Unlike most of the parents and step-parents of the victims, Mark Byers was extensively interviewed by the police. This took place on May 19, two weeks after the crimes, and may have been the result of several neighbors pointing to him as a suspect, or it may have been due to his criminal history, his drug use and selling, or the heroin addiction of his wife.
Mark Byers gave a long account of his whereabouts on the afternoon and evening of May the 5th, when the victims disappeared, and went on to detail his searching through the night and into the next day.
Several key moments of his whereabouts were witnessed. Other time periods have no confirmation. And finally, during key periods, the statements from those whom Mark Byers says he was with, do not mention Byers.
A summary timeline of the early portion of Mark Byers evening, from his 5/19 statement and court testimony. Most times are approximate. From 5:20 to about 8:30 p.m., his actions are corroborated by witnesses.
According to Mark's 5/19/93 statement, this is followed by an encounter where Ryan and Mark meet with neighborhood kids just up the block who say Chris and others went to Robin Hood Hills. Mark Byers: "And the little boy and little girl said, yeah, we saw Christopher and Steven and Michael a little bit after 6:30, our mama was bringing us home from the store and we was coming down Goodwin, and we saw 'em going in the Robin Hood area." Ryan did not include this in his account of the evening and the boy and girl were not identified.
The next portion, from 8:30 to 9:40 p.m. is crucial.
Mark Byers: "So, Ryan and I then, came back to the house and Dana is around her house looking and then Terry Hobbs, I think had come up by then and told 'em you know, that that was the area they'd last seen. So we kind of all converged down there looking in the woods. [snip, cutting out a clarification about the boy and girl mentioned above.] It's now probably 8:30. It had got dark. And Terry 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 [correctly Brit] Smith.
"So, we're looking in that area kind of where the loop is. You know, there's, in that open field there's just kind of a circle around it out there. We were looking in that area of the bayou and all. Well, I had on a pair of shorts and a pair of flip flops, so I run back to the house and changed clothes and put me on some coveralls and boots that I had on probably for the next 2 or 3 days. And I went back out there and I made a pass. I went all the way back to the back, and walked up the gully to where it makes a real steep washdown. You can see where the water washes into the bayou." [John Mark Byers interview with the West Memphis police, 5/19/93]
Ryan, Brit Smith, Richie Masters and Robbie Young (the last of these, not mentioned by Byers), all teenaged, searched Robin Hood Woods and gave statements to the police. All mentioned one other and none mentioned Mark Byers or Terry Hobbs. What's more, in each of the teens' statements, they recount two events: a gunshot and several loud splashes. As for Byers:
Detective Bryn Ridge: While y'all were out searching during this period of time after it had gotten dark, we had several reports of gunshots being fired. Was somebody down there with a gun maybe shooting up in the air hollering at the kids?
Mark Byers: I never heard a gunshot fired. [John Mark Byers interview with the West Memphis police, 5/19/93]
The manager of the Blue Beacon and five area residents from the door-to-door surveys, also reported hearing gunfire that night.
Mark goes on to mention a loud splash as something his stepson told him. Mark Byers: "He [Ryan] said, I thought I heard something splash in the water. And he said, it kind of sounded loud."
Between those who do not mention his presence and his own failure to hear the gunshot and the splashes, it can be concluded that Mark Byers was not with the other searchers at this time.
The next confirmed time when Byers is seen is when he meets up with Officer John Moore starting at about 9:45 p.m.
Prosecutor John Fogleman: Alright after taking this report from her [Pamela Hobbs at Catfish Island] did you participate in any of the search?
Officer John Moore: Yes sir.
Fogleman: 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. [Testimony, Officer John Moore, Echols/Baldwin trial]
Moore placed this search as occurring at about 9:45 to 10:15 p.m. the latter time being when he responded to another call.
After searching with Officer Moore, in the next timed event, Mark Byers returns home. Mark Byers: ". . . 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." [John Mark Byers interview with the West Memphis police, 5/19/93]
Officer Meek testified to meeting with family members at the end of her shift, but did not verify the existence of this call. In more detail:
D'Lesli M. Davis, Esq: Were families still searching when your shift was over?
Meek: When I left there was a group of people on 14th Street between two houses and there were family members there. I could not tell you now, because it's been too long ago, what family members it was, but it appeared in my mind I remember it was family friends and searchers standing there. I explained to them I had to leave and that I would find the night shift manager and try to get another officer over there. [Deposition, Regina Meek in Hobbs vs. Pasdar, August 12, 2009, pp. 30-31.]
The lawyer pressed further on who was there at the time.
Davis, Esq: Do you remember any of the family members that were there for that conversation? I understand you don't remember that Terry Hobbs was there specifically. Do you remember, for instance, if Mark Byers was there or Dana Moore?
Meek: I think Ms. Moore for sure was there. I'm thinking Ms. Byers was there, but I don't really recall. I just remember in my mind that it was a group of parents, family and searchers that were there. [Deposition, Regina Meek in Hobbs vs. Pasdar, August 12, 2009. pp. 34-35.]
Mark Byers and Terry Hobbs were left off this, but as Meek pointed out, she couldn't remember. However, Meek was certain as to the event taking place which would have precluded the need for a phone call. A full report from officers searching at the time should have been among the most basic elements of the investigation.
Mark Byers then said, "Before I left the house, I picked up the phone, and I called the Sheriff's Department the second time. I said, look, I've had one police officer out here helping me look for these boys. I said, now, I called once and y'all told me what to do, and I did that. I said, now I'm calling now, and I want to know why the search and rescue squad won't come out here and help me look for my boy. And he said, well they're probably at somebody's house, and they've just forgot what time it is. He said, don't worry about it. I said, I'm damn worried about it. I said, my kid don't stay out. I said, it's 11 o'clock at night. They're not at somebody's house." [John Mark Byers interview with the West Memphis police, 5/19/93] No corroboration or logging of this call. (Note: I believe Denver Reed commented on this. I have not found his statement.)
The next event is crucial with Mark Byers being near the site where the bodies were discovered. Mark Byers: "We [Ryan and Mark Byers] just went back looking. We didn't know, matter of fact, my son, Ryan and I got in the car and we drove around there to Blue Beacon, and went into Blue Beacon Truck Wash, and I said, look, we got 3 boys missing. I didn't want y'all, you know, I want to go back here behind y'all's property and holler and yell in these woods. But I wanted you to know why my car's back there. So, we pulled our little silver car back there, and Ryan, my 14-year-old, he's honking the horn and I'm out hollering and yelling around the edge of the woods. And he kind of drove the car around. Well, a little skinny black guy and kind of a great, big heavy black guy come walking out there. And you know, said, well, what's going on. Well, I told him. You know, 3 boys are missing. And he said, well, if they come up here, you know, we'll hold on to 'em for you. Well, we hollered and yelled there for a while where that little entrance is from that side where you can walk in that entrance. You know, there's that pond, and if you walk on around the edge of the pond, you can kind of see a trail that goes into the bayou, or wherever that is. I kind of walked into that bayou, well I walked into that area, and hollered and yelled down toward the bayou, and I can remember turning and hollering and yelling towards that hill. 'Cause I could tell it made a hill that went up and down. And me not having a light, I didn't go up over the hill, or go down in there." Ryan Clark did not mention this incident in his interview of testimony. The two black men were not identified.
There is this note beneath the name of Scott Kelin, manager of the Blue Beacon. "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: Perhaps Byers' Isuzu could be mistaken for a Toyota, but still there are time discrepancies and Ryan would need to be mistaken for two young white males. Melissa Byers does describe this incident in court testimony even though she makes it clear by her testimony that she was not there.
In another form, there were oblique references to this in the trial testimony. The discovery site was often referred to as "the other side of the pipe."
Attorney Val Price: Ok. Did you ever go to the area over here where the pipe was, either this side of the pipe or the other side of the pipe?
Mark Byers: Not on Wednesday evening. [John Mark Byers testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]
and Ryan Clark:
Prosecutor John Fogleman: You yourself didn't go on the north side of the pipe looking?
Ryan: Um-hum. [from other responses, um-hum appears to be an affirmation]. [Ryan Clark testimony, Misskelley trial]
These statements are not a clear refutation. Mark Byers and Ryan could have been referring to literally crossing the pipe.
So, when did Mark Byers' trip behind the Blue Beacon take place? The earliest, albeit brief notes, of speaking to the parents and step-parents of the victims took place on 5/10/93, five days after the crime. This summary note says, regarding Mark Byers: "at 9:00 or 10:00 he was behind The Blue Beacon Truck Wash in the woods and again at 10:00 AM on Thur. 6 of Apr. [sic]" (From the context of the note, this is obviously May 6th.)
Now let's look at that. At 10 pm we have one of the unambiguous alibis of JMB. From 9:45 to 10:15 pm JMB is searching with Officer Moore. Scott Kelin says he got off work at 8 pm or 9 pm. Under Kelin's name in the Blue Beacon note, but perhaps not Kelin: "10:00 p.m. Man two young white males looking for son, small car Toyota older model."
So, 10 pm taken literally, could not have been JMB.
However, JMB said, according to the 5/10 note, 9:00 or 10:00. Let's look at 9. This is the time Ryan and his teen friends are exploring the Robin Hood woods. This is about the time of the splashes and gunshot.
JMB would have had to make that trip without Ryan and would have had to have finished the trip by 9:40-ish.
Approximately 9 p.m. "behind The Blue Beacon Truck Wash in the woods" is rather damning. Perhaps he could have made a second journey, as he said he did, after 11 p.m. Or perhaps, a third journey as suggested by the confluence of the quote from the West Memphis Evening Times, "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." This is also quoted below, to sum up his night.
Continuing Along the Timeline.
Mark Byers described a meeting of the families at about midnight near Byers' house which was corroborated by other attendees. Ryan Clark went to sleep, confirmed by Ryan.
After midnight Mark Byers says he drove around for a time with his wife. Melissa Byers corroborated this.
Mark Byers said he and his wife encountered "Sergeant" [correctly, Captain] Ball with the West Memphis police. Captain Ball was in charge of the late night shift. There is no statement from Captain Ball confirming this meeting with the Byers. Melissa Byers does not mention this meeting in her accounts of the evening.
Mark Byers: "Then another friend of mine, Tony Hudson came over. And Tony Hudson and my wife and I up here on the Service Road where there used to be the Mid-Continent building and it blew down and they're re-building it now."
Tony Hudson was not interviewed for corroboration. Melissa Byers did not include this in her accounts of the evening.
Mark Byers: "Then Tony brought Melissa and I home, and he said, I'm going to make, you know, a few more rounds around the neighborhood. And it's probably 2 or 3 o'clock by now. So, we just sat there waiting for daylight." [John Mark Byers, 5/19/93 police interview.]
Melissa Byers confirmed this with some uncertainty. From her testimony at the Echols/Baldwin trial.
Defense Attorney 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."
In contrast, this statement was part of the news the day after the victims were found.
"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, page 1.]
This indicates both a knowledge of the discovery site to know that he would have been only 10 or 15 feet away, and a knowledge of where the bodies had been placed.
Confirmation of several key events and time periods is noticeably absent. From approximately 8:30 to 9:45, Mark Byers disappeared from other people's statements. His trip behind the Blue Beacon sometime between 11 p.m. and midnight was not confirmed. This could have been a scouting trip, when he decided to place the bodies there. If Ryan was not present, he could have either placed bodies in the ditch or to have disposed of the bicycles. Finally, his statement regarding being out looking until 4:30 a.m. and going near to where the bodies were found provided time, place and opportunity to set the bodies in the ditch.
The single most incompetent act of the West Memphis Police came in not interviewing, at the time, each of the victims' parents and step-parents. Terry Hobbs' first meaningful interview came in July 2006 when he and his wife Pamela sold their life story rights to Dimensions entertainment as part of a film planned by director Scott Derrickson about the West Memphis murders. (This film never materialized.) Transcribed, this interview ran approximately 100 pages. The West Memphis police first interviewed Terry Hobbs on June 21, 2007. He underwent a major deposition on September 11, 2009, (over 600 pages, transcribed) as part of his lawsuit against Natalie Pasdar and The Dixie Chicks. Finally, there are several media interviews.
These statements, coming more than a decade after the crimes, are muddled, impossible to reconcile with the facts, and contradictory. A friend of Terry's, David Jacoby, fits prominently into Terry's timeline. He tells a very different story—and one that also sometimes conflicts with the facts.
Robert Wellenberger, Esq: Was there any investigation of Terry Hobbs related to the murders that was undertaken at any time before January 1, 2007?
Lieutenant Larry Mitchell: I've not found anything of that nature in the records file.
[Deposition, Lieutenant Larry Mitchell, p. 12, Hobbs vs. Pasdar.]
Davis, Esq: There's no documentation anywhere in the West Memphis Police Department file that would show that Hobbs was even formally interviewed by the West Memphis Police Department prior to January 1st of 1007 [sic], correct?
Mitchell: Correct. [ibid, p. 15]
Two undisputed events bracket a crucial part of Terry Hobbs evening. At five p.m., he dropped his wife off at Catfish Island, the restaurant where she worked. At approximately 9:15, Terry picked up his wife, informing her that Stevie was still missing. In between, Terry has provided several versions of his actions. It would take forever to dispute each one: often they dispute each other. That said:
After briefly looking around on foot or in car, at either around five or six p.m. Terry says he drove to the home of his good friend David Jacoby about a block-and-a-half from where Hobbs lived. According to Terry, they headed off together searching. In various statements, Terry said that he searched around the Service Road alongside the interstate and around Robin Hood Hills. In that search, around 6:30 p.m., Terry claimed to have encountered three, four wheelers, motorcycles, and bicycles out there searching, 20 to 40 people. This is nonsense. At this time, beyond the Byers family searching by car, there was no search. For Dana Moore, her son had only been gone for 30 minutes.
Hobbs went on to say he spent a lot of time with Jacoby, searching, out of the car, in the woods, and, that Jacoby was in the woods all night. [Deposition, Terry Hobbs, pp. 171 and 293, respectively, Hobbs vs. Pasdar.]
In contrast, David Jacoby says that after Terry arrived (at 5 p.m., could be as late as 6), they played guitar together for an hour and then searched together for only fifteen minutes. In different statements Jacoby said they didn't search again or else did. Jacoby is described as being at the following meeting which took place near midnight. [Jacoby deposition, Hobbs vs. Pasdar]
[Mark Byers describing the midnight meeting] Then it was me and my wife, Dana Moore, Todd was still at work and then Terry Hobbs. A friend of his with a beard that lived, I think he said on 17th Street [this fits the description of David Jacoby and the place where he lived], and then uh, Stevie Branch's grandpa. [John Mark Byers, police interview, May 19, 1993]
Jacoby says he saw the three victims pass by his house. [Jacoby deposition, Hobbs vs. Pasdar]
In collecting evidence as part of the appeals of those convicted, several witnesses came forward saying they saw the victims in the area of the Hobbs house that evening.
At 6:30 pm Hobbs neighbor Jamie Ballard says Terry Hobbs called to the Chris, Michael and Stevie and told them to come into his house. [Jamie Ballard affidavit, September 16, 2009] This event is recounted in affidavits from Ballard's mother, Deborah Moyer, and her sister, Brandy Williams.
Terry Hobbs said in various interviews that he met up with Dana Moore and Mark Byers at 5:30 or 6:00 p.m, or as early as 4:30 or while it was still daylight. During his deposition in the Pasdar suit, he agreed that this event might have taken place at 8:30, which is in line with what Mark Byers said, cited above. [Deposition, Terry Hobbs, pp. 481-2, Hobbs vs. Pasdar.]
As for how he met Mark, Terry says that he was at home when Dana Moore dropped by his house asking about Michael. Terry followed Dana back to her home. [These events are not confirmed by Dana Moore.] Then, at Moore's house, Terry Hobbs: "while we were standing there talking, here comes this big, burley-looking dude walking across the street. And I look at him and said, "Who's that?".... of course it's Mark Byers...that's when I first met Mark Byers." [Terry Hobbs West Memphis police interview, June 21, 2007]
In her Pasdar deposition, Lieutenant Meek says that Officer Moore (not Dana Moore) encountered Terry Hobbs at his house.
D'Lesli M. Davis, Esq: What is your understanding of what Officer Moore did after you and Ms. Moore gave him the address of the residence where Stevie Branch lived?
Meek: I was finishing the report for Ms. Moore when Officer Moore came back and said that the mother was at work and that the stepfather was at home and that he didn't know where his child was either. [Deposition, Regina Meek, p. 20-21, Hobbs vs. Pasdar.] This, and not Dana Moore's supposed visit, is likely what precipitated Hobbs going to the Moore / Byers homes.
Byers version, presented above, is repeated here. Mark Byers: "So, Ryan and I then, came back to the house and Dana is around her house looking and then Terry Hobbs, I think had come up by then." . . ."Terry said, well, he was going to spread out down, you know, towards where they were found." [John Mark Byers, police interview, May 19, 1993]
This next 30 or so minutes is blank for Terry Hobbs, in part because he placed this meeting with Byers at so many different hours that a singular timeline is impossible.
According to Terry, he picked up Amanda from Jacoby's home at about 9:00 p.m. Terry and Amanda met with Pamela at the Catfish Island where the missing report was found. The time on the report is 9:25 p.m.
Terry Hobbs, bringing Amanda, meet Pam at Catfish Island. He informs Pam that Stevie is still missing. "He's dead," she says. She calls her sister and repeats this. Police take report. [Dimensions interview, p. 27. Stevie Branch Missing Persons Report.]
After this, beginning at 9:30 p.m., Terry says that he met up with Officer Meek and remembers when she ran into the mosquitoes. [Terry Hobbs West Memphis police interview, June 21, 2007] Officer Meek said:
D'Lesli M. Davis, Esq: And if Terry Hobbs told the West Memphis police that he searched in Robinhood Hills with you for the boys, would that be a true or false statement?
[Deposition, Regina Meek in Hobbs Vs. Pasdar. pp. 27-28.]
Furthermore, although more equivocal:
D'Lesli M. Davis, Esq: Do you remember seeing Terry Hobbs at all on the night of May 5 of 1993?
Meek: I don't recall. [Deposition, Regina Meek in Hobbs Vs. Pasdar. p. 26]
Pamela summoned her father Jackie Hicks, Sr., a former pro-wrestler to help in the search. Arriving about 10 p.m., he and Terry searched near the pipe, with Jackie slipping and hurting his back. [Dimensions Interview, p. 40]
Sometime in here, Terry Hobbs says he went home and changed clothes. In other iterations he says he doesn't recall changing his clothes.
Both Pamela and Terry described venturing to near where the bodies were found, the hour varying. As she neared the place, Pamela said felt a fear "at a certain point where you go in, and you could go up like a hill, and then you go the other way to go to the pipe. . . . And there was a full moon out that night, so I could see as I walked in there without a flashlight. And there was a certain point that I got to that a fear had come over me like I ain't never felt. It's like the hair is standing up on my arms." [Dimensions Interview p. 40, 47]
Terry echoed this premonition. "And it seemed like the further I went down that trail, the scarier—the more scared I got . . . Just a few feet from where I stopped was that ditch that they were found in." Later in the interview he described it, "It was like an evil presence." [Dimensions Interview p. 42, 57]
The above is also cited as occurring at midnight and at 10:30 a.m. the next day (which would preclude the full moon).
The above is the total of the investigation notes regarding interviews with the Hobbs (Pam and Terry) during May of 1993. 6 of Arp. is correctly, 6 of May.
Approximately 11:00 p.m. According to Terry, Officer Meek, at her shift change, promises to pass on the information about the missing children. [Terry Hobbs West Memphis police interview, June 21, 2007](As cited above, Meek said she doesn't recall seeing Terry Hobbs that evening and said that this promise took place at a meeting in front of the Byers' and Moore's homes.)
Approximately midnight. Meeting of families on the street between the Moore's and Byers' homes. Terry Hobbs is noted being there, along with David Jacoby.
Terry described going to police headquarters on multiple occasions to seek help for searching, with one time being forcibly removed. [Dimensions Interview, pp. 33 and 49.] There is no supporting record for this.
According to Terry, Terry and his family, and Jacoby would search until about 2 to 3 a.m. before quitting for the night. "[They] ended their search around 2 or 3:00." [Dimensions Interview, p. 48] These statements may refer to family members and David Jacoby and not everyone.
In several sources Terry and Pam say they searched all night. [Dimensions Interview, p. 39, Pamela Hobbs, testimony, Echols/Baldwin trial]
Terry Hobbs says that he never searched alone and never was alone between 4 pm to 6 a.m. [Deposition, Terry Hobbs, pp. 423-4 and p. 108, Hobbs vs. Pasdar.] This included never being alone in Robin Hood Hills.
The whereabouts of Terry Hobbs, with his tangled timeline, is difficult to nail down. Even when events are confirmed by Pamela, she places the same occurrences at varying times.
For much of the time between 5 and 8:30 p.m., Terry's whereabouts are uncertain. Beyond meeting David Jacoby and the Ballard family sightings, the first well-established event during this period, came in meeting Mark Byers. During this meeting, Hobbs daughter is noticeably absent.
While much of Hobbs movements that night are uncorroborated, there are moments in which he was alone as when he came to the Byers home at 8:30. Mark Byers mentions that Terry said that he went off to search in the area where they were found.
For Mark Byers, from 8:30 p.m. and onwards, many potential witnesses fail to corroborate his whereabouts. Unlike Terry Hobbs, these failures occurred in statements taken during 1993. Byers places himself at potentially key sites to either commit the murders (near where they were last seen), and to dispose of the bodies.
When and where did the murders take place? These are unknowns. As pointed out in another post, the murders could not have taken place where the bodies were found. First the murders were committed, then the bodies had to have lain on their backs until lividity set in, then they would have had to have been moved to the ditch where they were discovered.
How long was needed to commit the murders? Certainly, not long. The victims each experienced devastating wounds to the back of their heads. For two of them, the medical examiner determined that the cause of death was not simply drowning: it was multiple injuries with drowning, suggesting that the injuries would have been sufficient to cause death. In the case of Chris Byers, the medical examiner concluded "multiple injuries (bled to death)." A re-examination by a defense pathologist extended drowning to all three.
These acts would take mere minutes, but would require managing the victims, through confinement such as in a house, through multiple perpetrators, or both. Perhaps the gunshot was a warning to the captives to not flee.
Inventing scenarios in which Mark Byers with or without Terry Hobbs committed the crimes is facile and glib. The examination presented here is only meant to show that they had the opportunity. Their criminal record of violence said that they had the propensity.
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