The slicked down bank. Crime scene footage. Victim Michael Moore removed from picture.
It is the policy of this site not to display any pictures of the dead children or their injuries.
The Slicked Down Bank
Fogleman: Your Honor, the - let me get this photograph - Your Honor, the first 3, which are 22, 23, and 26 are to show the condition of the bank. Uh - they show the - how it's slicked off -
Defense attorney Paul Ford: That is ridiculous.
Fogleman: - cleaned off, the bank -
Ford: That's ridiculous. [Echols/Baldwin trial]
The prosecution contended that the site where the murders took place was a bank above where Moore was discovered and where his recovered body was placed. Since there was no visible blood in the area, it was hypothesized that the area was cleaned of blood - along with leaves and twigs. This is the area on the east bank that is brought up in the Misskelley confession.
As Prosecutor Fogleman declared in his opening statement:
In this area, the proofs going to show that right in the area where Michael Moore was, there's an area that uh.. it didn't look like any of the other surrounding area, uh, there were uh, no leaves on this particular part of the bank, uh, there were uh, had a shining quality to it, it had been, it appeared to have been, the proofs going to show had been, uh, slicked off, or like scuff marks, unnatural marks to the area, where as the area right beside it had leaves on it, and didn't have that appearance. There's no blood. No blood.
Detective Ridge described the place in his testimony:
Ridge: Ok. Here, this white area, is where this bank was - had the scuff marks, absence of leaves, the slicked over cleared area. That was above the body of Michael Moore. Michael Moore was found here in the bottom of this creek.
Ridge went on to suggest the crime scene was cleaned by hand.
Defense attorney Robin Wadley: Scuff marks - you mean "slicked off," is that what you're saying?This site was hardly unique in having scuff marks, leaves missing and muddiness. The site where the other two bodies were found was both scuffed up and absent of leaves.
The west bank, where Branch and Byers were placed. Victims removed from picture.
The bank shown below is between the two shown above.
A bank between those where the children were placed. Victim Branch removed from picture. Detective Michael Allen is standing near the center.
Below is a stitching together of a pan shot from the crime scene video. This shows where the banks are in relation to each other and where the children were placed.
Three photos stitched together. Victims removed from picture. From a panning shot, from the crime scene footage.
The Pristine Meadow
Another component of the theory that the woods were the murder scene and not a dumping site was the geography. Bodies could not be brought from the south because of the bayou. The west was bordered by the Blue Beacon Truck Wash - an all night establishment. The northern border was the interstate. Finally, to the east, was a meadow. Although the meadow could be accessed by vehicle bringing the driver near to the dumping sites, the police were adamant that no vehicles had passed there. In describing a grid search that took place the day after the bodies were discovered, Detective Ridge emphasized the pristine nature of the meadow.
Fogleman: Detective Ridge, I want to go back to this grid pattern search that you and the other officers did um - did you do an area besides the wooded area?
Ridge: Yes sir.
Fogleman: Alright, and where was that area located?
Ridge: Ok. This area between the field and the ditch, including part of that field and then this area between this ditch and the field, and including part of that field.
Fogleman: Alright. And what kind of field was that?
Ridge: A wheat field.
Fogleman: Alright. And uh - what was the condition of the ground at that time when y'all did that grid search?
Ridge: It was smooth, there was grass, wheat growing in the area.
Fogleman: And uh - what if anything did you find in the part of that field that y'all searched?
Ridge: We didn't find anything, it was normal, smooth.
Fogleman: Any automobile tracks, truck tracks, anything like that?
Ridge: No sir.
This observation became central to the prosecution's summary of the case.
Fogleman: Now also, they've tried to suggest that somehow this happened somewhere else. Well, as the testimony indicated--first you got interstate, this Blue Beacon Truck Wash, wheat field over here, and then this bayou here--the only way across the bayou is that pipe. Now, imagine if you will, this happening somewhere else. And somebody carrying three eight-year-old boys across this pipe, and then taking them in here and leaving them. Or imagine--even still, this well-lit Blue Beacon Truck Wash, them bringing these boys in here--who disappeared, were last seen between six and six-thirty--bringing them in here, through here. Or, coming from the wheat field. But officers walked that, remember they walked that field. They didn't go the whole field, but over on the edge of the woods, they did their arms length thing, where they walked from the ditch to the interstate. No tracks, no vehicle tracks.
This claim seems remarkable considering the area was described as having been saturated by searchers, including those using three-wheelers and all-terrain-vehicles. In the crime scene footage, there is clearly a red vehicle parked in the meadow.
Above: Panning from the meadow to the west bank. A red truck appears parked in the meadow.
Where was Michael Moore found?
Two officers were instrumental in discovering and retrieving the body of Michael Moore. Seargent Mike Allen described encountering Michael Moore after falling into the water. His falling into the water was documented by photographs (one shown below and discussed on this page). Lieutenant Bryn Ridge described removing Michael Moore from the water and placing him on the riverbank, the slicked down bank. The place where Allen went into the water is to the south of the place where Moore was laid on the bank. As Ridge was quoted above as saying, "The slicked over cleared area. That was above the body of Michael Moore." Allen described encountering Moore:
Allen: I went to an area where I felt I could cross which I crossed and went around to the area where the tennis shoes were in the water.
Fogleman: Alright. And, uh, did you get in the water?
Allen: Yes, sir. I did.
Fogleman: Okay. And after getting in the water, what did you find?
Allen: My intentions were to get into the water and reach for the tennis shoe at which time, when I got into the water, I felt, uh, I felt an object in the water. I raised my right foot up, and a body floated to the surface of the water. [Misskelley trial]
This is crucial. Finding Michael Moore separate from the other two was used as evidence that Misskelley had insider information. Misskelley had described Moore attempting to escape (although in Misskelley's story Moore ran south and then was brought back - nevertheless the Supreme Court cited this as guilty knowledge). The slicked down bank was described as the site of the murder, and in Misskelley's confession he said the attacks took place on the east bank.
However, there are varying descriptions of how far the victims' bodies were apart from one another. According to the May 7th West Memphis Evening Times, "[Gitchell] said the three bodies were about 10 feet apart." A similar statement is quoted in the Commercial Appeal.
In the crime scene notes, an estimate is made that Moore's body was found 25 feet north of Branch's body. The tree where Mike Allen was leaning when he went into the water is consistent with the figure of ten feet, while just below the "slicked down bank" is consistent with the 25 foot figure.
Allen entering the water. Moore's body related to where Allen entered the water.
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