E178, the Byers knifeThe Kershaw Knife
Even more contentious and improbable than "The Lake Knife" was the tortuous story surrounding a knife from the Byers household, the "Kershaw Knife." Douglas Cooper, a cameraman for Home Box Office, was helping film a documentary about the crime and the trials. Just as the film crew was headed to New York to break for the Christmas holidays, Cooper was presented a gift. According to the police notes from his interview. "Rec knife on Sunday 12-19-93 late afternoon from Mark Byers while at his residence. . . . Told him I didn't want the gift couldn't understand why he gave it to me. He said it was sharp. Cut a piece of paper. It's between us."
The timing of the gift was disputed. From Mark Byers January 26 interview:
Mark Byers: And uh, one of the man on the film crew from New York City, I think his name is Kook, the one that had the camera I don't know if he's here are not, but day when he was here we were talking about knives and he was real friendly to me and I (inaudible) as a Christmas gift I gave it to him, you know that all there was to it. If you ever want to see it or anything he's in possession of it. I gave it to him as a Christmas gift.The timing was potentially significant. On December 20 the Byers house was searched.
In New York, after seeing what might have been blood on the knife, Cooper presented it to the directors of the documentary who, after consulting with HBO lawyers, sent it to the West Memphis Police. It arrived on January 8, 1994 and was logged into evidence as E178. It was then sent to Genetic Designs Laboratories to determine whether the blood was human and, if so, whether the blood could be linked to any of the victims. The blood was found have the same HLA DQ-alpha type as Christopher Byers, described in the Genetic Analysis letter as shared by 9.2% of the population. Blood samples from Mark and Melissa Byers and Melissa's 14 year old son, Ryan Clark, were then sent to Genetic Designs to determine whether they could be a possible source of the blood on the knife.
On January 20th, Inspector Gitchell sent a profile of Mark Byers to the FBI agent Tom Self. Gitchell's notes of their correspondence state that Self didn't believe Mark Byers was a likely suspect. As for the knife:
Source and History of knife.Self went on to recommend:
Interviews be simotaneous – with Byers, Mellissa + RyanThe interviews took place on January 26 took place in the Craighead County Courthouse, on the day of the start of the Misskelley trial. Ryan was interviewed first and then Mark Byers. Melissa was not interviewed.
Detective Ridge interviewed Ryan Clark. Ryan explained where the knife was kept and how it was accessible to Chris. However, Ryan stated that he never saw Chris with the knife and that Chris never played with knives.
Ryan: No, we...he [Mark Byers] always, he always kept it in his room, we never did mess with it.[snip]
Ridge: Okay. Do you ever know of Ryan having the knife?The essence of the latter exchange was repeated several times (including Ridge referring to Chris as Ryan). Ryan said that Mark Byers used the knife while hunting.
Ridge: Did he [Mark Byers], did he hunt? Did he use the knife when he went hunting?The interview with Mark Byers was high stakes. From the perspective of the police there was blood on the Byers knife that matched the victim Chris Byers just at the start of the Misskelley trial. The police were still waiting on the lab results from the other family members. Mark Byers began by stating the knife had never been used and kept in his dresser.
Mark Byers: . . .no that knife had not been used at all, it just been kept up, put in my dresser and I didn't use it and the reason why was is because of those serrated edges.Mark Byers repeated Ryan's assertion that Chris did not play with knives and that no one had been cut by this knife.
Gitchell: Um, did, did any of yours sons ever play with the knife?Ridge, arriving after the start of the interview and having been told by Ryan that the knife was also kept in the den by Byers' chair, offers Mark Byers an out.
Ridge: Is there a period of time that this knife may have been kept in the den by your chair?Then Gitchell dropped the first bombshell.
Gitchell: And you need to answer this for me, we have found blood on this knifeAnd then the second bombshell, the blood was human and matched Chris. Mark Byers answers are adamant and repeated.
Gitchell: Okay, Alright, let me, let me go on a little bit further and say there's a problem with that, I mean I'm not saying that's not true, the problem is we have sent this knife off and had it examined and it has the blood type of Chris on itRemarkably, Detective Ridge summed up the interview as "Byers stated he had cut himself with the knife. . ." [Detective Ridge report, January 26, 1994, John Mark Byers interview]
The next day, January 27, Genetic Designs released its analysis including other members of the Byers household. The blood on the knife not only matched Chris Byers' type, it matched that of his stepfather, Mark Byers (they are unrelated). The findings regarding the knife and Mark Byers statements were not made available to the defense for the Misskelley trial, a point argued in his attorney's appeal. In the Echols/Baldwins trial defense attorney Val Price questioned Byers about the knife.
Price: Alright, well the place that the - where did ya'll keep the knife in your house?[snip]
Price: . . . Did you have any idea how human blood was on that knife?Mark Byers attempted to explain the discrepancies between his testimony and the January 26 interview.
Mark Byers: When he was referring to that of why would this knife have any blood on it, I was under the assumption that he was talking about Christopher's blood on it, which like I said, I didn't have any idea. He didn't ask me was there any way that any other type of blood or it's substance could have been on there because just a paragraph or two up before that, I told him where I was trying to cut the venison with it.
Price: On the top of page 8, do you recall being asked the question, "I have no idea, no idea how it could have any human blood on it." You recall giving that answer?
Mark Byers: Yes sir.
Price: And then it's inaudible from Gitchell and then do you recall stating, "I don't even remember nicking myself with it, cutting the deer meat, or anything." Is that the answer you gave?
Mark Byers: Yes sir.
Price: And is that the truth?
Mark Byers: I, at the time when he was questioning me, I didn't re - I mean, I might not have remembered. . . [ibid]
Kershaw knife, close up.
Copyright © 2008 Martin David Hill