Crime scene notes, May 6th, 1993
Laces and Bindings
Each child was bound, "hogtied," by shoelaces, arms behind their backs, right wrist to right ankle and left wrist to left ankle. The main source for the shoelaces was their own shoes. Five out of six of the shoes had their laces removed, meaning there was either an additional lace used to tie one child, or else one lace was cut into two.
The Shoes and the Laces
The clothes recovered were never specifically identified by the families and didn't match the clothes described by the victims families in the missing children reports - with the exception of the cub scout uniform of Michael Moore. In those reports, only Chris Byers' shoes were described - noted as being dark. In a talk show interview, Mark Byers said Chris was wearing recently purchased white Nikes with purple interiors, which also did not match the shoes recovered. His son may have worn Cuga brand shoes came from an outlet called "Pic N' Save" and they were advertised as being like Nikes, but cheaper.
Shoes recovered, evidence item number.
E6: left black Cuga shoe with purple interior. Black lace intact. Described as boys size 13.Michael Moore was described in police and autopsy notes as being tied with black shoelaces, and in court testimony as being tied with pieces of string, perhaps denoting a cut piece of lace from a single shoe. Stevie Branch and Chris Byers were each described as being tied right ankle to right wrist with a black shoelace and left ankle to left wrist with a white shoelace.
Diagram of shoes and bindings. These are not the recovered shoes, but, instead, only representative photos. In contrast to the presentation above, it is unknown whether the white laces came from the white or black shoes, or if Moore was tied with the laces from the Cuga.
From the autopsy of Stevie Branch:
There was evidence of binding abrasions and contusions involving the ankles. The binding abrasions were yellow tan with abraded margins. . . . Binding abrasions with surrounding red contusion were present on the wrists. [Dr. Frank Peretti, medical examiner, autopsy notes.]From the autopsy of Michael Moore:
Binding abrasions were present on the ankles bilaterally. Situated above and below these binding abrasions were faint red-purple contusions. . . . The wrists showed binding abrasions. Situated around these abrasions were contusions. [ibid]From the Christopher Byers:
A yellow binding abrasion which was not surrounded by contusion was present on the right wrist. A binding abrasion was present on the left wrist and at the superior margin of this abrasion was a faint red-purple contusion. . .The ankles showed evidence of yellow-red binding abrasions. On the left ankle below the binding abrasion was a 3/4 inch by 1/2 abrasion. [ibid]Dr. Peretti notes a dramatic distinction. While Stevie Branch and Michael Moore show contusions around their binding abrasions on each limb, Christopher Byers has only a faint contusion on his left wrist and ankle. His right wrist "was not surrounded by contusion" and there is no mention of a contusion adjacent to his binding on his right ankle. This suggests Stevie Branch and Michael Moore were tied up with both shoelaces when alive while Chris Byers was not bound on his right side until after death or, at least, unconsciousness. He was bound on the left side with a white lace, on his right side with a black one.
Furthermore, Moore and Branch are noted as having wounds on their hands, indicative of defense. Byers did not.
A hair beneath a ligature
The court ordered DNA testing of anomalous hairs recovered from beneath the ligatures of Chris Byers and Michael Moore. The hair beneath the ligature of Byers is well-documented, while the presence of a hair beneath the bindings of Michael Moore may be related to a confusion in the source documents.
According to Lisa Sakevicius, in her reports from the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory (ASCL), a single light brown Caucasian hair was found beneath one of Chris Byers' ligatures. In the autopsy report this was identified as beneath the left ankle binding, a white shoelace. This hair was determined to be microscopically similar to those of Jason Baldwin by the ASCL but not by the Alabama Forensic Science Laboratories. Similarities were not introduced as evidence in court. This hair was among those being tested for DNA, results pending.
There were "possible tissue" samples recovered from the ligatures of both Chris Byers and Michael Moore. In notes dated May 13th, Gary Gitchell quotes Sakevicius: "Lisa says skin found in strings possibly cuticule - best chances that this skin is not that of the boys." Unfortunately, in initial tests these came back negative for DHQ-alpha DNA. These have been ordered for retesting using more modern DNA techniques.
The knots were basic in their forms, requiring no special skills to tie. A summary of Lisa Sakevicius testimony regarding the knots:
Michael Moore: Left wrist, square knot. Left ankle, square knot. Right wrist, three half hitches. Right ankle, four half hitches.Half-hitches and square knots are both easily constructed. A half hitch loops the string around an object and then tucks the end under the string. A square knot is only a little more complicated. It interweaves two half-hitches to tie together ends of a string. (Note: square knot has other alternate and formal definitions.)
Because the knots were of the quick-made low-skill variety, it is possible the maker was simply either tying around an object such as wrist or around a string making haphazard choices as was needed. Alternatively, it could describe more than one tier, with Moore's left side being tied by someone who was familiar with square knots.
A half-hitch knot, a square knot and the binding from Michael Moore's left wrist and ankle. The knots from Moore's left side were the only ones described as square knots. The string (gray) shown is excerpted from a poor quality photo. The ruler is from the same photo. The blue lines demarcate his wrist and ankle. In the original photo, the string appears to be contiguous, with the missing portions behind Moore's body. The extra string, dangling down appears to be tied as a loop.
A puzzle and a mystery
Gregory Treverton, a policy research analyst, described the difference between a puzzle and a mystery. With a puzzle, all of the bits of information are there and you merely need to assemble the pieces in the right order to find the solution. In a mystery it is impossible to solve the problem without obtaining more information. This distinction is not minor. If you have a puzzle you need to devote time to analyzing the information. If you have a mystery you need to devote time to finding more information.
The story of the clothes, the shoelaces and the bindings tantalize, primarily because of the odd inconsistencies. One lace was left in one shoe. Two sets of clothes were inside out. Stevie Branch and Chris Byers were each tied with one black and one white lace while Michael Moore was bound by only black string. Chris Byers had no bruising near the binding abrasions on his right arm. These and other details give the appearance that a part of the story of the murders can be told, if only it was clear how to order these pieces of information.
An important piece is missing, the identification of which child wore which clothes and, importantly, which shoes. With this information some important questions can be addressed.
Which laces came from which shoes? Did the white shoe laces come from the white shoes or the size 3 black shoes? The anomalous hair was found under a white shoelace binding Chris Byers.
The source of the "extra" shoelace can be determined. The first step would be to determine which of the black shoelaces is the match for the shoelace still in the shoe. If the laces that were used to bind Michael Moore are similar in style to the one remaining in the shoe and the two parts add up in length, then the right Cuga brand shoe is the source. The presence of one versus two aiglets can assist in the determination.
Alternatively, the lace remaining in the shoe may appear similar to one of the black laces used to tie Byers or Branch. The black laces used to tie Byers or Branch can also be compared to each other and to the black laces used to tie Moore.
If the laces used to tie Moore do not match the other laces, do not appear to be cut or shorter, or have two aiglets, then the lace was provided by the killer. The length and style of lace may give clues to the type of shoe of origin and the creases in the laces should be examined to determine the width of the shoe between the eyeholes. The more likely candidate for a lace with an outside source would be the lace used to bind Moore's left side, as it was only one tied with square knots. This act of binding may have been the primary one.
Another question lingers. Were all of the shirts recovered? The recovered shirts did not match the missing children reports. One was described as an undershirt. Is it possible that Michael Moore wore an undershirt with his uniform?
Copyright © 2008 Martin David Hill