Jerry Driver: . . . they had reached the end of their animal sacrifice uh portion uh to received power and that the next logical step would be the sacrifice of a human. And we asked him [Echols] if he knew it was going to be, and he denial that he knew who it was, uh, he did say that he knew who the people where involved in the cult's, but he didn't want to give name's. He said that uh one of the cult's in particular was uh waiting uh, for the return to Crittenden County of uh, I believe the number was 7 individual's who had been involved before here and they were out of town and they were coming back in the summer of 92 to participate in a sacrifice, uh shortly after that, we did have I think about 7 kids showed up down at West Memphis PD. Who had all the ear marks of it, with the tattoo's, and the devil rings and this and the other. But it turns out they probably won't the same ones. [Driver, December 1993 interview with police]
Searching for Satan
Like tracking down an urban legend, the sightings of the satanic cult always seemed just beyond the periphery of vision. There were many rumors of its existence and activities. Attempts to trace rumors to their sources will be dealt with in another thread. This page is about those who provided the names of cult members: either secondhandedly or claiming to be witnesses.
Deanna Holcomb: Ex-girlfriend of Damien Echols. Identified Damien Echols as a black witch who lied about being a white or grey witch. She also said if the cult committed the murders it would have been near midnight. She said she had been a black witch but practiced alone. On the night of the murders she stated she was at a Baptist revival.
Shane Peden: Said he had heard Michael and David Wren were part of a cult and had to kill an animal and a human. (Note: Michael Wren was in prison at the time of the murders. David Wren was interviewed as a suspect.)
Michael Andrew Griffin: Said he had heard Michael and David Wren committed the murders to get into a cult. He said Murray Farris and Chris Littrell were involved in a cult called the "White Witches."
Jim Agee, youth counsellor for the First Baptist Church, also said Farris and Littrell were "noted for being involved in cult – white witchcraft!" (Exclamation mark in original) Agee said Farris and Littrell were with him at a revival on the night of the murders.
Murray Farris: Said he was in a group of White Witches that did not believe in hurting anyone. He gave a list of four members (list unavailable, but it is perhaps the same as Littrell's). In contrast, he described Deanna Holcomb as a black witch.
Chris Littrell: The notes of his interview are a bit confusing to sort out. It seems as though he is listing three members of a white witchcraft group, "The Order of the Devine Light," which met at his house. They were Damien [Echols], Murray [Farris], and David McCarty. In another report it lists the members as: Murray Farris, Chris Littrell, David McCarty, Rena Hallmark and Don Warwick and says Damien attended one meeting. On a separate page there are these notes that indicate Littrell is describing a black magic cult although the transitions make it unclear who is being described as members or how it is related to Michigan:
Damien / Michael
Michigan / Black Majic Cult
Had been in hospital
Preastess / Deanna Jane Holcomb [Littrell, May 10 interview notes]
Jerry Driver said his sources told him the cult had 7 to 10 members and included Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, Michael Beath, Jered Clark and Sherry Bartosh. Beath, Clark and Bartosh were not interviewed. Driver suggested Misskelley was a recent recruit.
Durham: Was this the first time you were aware that Jessie Misskelley associated with Damien?
Driver: I had heard prior to that Jessie was, sometime in late summer, I started hearing Jessie's name.
Steve Jones, assistant to Jerry Driver, turned over notes to the police of a conversation he had with Garrett Schwarting, a teenage friend of Damien Echols. He identified Damien Echols, Jerry Nearns, Jason Baldwin, Deanna Holcomb and Jessie Misskelley as members of the cult. Like, Victoria Hutcheson (below) he spoke of someone named "Lucifier," although he gave a very different description. He said Lucifier had a purple streak in his blonde hair, he lived with Damien Echols, he dated Deanna Holcomb and was "definitely involved in the murders."
Fifteen-year-old Garrett Schwarting, in an interview with the police, said he knew of one person in the cult, a "Lusserfer." He said Lusserfer lived in Marion, but Schwarting also said he had no idea how to find him or what he looked like - he had never seen him.
Victoria and Aaron Hutcheson
Victoria Hutcheson had a special place between rumormongers and witnesses. She testified at trial that she went to one cult meeting with Damien Echols but insisted on leaving before anything took place. She later recanted her testimony, saying that she had probably just slept the night drunk on her lawn. Her eight year old son, Aaron, was a friend of the victims and the subject of many interviews with the police. In a May 10th note, he said he witnessed a victim being abducted by a black man in a maroon car. In a June 2nd interview he said he witnessed the murders by unknown attackers. After the June 3rd arrests, he identified the three who were arrested as those who committed the murders. In subsequent statements he said that he was forced to take part in the murders and, on another occasion, stated he witnessed John Mark Byers help murder the children. He was on the witness list for the prosecution, but not called to testify.
May 10th note of Aaron Hutcheson. Taken by Det. Diane Hester
Victoria Hutcheson took it upon herself to investigate the murders. "She said she was trying to play detective because she had heard that Damien was involved in devil worship and she thought it might be connected to the murders." [June 2nd, police notes] Notes from her May 27 and 28 interviews list several individuals as cult members. These were Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley, Robert Burch, Lucifer (also called Lucy), Shawn Webb, Jason Baldwin and someone called "Snake." Lucifer was described as having brown hair and a "big nose that sticks out." She could not remember whether he had a moustache, beard or glasses. Neither Lucifer nor Snake were ever identified. Shawn Webb was cited by Det. Ridge in testimony as another member of the cult who had been identified but who was never found. Robert Burch was interviewed before Hutcheson's May 28 statement, but not again after.
Contradicting her other statement and Aaron statements, in her May 28 interview she described being with Aaron all afternoon and evening. Beginning with after school:
Ridge: Okay, and took Aaron home with you?Victoria described going to one cult meeting, an "esbat," with Echols and Misskelley, asking to leave while the participants, still clothed, began to paint themselves. In this description the meeting had about ten members, none of them over 18.
She also said her son had witnessed other meetings of a "Satanistic group" called the Dragons in an area near where the victims bodies were discovered. This group was described as having five members who wore dragon shirts, spoke "in Spanish," and sang songs: "He said they sing about the devil and you know that we love the devil. . ." [Victoria Hutcheson, May 28th]
Ridge: Did he mention any kissing or anything like that going on?This contrasts with the May 27th notes which states Aaron had "said they have sex in the butt." In spite of claiming to hang out extensively with Damien Echols, Victoria Hutcheson said she had never met Jason Baldwin.
Ridge: The one you call Jason, how old is he?Only notes are available from her June 2nd interview. In this version, Aaron left the house about 4 pm, she thought he went to her uncle's and she doesn't remember whether he got back before six. She described going to the esbat, watching as the cult members took off their clothes, then she asked to leave.
Victoria Hutcheson was listed as a potential witness for both trials and testified at the Misskelley trial. The prosecutor asked her about her involvement with Damien Echols.
Fogleman: After he introduced you to Damien, did you do any particular things to try to gain Damien’s confidence?Unfortunately, the prosecutor interrupted her before allowing her to continue to explain what she meant by this assertion. She went on to say there "ten, twelve, even fifteen" at the esbat and that she asked to leave as things developed. Victoria Hutcheson adamantly denied that she was motivated by the $30,000 reward to investigate the case. The assertions of Aaron witnessing the cult meetings or the murders were never introduced at trial.
Interviews with cult members.
There were three professed cult members who were interviewed by the police: Jessie Misskelley, Jr., Ricky Climer, and Alvis Bly. Their versions of the cult and its members were very different from one another.
Misskelley described the cult as meeting on Wednesdays. Bly said Sundays. Climer said no special days.
Climer, discussed to a greater degree on another page, identified only three members besides himself: Jessie Misskelley, Jason Baldwin, and Damien Echols.
Alvis Bly named Misskelley, Baldwin and "Davien," although he said Davien and Baldwin were the same person. He also described Misskelley as the leader.
Allen: Okay, anyone else? You said uh Baldwin(later. . .)
Bly: Yes sir, he they call him Davien.
Bly: Davien that's devil name
Allen: Okay, and this is the person you know as Baldwin?
Bly: Yes sir
Allen: Point to a picture of Jason Baldwin and this person here is do you recognize him?
Bly: He's the leader, Misskelley is
Although he said there were 20 in the meetings, he could only recall two more names: Christly McNichols, 16, and Jamie Powers, 18, both from Lakeshore. Neither Powers nor McNichols were interviewed.
Jessie's list of who was in the cult was the longest and most specific - but even then there were few complete names. The surnames in brackets were added in by me to complete the police notes. The question marks are from the police notes.
Jessie did use the phrase "Damien and nem" twice; the term "repeatedly" is a bit disingenuous. In the first instance:
Ridge: Where did they [the children] lay their bikes down at, that's what I'm asking you?
Jessie: I don't know where they laid their bikes down at, cause I was behind Damian and nem, they were way behind them.
Jessie: When they hollered, when they seen them boys
Here the "nem" seems to be in clear reponse to "they," the kids. The other interpretation is that Jessie is correcting himself and saying "them, uh, they." He continues on to say "them" and "them boys" in referring to the victims. Fill in the sentence replacing "nem" with "the victims" and it has this sense: "I don't know where they laid their bikes down at, cause I was behind Damian and the victims, they were way behind them."
The other use of the phrase is here:
Gitchell: Now, did you say that the boys skipped school that day, these little boys did?
Jessie: Yes, they were going to catch, they were going somewhere and like I said, Damian and nem left before I did, I told them that I would meet them there and stuff, and it was early in the morning and so, they went ahead and met me, they went on up there and then I come up later on behind them.
Again, Jessie is referring to the boys as "they," saying they were going to catch the bus/going somewhere, then continues by saying Damien and "nem" left before Jessie did. Again the most reasonable interpretation is that "nem" are the victims. Filling in "nem" with the term "the victims," it reads: "Yes, they were going to catch, they were going somewhere and like I said, Damian and the victims left before I did." Although this sentence is still a fantasy, the victims didn't skip school. There are no other instances of "Damien and nem" or "Damien and them."
Those Whom Jessie Identified as Being in the Cult
Below is an accounting for the members of the cult as presented in Jessie's confession notes.
Christy Jones, Misskelley's 16 year old next door neighbor, was interviewed by the police. In the brief note she wrote, "I had heard that Damien was weird and part of a satanic cult. I was told this by other kids but I never knew if any of it was true." [Christy Jones note, October 1, 1993]
Tiffany Allen, a 13 year old neighbor of Misskelley, was brought in for questioning. She had known Misskelley for a time. She had filed a complaint against Misskelley for hitting her in the mouth back in March 1993, a fight prompted by Misskelley having gone around telling people they had had sex - an allegation she adamantly denied. When asked about a cult Allen's response was unambiguous:
Ridge: Okay, now this group, she's saying they would be after you, do you know of a satanic group that exist's Lakeshore?
Allen: No sir
Ridge: You don't know of one at all?
Allen: No sir [Tiffany Allen, interview October 7, 1993]
Unsatisfied with this, Ridge continues to ask her about rumors of its existence.
Ridge: Now the talk is that one does exist and there are things that happen
Allen: Yes sir
Ridge: Okay, and you heard that a group exist's?
Ridge: Satanic group?
Allen: Yes sir
Ridge: And you believe one exist's, but you don't know who those members are is that correct?
Allen: yes sir [ibid]
Ridge's summary of the interview took a different tone:
Tiffany admitted that she was aware that a cult like group did exist in or around the trailer park but she did not know any of the members nor had she attended any of the meetings. [Ridge interview notes, October 7, 1993]
Ridge continued on to speculate as to her reason for not saying more.
She seemed afraid for her safety and reluctant to give any information concerning these activities because of the fears she had for her safety. [Ridge, ibid]
Domini Teer was Damien's girlfriend and the mother-to-be of his child. After the arrests, she and her mother were accused of being Satan worshippers. From the June 7, 1993, West Memphis Evening Times:
Residents of Lakeshore Estates where Baldwin lives and where Echols lived until two months ago, said the rumors of satanic worship are true.
Many Lakeshore residents talked to reporters only on the condition they not identified. An older woman said Dian Teer and her daughter Domini, Echols' 16-year-old pregnant girlfriend, were satanic worshippers who had been meeting in Robin Hood Hill in West Memphis where the boys were killed. Since the murders, she said, they met behind the railroad tracks near Lakeshore.To which the frustrated Dian Teer responded in a June 8th interview:
The mother of the girlfriend of a suspect in a triple murder today denied rumors she and her daughter were involved in satanic worship and said rumors surrounding the case are making her and her daughter miserable. (snip) Devil worshippers are not supposed to say the name "Jesus," Teer noted. Teer, after a short pause, she said "Jesus, Jesus, Jesus," to prove that she is not a devil worshipper. (snip) The neighbor invited Teer to attend her church, and Teer said she would. She wants to show people that when she walks into church, she "won't burst into flames." "I do believe in Jesus," she remarked. Teer said that all the talk about her involvement in Satanism and the reaction of many of her neighbors has "wholeheartedly bent my faith in humanity."Jerry Driver said Domini had told him that she and her mother drank blood.
Driver: She's told us uh, that they were witches and that were, worship nature and Hecate and Dianna and when I took her to uh, in fact I think you have a statement of mine, when I took her to Charter Hospital Little Rock she went over to the same place, uh, she discussed with me the blood drinking and said that, the first thing she said was uh, why should I not drink blood, because my. . , mother drinks blood. . . [Driver, Dec. 1993]
The police interviewed both Domini and Dian Teer on September 10th, 1993 with their lawyer present. Domini said Damien never had a witchcraft or Wicca meeting while going with her.
Fogleman- But he [Damien] didn't meet with other witches while he was going with you?
Domini- The only person he met with while he was going with me was Jason. [Domini Teer, September 10, 1993]
Domini described Deanna Holcomb as a kook, saying "she's the one that's obviously involved in witchcraft and stuff because of by the way she talks about it." [ibid] Domini denied knowing anything about Damien drinking blood. She also denied Jerry Driver's accusation.
Fogleman- But you don't remember in Mr. Driver's presence talking about your mother drinking blood.
Domini- No. [ibid]
Dian Teer denied knowing anything about Damien or Domini being involved in a cult. She said she loaned Damien some books about white magic. She stated she did not drink blood. As to her own involvement in a cult she said:
Fogleman- Okay. But you say that you've never participated in any kind of group...
Fogleman- . . .that practiced this kind of stuff.
Diane- No, the only kind of group that I was ever in like that was the Rocky Horror Picture Show. [Dian Teer, September 10 interview]
Domini's California cousin, Tammy Jo (T.J.) Teer, published a magazine espousing goth and vampirism, SOUND, Secret Order of the Undead. He had sent Domini a copy and an enterprising reporter retrieved it from her garbage. Domini stated she knew her cousin when they lived near each other in California, four years in the past.
Fogleman- Okay. Okay um, tell me about SOUND. That organization.
Domini- It's something my cousin does just to take up time.
Fogleman- Okay. What does sound stand for?
Domini- Secret order of the undead. It's like a little club.
Fogleman- Alright. And they publish a magazine though, right?
Fogleman- Okay. And what are the undead? Are those like zombies?
Domini- No, it's just like vampires and stuff.
Fogleman- Did you ever sit in on any of their meetings?
Domini- No. [Domini Teer, September 10 interview]
It may be noted, that with the exception of the three arrested, there is virtually no consistency among who else was in the cult.
Domini Teer, aged 16
Copyright © 2008 Martin David Hill