On May 5, 1993, Mark Byers reported his son Christopher, who was last seen riding bikes with his friends Stevie Branch and Michael Moore, as missing. The West Memphis, Arkansas, police found the bodies of the three 8-year-old boys near a wooded area known as Robin Hood Hills. The crime became part of the “Satanic Panic” which had gripped the nation. Investigation Discovery will air a three-hour special event on the small-town murders. The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery will premiere Sunday, April 5 at 9 p.m.
“Even now, the case of the West Memphis Three still lingers as many questions remain unanswered, and confusion looms over a mystery that fueled America’s Satanic Panic,” Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel and Destination America, said in a statement. “As speculation continues to haunt the case, this installment of the ID Murder Mystery franchise gives an inside look into the widespread panic, celebrity activism and shocking trials that lead to a surprising conclusion.”
West Memphis is not much different than any other American town. But the triple homicide turned into “one of the most chilling cases in recent history,” according to ID’s press statement. “Police discover the bodies in what looks like a ritualistic murder scene, and with a demonic presence looming, the people of West Memphis suspect evil is living among them.”
In the rush to close the case, investigators seized three teen suspects they believe are Satanists, a circle of friends labeled as “goths”: Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. The trio, later nicknamed the ‘West Memphis Three,’ seems like the obvious suspects but, the statement asks “with no evidence connecting them to the cult-like killings, are they truly guilty or just easily targeted outsiders?”
The case appeared to break for the beleaguered investigators when Misskelley submitted what looked like a full confession, and the victims’ parents and community demand convictions for the crimes. But “a missing piece of potential evidence from a nearby fast-food restaurant cripples the case” just as preparation for the trials begins. The rushed investigation cast doubt on whether the West Memphis Three were guilty or targeted “just for wearing black and listening to heavy metal music,” according to the press statement.
The three teens were convicted and later released after a celebrity-led movement rose to question the conclusions. The special examines the evidence and possible motivations behind the murders through one-on-one interviews with those closest to the case, including an interview with defendant Jason Baldwin. The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery shines a light on the worldwide movement that rose to free the trio. But if the West Memphis Three didn’t do it, who did? The special includes courtroom footage, interrogation room audio tapes and interviews with family members.
Immediately after the special airs, ID will release an accompanying digital series, The West Memphis Three: The Missing Pieces, exclusively on IDGo. The digital episode features true-crime vlogger Griffin Arnlud as he discusses how the involvement of artists such as Eddie Vedder, Johnny Depp, Henry Rollins and Natalie Maines helped turn the tide of public opinion and ultimately free the West Memphis Three. True-crime vlogger Stephanie Harlowe will explore persistent theories about the crime “hoping a new lead will bring peace and justice for the families of the boys,” according to the press statement.
The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery will premiere Sunday, April 5 at 9 p.m., on Investigation Discovery.