johnson, not far from Weaver Elementary. Although
in other interviews the police did attempt to
distinguish to whom the speaker was referring, no similar attempt
made during Misskelley's statement.
friends. [Police notes, Burch
interview, May 15, 1993] Misskelley initially
he heard Burch had committed the
murders mimicking a statement from Vickie Hutcheson.
Vickie Hutcheson had identified Burch as a member of the cult -
with Jason Baldwin.
Burch was a friend of the Jason Baldwin who lived
on Johnson Street, not the one who was arrested.
Also on this list, Ricky Climer [not
Climmer] was the only "other" cult member that Ridge testified
as to having
In another instance of cult members being identified,
Steve Jones described a conversation with Garrett Schwarting who listed
Jerry Nearns, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin.
also talked about Nearns belonging to a cult where
they were sacrificing cats and that Jessie Miskelly and Jason Baldwin
were also members in this group. [Steve Jones, notes to the police,
June 10, 1993]
Nearns, however, was friends with the other Jason
describes his friends, including the other Jason Baldwin.
name is spelled in various ways] was on Jerry Driver's list of cult
Do I believe Jessie was referring to the other
Jason Baldwin in his confessions? Only indirectly. Jessie's
confessions mimicked Vickie Hutcheson's description of the rumored
suspects (Burch and Echols) and the cult and its members (Burch, Echols
and Baldwin). However, Vickie had never met Damien's friend Jason
Baldwin and she had probably included him in the cult by confusing
Damien's friend with the Jason Baldwin who was a friend of the rumored
killer and cult member, Burch.
More detailed analyses and descriptions of Jessie's taped
are discussed in greater detail on other pages. ,
Misskelley at the time of arrest.
To Be Continued in,
Confessions, Part Two