Crime Scene or Dump Site?

 

The scene of the crime as most are aware was and always has been Robin Hood Hills, a patch of woods located next to the Blue Beacon Truck Wash.

(Robin Hood Hills and Blue Beacon Truck Wash.)

Now many have erroneously reported, or argued over the years that this was not the actual scene of the crime, but merely a dumping site used to dispose of the victims after their murder. This however isn’t the case as the facts testified to at trial have repeatedly demonstrated.

A long time claim associated with the case has been the insistence that there was no blood at the scene, and an odd personal incredulity argument that the victims did not have mosquito bites, and thus if the victims did not have mosquito bites and there was no visible blood, then the murders must have taken place elsewhere and the bodies of the victims disposed of at the scene.

Now those claims are false and misleading, and will be addressed later on.

But, why would someone suggest that this was a dump site in the first place?

Well, it was suggested by defense lawyers for the West Memphis Three, in an attempt to exclude their three three teenage clients from the crime, as well as explain away Jessie Misskelley’s multiple confessions in the case.

The notion was put fourth at trial and became a major claim by Jason Baldwin’s lawyer, Paul Ford, which is shown in this example from Paul Ford’s closing statements:

Dr. Peretti. Prosecutor asked Dr. Peretti, “Would you expect to find mosquito bites on those boys before they died?” “Yes, I would.” “Did you find any?” “No, I didn’t.” We know that they are tied up, they are naked, and they’re uninjured. And how can we conclude that? Well number one, if they’re tying them up hand and foot the way they did, they can’t take their clothes off. Can’t get their clothes off tied up that way. So you know they have to be naked before they get tied up.

And are they injured at the time they’re tied up. Makes no sense there either. Because there’s no blood on them. There’s not a drop of blood on those clothes. So these boys are tied up, naked, and uninjured. And so all of this stuff that happens to them, happens when they’re naked. And there’s not a mosquito bite, not a one. And they were down there in that mosquito infested woods, in that ditch, without a mosquito bite? That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

Closing statements by Paul Ford at the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin.

The reasoning behind Ford’s assertion was this was two fold. He could argue that the prosecution had the facts all wrong, and therefore the evidence might all be wrong. And then ofcourse the other aspect that the defense was pushing would be that neither Jason Baldwin, Damien Echols, or Jessie Misskelley had owned a vehicle, and therefore could not have driven the bodies to the scene. On the Misskelley side of things, Jessie obviously would have had to have been lying if the victims weren’t even killed at the location.

Unfortunately numerous problems arise with this defense scenario…

First off, it makes no sense that the boys were killed somewhere else since they had last been seen entering Robin Hood Hills area on the day that they disappeared by Bryan Woody, and seen playing in the general location by several additional witnesses.

Dana Moore, Michael Moore’s mother testifying at the trial of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols:

FOGLEMAN: Okay. Approximately what time did you last see uh, Michael?

MOORE: At 6 o’clock [inaudible]

FOGLEMAN: And where did you last see him?

MOORE: Uh, going down 14th Street.

FOGLEMAN: And who was he with?

MOORE: Steve and Christopher.

FOGLEMAN: And how were they uh, going?

MOORE: Uh, they were on bikes. Chris was riding with Steve 
and Michael was riding his bike. 

(Direction Dana Moore saw the three boys riding.)

Debra O’Tinger also stated that she saw the victims close to 6:00 Pm, riding their bikes near her house, which was located near Robin Hood Hills:

Q: Will you please state your name and address?

A: Debra O’Tinger. 1309 (???) Goodwin Avenue, West Memphis.

Q: I want to direct your attention to May 5th, 1993, the day that the three boys disappeared.

A: Um-hum.

Q: Were you at home that day?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: Did you see the boys?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: About what time was it when you first saw them?

A: Around six, close to six.

Q: What were they doing?

A: They were in my yard.

Q: Were they walking?

A: One was walking and one was on a bike.

Q: How many boys were there?

A: Two at the time.

Q: When they were doing whatever they were doing, did you see them later?

A: No, sir.

Q: Do you know the boys? Did you know them?

A: No, sir.

Q: What exactly did you see the boys doing?

A: One (???) rode the bike through my yard, and I had just planted a (??? vine? tree?), and he had rode right by it and that was it. They were just going through my yard. That was it.

Q: How many boys did you say you saw?

A: Two at the time. We were leaving to go to my mother’s.

Q: I may just be confused. Let me show you this and ask is that yours?

A: (EXAMINING) Yes.

Q: Would you mind reading over that for a minute?

A: Yes, sir. (EXAMINING)

Q: Was that your statement?

A: Yes, sir.

Q: I’m a little confused. In the statement you mentioned three boys.

A: Right. One had come around the side of the street where Goodwin Avenue and Goodwin Circle – –

Q: Okay, so there were – – 

A: Three.

Testimony of Debra O’Tinger.

 

Bryan Woody also testified that on his way home from work, that as he was driving near Robin Hood Hills, he spotted the boys.

Bryan Woody testifying at the trial of Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin:

Fogleman: Ok. Uh – I want to again direct your attention to May the 5th, 1993. Um – were you somewhat acquainted with Steve – Stevie Branch at that time?

Woody: Uh – no.

Fogleman: Alright. Ok. Um – what time did you get off work that day?

Woody: 6:30. 

Fogleman: Alright. And after you got off work, where did you go?

Woody: Well, I went to my mom’s house to pick up my wife and my little boy so we could go home.

Fogleman: Alright. And as you approached um – 14th street on Goodwin, what if anything did you see?

Woody: I seen uh – four kids going into uh – Robin Hood – you know, right there where the road dead ends. 

Fogleman: Ok.

Woody: And there was two of ’em that was pushing a bike, one that was carrying a skateboard and there was just one that was walking. And it was like – you know, I was going 40 mph trying to get home, so – but I seen ’em ’cause one of ’em had spikey hair and my little boy had spiked blonde hair just like it – you know, it just caught my eye. 

Fogleman: Alright. Uh – were you aware – did you know whether or not any of the little boys who were missing had that kind of hair cut?

Woody: Well, not until the next day at noon when I went to my parents’ house for lunch. My mom asked me – you know, she said “There’s some kids missing.” and I seen it – you know, and I said “Well, I think I seen them yesterday.” I said that little spike headed boy – you know, he looked familiar.

(Where Bryan Woody saw the victims at around 6:30.)

John Mark Byers, the step-dad of Christopher Byers also elaborated on the Woody sighting in this statement.

MARK- NO SIR. NOW WHERE I DID HEAR SOMETHING THAT SOUNDED ODD. THAT THURSDAY EVENING WAS PROBABLY LIKE 6…NO IT WASN’T EVEN THAT LATE. THEY WERE STILL SEARCHING. THEY HADN’T FOUND THE BOYS YET. IT WAS A LITTLE AFTER LUNCH TIME. AND I, THIS FELLOW TALKED TO GITCHELL. BUT IT WAS A WHITE GUY, KIND OF CHUNKY, HEAVY-SET, HAD KIND OF SHOULDER LENGTH WAVY HAIR AND SAID WHEN HE HAD COME HOME THE NIGHT BEFORE 6:30, QUARTER ‘TIL 7, SOMETHING LIKE THAT, THAT WHEN HE DROVE BY THERE, HE HAD SEEN 4 PEOPLE AND 2 BICYCLES. AND I THOUGHT, YOU KNOW, ARE YOU SURE IT WAS 4. HE SAID YEAH, IT WAS 4. AND THAT’S WHEN WE WERE RIGHT THERE AT MY HOUSE AND I THINK GITCHELL PULLED UP AND I WENT OVER AND SAID, GARY THERE’S A GUY THAT SAW ‘EM. AND I THINK HE WENT AND TALKED TO THE GUY RIGHT THERE. BUT DURING THE DAY, THE GUY WAS ON A LIKE A 180 OR A 250 RED 3-WHEELER HELPING US LOOK THROUGH THE DAY. KIND OF HEAVY-SET…

RIDGE- YOUNG GUY.

MARK- LOOKED MAYBE TO BE, I’M GOING TO SAY 22, 23. BUT HE SAID HE SAW 4 PEOPLE.

 

Police interview of John Mark Byers.

 

Not only were the victims last seen around Robin Hood Hills, but they were seen riding their bikes in the exact direction down the street toward Robin Hood Hills.

Not only were the victims last seen at Robin Hood, but their clothes and bikes were found at the crime scene as well. That would mean that the killer would have had to have snatched the boys up from the woods, killed them elsewhere, and then returned them back to the woods, while in the process of dying, tossed them into the ditch to drown, and also transported the bikes and clothing back to the crime scene.

(Victim clothing recovered at the crime scene.)

A very improbable scenario!

The defense even stated this accusation during the appeals, with a criminal profile manufactured by expert, Brent Turvey. This profile was tailored by the defense to try and match up to the defense’s alternative suspect at the time, John Mark Byers, Christopher Byers’ step-dad, who the defense was alleging to be the “real” killer.

                                   (Brent Turvey.)

Excerpts from Turvey’s profile read-

First Turvey describes the abduction from Robin Hood Hills:

“The three victims in this case were last seen together on two bicycles riding towards the Robin Hood Hills area. It is most likely that the assailant approached them while still together. This high likelihood and the sudden violent nature of the wounds, coupled with limited resistance on the part of the victims, is very suggestive. 

These elements together suggest that someone that the victims knew and trusted approached them. They further suggest that once the confidence of the three victims was won, the assailant was able to take them to another location and gain control of them in some manner.

It is clear that the assailant was much larger and stronger than the victims, so physical intimidation and fear were factors. This would have been a factor in the initial approach. It is also clear that the assailant had a knife, but this would not have been displayed during the initial approach. The method of approach in this case was most likely a con of some kind to acquire trust, followed up at another location by a sudden, violent attack to gain control.”

Next Turvey describes the killer wanting to take the victims back to Robin Hood Hills:

“…he removed them to a location that he was familiar with, where he could feel dominant and establishes his authority by his presence alone.”

Turvey elaborates further:

“Removal of the victims to a location that he controlled: This act put the offender and the victims in an environment that the offender controlled. It facilitated an unseen, uninterrupted attack upon the victims, providing the assailant with the time to engage in those activities that he desired.”

Finally Turvey for some odd reason decides to describe a very specific vehicle for the killer, a vehicle which Mark Byers happened to own:

“Transportation If he does own a vehicle, it would be masculine, like a truck. This would also be consistent with the type of vehicle he would need to transport the victims to the disposal site. It would further be in strict keeping with his macho self-image of strength and control. The offender’s own vehicle was likely used in this offense.”

Brent Turvey’s criminal profile.

This ludicrous allegation by the defense actually lasted for years, even being portrayed as if it were vailid in documentaries such as Paradise Lost.

Picture their scenario:

In this scenario the three victims were abducted from Robin Hood Hills, then all three killed elsewhere, then the killer took their naked, tied up bodies, drove them out back to Robin Hood Hills while a full on search of the woods was in the works, and dumped the bodies, clothes, and bikes back at the site and some how avoided detection without being seen by a single witness.

Now if this dump site scenarios didn’t happen, then what did?

For starters they were last seen entering the woods and then their bodies were later on discovered there. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out. On top of this their clothing was recovered from the location as well as the bikes they used to get there. From that It just seems the most logical that they would have been murdered there.

John Douglas, a second criminal profiler later hired by the defense also scoffed at the idea that the victims were murdered or transported elsewhere, as the there was no evidence to suggest a secondary crime scene.

From the criminal profile of John Douglas:

It is in my opinion the victims came into the woods of Robin Hood Hills by the most common method and that was by crossing the wood and pipe make-shift bridge. It is inconceivable that they carried their bikes across this very narrow width bridge. Nor is there any evidence they entered Robin Hood Hills at another location or were killed somewhere else and disposed of in Robin Hood Hills.”

Prosecutor Brent Davis also addressed the accusations in his closing statements during the Echols and Baldwin trial:

“The logical scenario was, if–to catch and corral three eight-year-olds, and–I think it would have been nearly like catching a cubby of quail, there had to be more than one person doing it. To inflict injuries from multiple weapons, there had to be more than one person doing it. I mean you could, one person could use three different weapons but logic tells you if you got different type knots tied on the children and extremely different from one side to the next. If you got three different weapons causing the injuries, if you got situations where the injuries are dissimilar–three weapons, three types of knots–those type differences, you realize that it had to be more than one person. If there’s one person how do they corral the kids, how do they tie the kids up. The head injuries had to be first. The head injuries – Mr. Ford says they can’t be because there’s no blood. But the type head injuries that you see here, a lot of the blunt trauma and I think each if the kids sustained some blunt trauma to their head, now there are some injuries that are in the nature of cuts and open wounds. But the blunt trauma type injuries would debilitate the children, yet not cause this massive bleeding. But whether–if they’re alive they aren’t debilitated first then how in the world could you get them out of the woods. I mean even if they’re gagged, it’s daylight because they’re in the woods around six-thirty–it’s still daylight and you’re having to take them out with one side an interstate highway and the other side a three-hundred to five-hundred unit apartment complex or a truck wash. I mean how do you get the kids out? And if you do why in the world do you come back and dump them there? I mean, if you want them to be found you could put them in a lot better places and if you didn’t want them be found, why in the world would you want to bring them back to where they were abducted in the first place? I mean, it literally doesn’t make sense.”

Closing statement of prosecutor Brent Davis at the trial of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols.

Another claim by proponents of the dump site theory is that it’d be too dark to kill the boys in those woods at that time of day, which is untrue.

Using the link below, it shows that the sun didn’t even start to set until 7:50 PM in West Memphis.

Sun down calculator for May 5, 1993 in West Memphis, Arkansas.

So, if the boys entered those woods at some time around 6:30 or so, there would have been more than an hour’s worth of light. With that said, it’s safe to say that the claim about it being too dark is simply untrue. The boys could have been dead or unconscious any time after 7 or 8, and there still would have been some light for their killer to see and dispose of evidence, because the sun didn’t start to set until 10 minutes to 8:00.

Paul Ford, as mentioned earlier was Jason Baldwin’s lawyer had also harped on the claim that no blood was found at the crime scene. He even brought it up in his opening statements at trial:

“The prosecution told you that around six o’clock to six thirty in the evening of May the 5th, these three young boys were out playing, riding their bicycles. And their parents missed them, they began to wonder where they are, and they immediately became concerned they way I would with my children. And they began to look, and they began to holler, where are they? The way we all would. When it became an apparent that they weren’t at the neighbors next door, they became more concerned. They began to search even harder, the way everyone would if their children were missing. But unfortunately, they didn’t find them that night. And the search was called off and they’ll wait till morning. When morning comes, the police get involved again. The police and the parents and everyone is concerned and they are looking for these boys, as they should. And they were up approximately 2 o’clock on the afternoon of May the 6th, they found them. They secured the scene, which was described to you. They taped it off with the yellow tape that you see on crime scenes or where fires occur so people are to stay out, don’t disturb the area. There may be facts, there may be clues, there may be evidence left out here, don’t disturb it. They do that. And as they searched that area, you’ll see, from their own testimony, they found nothing. Not even a drop of blood.”

Openning statement of Paul Ford at the trial of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols.

Now let’s get to the luminol photos in this case.

Click here to view all the luminol photos in this case.

Now, for those who don’t know, luminol is a chemical that those in law enforcement use to detect blood at crime scenes. The chemical when sprayed reactes to the chemicals that make up blood, and cause the blood to glow when exposed viewed in the dark.

Numerous locations would light up when sprayed by detectives working the crime scene, which showed the likely presence of blood all over the ditch banks near where the bodies were located.

Some of these spots spots even lit up for a large amount of blood, particularly at these two locations:

The ditch bank located right next to where the bodies of Chris Byers and Stevie Branch were found. It was noted that there was blood all over this location, but no photographs were taken of the luminol reactions on this ditch bank, because when the police pulled the bodies out of the water, they set them on the bank. And these bodies were also still bleeding when pulled from the water and detectives were also walking around in the blood on the ditch bank. So it could not be determined which spots of the blood were from the murders and which were from the body recovery.

(Where Chris Byers and Stevie Branch were murdered.)

Then there was this second ditch bank, located next to where the body of Michael Moore was found. It registered for blood in three distinctive locations.


(Where Michael Moore was murdered.)

One of these spots was where Michael Moore’s body was set by police after he was pulled from the ditch. This location is shown marked in blue on the photo below.

However, there remained two unexplained spots, which are marked in red in the above photo. And of those spots was one very large collection of blood drops, shown to measure roughly 3ft in diameter. It was about the size of a child and could not be explained as just from the recovery, but had to most likely be from the murders.

(Blood from the murder of Michael Moore.)

Some have even said that if this is blood, which the luminol photos and reactions strongly suggest, then it wouldn’t be enough to say that the victims were murdered there. That it could have gotten there from the bodies being disposed of. This would again seem very unlikely, and in light of the information and the fact that the human body doesn’t bleed as much as one would expect, it but be wise to try and determine how much blood is in a child.

So, to further make a point on how much blood a child’s body would hold, here’s a site on how to calculate how much blood the body has.

Link to blood calculator website.

According to the calculator, a victim such as Christopher Byers only had 2.3185562048 liters of blood. So he had roughly a bit more than 2 liters of blood, which isn’t a really a whole lot, and could have left the blood found in the unphotographed luminol reactions. It’s also impossible to see how much blood was in those reactions because no photos were ever taken.

(Police diagram showing where blood was detected.)

His height and weight were obtained from the autopsy report.

Autopsy of Chris Byers.

To dumb that down a bit that’s about enough blood to fill a bottle of pop, so just for reference here’s an image of a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi.

114427b

Now imagine that poured out on a wet ditch bank. It’s simply not as much blood as an adult body would have, and the amount of blood detected was fairly consistent then with amount found.

The killer(s) had even allegedly tried to wash down the ditch banks, trying to scrub, and scrape off the locations, possibly with water; sticks and leaves.

This is shown in numerous areas located around on the ditch bank near the body of Michael Moore:

Someone was clearly trying to remove something off of those ditch banks.

Bryan Ridge testified that appeared to him that someone cleaned off one of the ditch banks, possibly trying to wash evidence away such as blood:

RIDGE: Yes sir, Exhibit 27 is the bank on the east side from where the body of Michael Moore was located, this area right here between this slanted line and this tree is like a shelf, an area that is not as extremely sloped as the rest of it. You can see where it appears to be slicked off where something has scooted across the bank or cleaned of debris or whatever. That is Exhibit 27.

Testimony of Bryan Ridge.

Well, why would someone be trying to wash away evidence if there wasn’t any blood on those ditch banks?

Another famous criminal profiler, Pat Brown would eventually do her own profile of the case, having taken a look at the work of Brent Turvey.

Through her dissecting of Truvey’s profile she would have this to say on issues such as the time of death:

James M. Moore – The lividity question. Turvey writes that the report state that “the lividity was present. It also states that the lividity WAS blanched with pressure.” Turvey goes on to explain that “lividity begins about thirty minutes after death has occurred. After 4 or 5 hours, dependent on environmental conditions, lividity fixes and will not blanche. It takes about 8 to 10 hours for lividity to become fixed. (This is a contradiction. Is Turvey saying lividity fixes in 5 hours or 10 hours?)

Let’s use a description of lividity (livor mortis) from Adelson’s The Pathology of Homicide. He states “In the early postmortem period, livor is usually not “fixed”, and its distribution can be altered by changing the decedent’s position. Thus, if a corpse which was supine for a brief interval after death is turned over so that it is prone, lividity which had been developing in the dorsal areas disappears slowly, and anterior lividity appears. Ordinarily, livor becomes fixed eight to ten hours postmortem and remains in its areas of development even thought the bodily position is changed and formerly lower sites are now no longer dependent. However, here as elsewhere in the area of postmortem chronology, there is no rigid time-table. Fixation of livor has been reported as early as one hour after death, and absence of fixation has been noted twelve hours postmortem.

Okay, got that? What all that means is the only thing lividity with fixation can tell you is that the person has been dead at least an hour and possibly more than twelve hours. This means if the boy’s were killed at the last time they were seen, 6:30 PM and lividity rushed in within the hour, then fixation could have occurred by 7:30 PM. If lividity took four hours Turvey mentions on his first round, then they could have been killed at 6:30 PM and the lividity set in at 10:30pm. If we go with Turvey’s longest guess of ten hours, then a 6:30 murder would have lividity set in at 4:30 in the morning. But, once the lividity is set, it is set! So whether, lividity fixed at 7:30pm, 10:30pm, or 4:30am, it doesn’t tell you when the murder itself took place. The most important use of lividity is to note if the body has been moved and interesting marks show on the body depending on what the body was touching.

So Turvey goes on to state, “This COULD (emphasis mine) place the time of death (which can only be given as a range (WHAT RANGE?) of James Moore at sometime after daybreak (again time not given) on May 6th, 1993.” Since lividity can’t tell us any accurate time of death, why is Turvey trying to create a time of death at dawn? (Remember Byers only possible times available to commit the crimes).

Turvey then discuss rigor mortis. He does a fairly decent job with this. Interestingly enough, though, he avoids discussing the time of death on this. Why? I believe he is avoiding the issue because he can’t place the time at daybreak. The report states in the autopsy of James M. Moore, according to Turvey, that “Rigor was present and fixed to an equal degree in al extremities. “ Turvey does admit that “Rigor reaches full even distribution within 12 to 24 hours after death.” Yes, indeed. Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death states “In temperate climates, under average conditions, rigor becomes apparent within half an hour to an hour, increases progressively to a maximum within twelve hours, REMAINS for about twelve hours and then progressively disappears within the following twelve hours.” Also, “Hypothermia and cold environmental conditions (cold streams) slow the chemical reactions and the rigor process.

So, where does this leave the time of death? Well, since the body of Moore was in full rigor, he was likely dead AT LEAST twelve hours. Hmm…this means since the body was found at 1:45pm, this would mean Moore had to have been murdered at least by 1:45 am. Considering that rigor mortis doesn’t disappear for at least twelve more hours, he could conceivably been killed at 1:45 PM the day before! Add the cold water and the process could be retarded further. This would completely destroy any possibility of Moore being murdered at dawn. Could this be why Turvey won’t make a guesstimate here?

So, how DO we decide when the boys died? If as Turvey states, “by itself, the use of Rigor Mortis to determine a time of death, or a time range of death, is not advised. (Was it advised with lividity which is even more inaccurate?) Several biological indicators should be used.” I tend to agree with that, so let’s look at a realistic view of the time of murders. One of the most important points to focus on is the lack of deep furrows and abrasions left by the shoelace ligatures on the body of Moore. As Turvey states and I agree with him here, “This indicates the victim was not struggling when the ligatures were in place.” Yes, Moore had been quickly incapacitated by blows to the head and then tied up. He died however from drowning. So, let’s go back to our two time possibilities with Byers; right after the boys were last seen at 6:30pm and in those early hours before dawn. IF Byers did not kill the boys until dawn, where were they for those approximately twelve hours in between? Tied up I guess in some unknown location! For twelve hours! Are we to assume that the Moore child was so incapacitated during that time that he at no time regained enough consciousness to at any point struggle against his ligatures BUT he was not so badly injured that he didn’t die until he was dumped in the stream? Were the other two boys left tied up for some twelve hours alone except for when Byers had a moment to check up on them? Where were these three boys being kept? Let’s assume now that the three teenagers grab them and didn’t kill them until morning. This is equally unlikely. So we can pretty much put together the evidence of the time the boys were last seen, the lividity and rigor information, and a bit of logic and come up with the murders occurring in the immediate hours after the boys were last seen.

 

So according to her the boys could not have been held captive for hours. It simply would make the most sense that they were killed once they entered those woods and ran into their killers at about 6:30 or 7 that day.

Defense investigator, Ron Lax also consulted with a Dr. Chris Sperry, who informed Lax, that the boys might of died closer to 8:30.

sperry

Chris Sperry’s opinion on the case.

As they say, often times the simplest solution is the right one. It’s simple Occam’s Razor.

We’re left then with a time of death that’s most likely in the window of 6:30-8:30.

Now here’s another aspect of the dump site claim, the claim about the mosquitoes. It’s been claimed by the defense that there were no mosquito bites on the bodies, which meant that the boys could not have been murdered in the woods… however that’s a misleading claim, and completely unproven.

 

The defense would not only argue over mosquito bites but the presence of maggots on the bodies.

Neil Haskell’s claims during the Rule 37 Appeals.

However, a letter to prosecutor, Brent Davis additionally covered both the mosquito bite claim and the claims concerning the maggots.

The letter reads as follows:

Forensic Entomology Enterprises

c/o M. Lee Goff, Ph.D.

45-187 Namoku St.

Kaneohe, HI 96744

21 Sept. 1998

Mr. Brent Davis

Prosecuting Attorney

Second Judicial District of Arkansas

P.O. Box 491

Jonesboro, AR 72403

Dear Mr. Davis:

I have reviewed the materials you sent to me regarding the Affidavit of Dr. Neal H. Haskell relating to the petition for a new trial by Defendant Echols. In your letter, you posed a number of questions and I will respond to each here:

1. With respect to the question of Dr. Haskell’s qualifications as a “forensic scientist” to comment on correlation between lividity, blanching and time of death, I do not believe he is qualified to offer an opinion as to time of death based on this phenomenon. In his affidavit, Dr. Haskell has cited references to the phenomenon and implied an opinion while not actually stating an opinion. As he does state, a forensic pathologist would be the appropriate individual for comment, not a forensic entomologist. By training, Dr. Haskell is a forensic entomologist.

2. With respect to possible injuries caused by fish or aquatic anthropods such as crayfish, I question that these could be determined from examination of photographs alone and without specific knowledge of the antropod and fish populations for the particular site. I do not find any suggestion that these data were available for this case. Even if these data were available, I doubt these would be of use in providing an estimate of the postmortem interval or the period of immersion in water. The second part of your question again goes to Dr. Haskell providing an opinion outside of his area of expertise, entomology. Unless he can demonstrate that he has conducted studies specifically designed to investigate these types of injuries or significant practical experience, I believe he is providing an opinion outside of his area of expertise.

3. The forensic entomologist determines the minimum postmortem interval or period of time since death by analyzing the species and developmental states of the insects present on a decomposing body. In many instances, this period will account for the entire postmortem interval but this may not always be the case. There are factors which may delay access of insects to the body for oviposition or larviposition. These factors can include, but are not limited to, periods of darkness, temperatures below the threshold for adult fly activity, submersion of the body, wrapping of the body and burial.

The key point here is that the period determined is the minimum period.

3a. & b. In determining the minimum period of time through analyses of fly larva or maggot development, it is essential that the maggots be correctly identified to the species level. Different species have different patterns of reproduction and different rates of development. For example, flies in the family Calliphoridae typically lay eggs, while those in the family Sarcophagidae deposit first instar or first stage larvae directly onto the body. Recovery of first instar larvae of species of Calliphoridae indicates that a period of time required for hatching of the egg into the first instar larva has passed. By contrast, a first instar larva of a Sarcophagidae species may have been deposited on the body immediately prior to collection or observation. In this case, there were observations of maggots but no mention of eggs. Photographs you submitted show the bodies lying exposed on the bank of the ditch following removal from the water. During the period of time the bodies were exposed prior to transport to the funeral home, it is possible for Sarcophagidae species to have deposited the maggots in the natural body openings of the head, as noted by the Coroner in the Supplemental Reports. In the photographs submitted (#007156; 007168; 007174; 007176; 007177; 007236; 007303) there appeared to be blood present on the head. This would have been an attractant to flies for oviposition or larviposition once the bodies were removed from the water. As the maggots were not collected, no measurements made, or photographs taken specifically to demonstrate the maggots, no firm conclusions can be reached on this aspect, but there is a strong possiblity that the maggots were deposited following recovery of the bodies on 6 May 1993.

3c. The question of nocturnal oviposition or laying of eggs during periods of darkness is not completely resolved. While there is a general agreement among forensic entomologists that nocturnal oviposion is not the normal pattern, there has been some evidence of occasional nocturnal oviposition. In tempearate areas during periods of high temperatures, when a body or food source is placed in close proximity to resting adult female flies, egg laying does sometimes occur. Greenberg (1990, J. Med. Entomol. 27: 807-10) documented nocturnal oviposition by Calliphoridae species in Illinois. In tropical habitats, Calliphoridae may oviposit at night if the body is placed near their resting places (personal observations).

3d. If eggs or larvae were deposited in natural body openings prior to the body being submerged, there is the strong possibility that the eggs or maggots would have been washed off. In studies conducted here in Hawaii in intertidal areas and anchialine pools, permanent colonization of carcasses below the water line was prevented as the water washed off fly eggs and larvae (Davis & Goff, manuscript in preparation).

3e. Under these circumstances, the forensic pathologist would have been well advised to have preserved the maggots and consulted a forensic entomologist, simply to avoid later confusion of issues. As the evidence was not collected and preserved and there do not appear to be any photographic records available showing the maggots, involvement of a forensic entomologist by a defense counsel appears to have no real value to determining the postmortem interval. Typically, entomological evidence requires determination of the period of development of the maggots to estimate the minimum postmortem interval and is used after 24 hours of decomposition. In this case there is no basis for this activity. The total elapsed time between the last sighting of the victims and recovery of their bodies was 19.5 hours for Moore and they were pronounced dead and notes taken at a time approximately 22 hours after this last sighting. This time frame would have allowed for development of Calliphoridae from egg to first instar larvae or for first instar larvae to have been deposited by Sarcophagidae on the bodies while they lay on the bank following removal from the drainage ditch. One point which would tend to favor the latter scenario is that maggots were not noted in the area of the groin of Christopher Beyers but were seen in his eyes and nose. In invasion of a corpse by flies, the favored areas are the natural body openings associated with the head, followed by the genitals and anus. Wounds which occur before death (antemortem) or at the time of death (perimortem) while the heart is still beating are very attractive to flies due to the amount of blood present. Wounds produced after death (postmortem) when the heart is no longer pumping blood are not as attractive. In this case, it appears from the photogrtaphs that some blood was associated with the heads of the victims, but, from the photographs provided, I could not detect any blood associated with other parts of the bodies. This blood, although probably diluted, would have been attractive to adult flies once the bodies were removed from the water. The adults would then have first exploited the natural body openings of the head for depositing eggs or larvae. It should be noted that, the head would also have been closer to the edge of the plastic covering the body than the wounds associated with the groin, thus making the head more accessible to the files.

3f. The invasion of living tissues by fly larvae is termed myiasis. This condition does occur, but, given the cirumstances of this case, I would not anticipate this as an explanation of the presence of maggots on the bodies of the victims. Again, without specimens to examine to make species identifications, it is impossible to offer a definitive opinion but I believe this scenario is unlikely.

3g. The question of mosquito bites is interesting. I base my comments on my work (10+ years) with mosquitos as vectors of avian malaria here in Hawaii and personal experience with mosquitoes in California. Any bites inflicted on the victims by mosquitoes would have had to occur prior to their deaths. Adult female mosquitoes are obligate blood-feeding ectoparasites. They require blood from a living host and will not feed on a dead host. Male mosquitoes are nectar-feeders and can not take a blood meal. The tissue reaction to the mosquito bite varies in severity among individuals and is not an immediate reaction. A period of time is required for the inflammatory reaction to develop at the site of the bite. If the individual was killed prior to the reaction developing, there would be no area of inflammation visible. The bites of mosquitoes are relatively small puncture wounds and, lacking visible inflamation, these would not be readily apparent on a dead body. I have attempted to locate bites on bodies of dead birds, where the approximate site was known, with very limited success. A pathologist should be consulted with respect to the duration of inflammatory reaction following death. I do not feel that Dr. Haskell’s conclusions that “they were not nude nor murdered in that brushy, wooded swamp like area” is supported by the lack of apparent mosquito bites.

My overall impression of the circumstancs of this case, based on the materials you have provided to me, is that a forensic entomologist would have been able to contribute little if anything to the resolution of the question of the postmortem interval for the victims or any other apsects of the case. Evidence was not collected and preserved which could be analyzed by the entomologist. The photographs I have examined do not provide any details which can be analyzed by an entomolgist. Speculations regarding potential significance of mosquito bites are not supported by the evidence presented. While there was an awareness of the significance of entomological evidence within the forensic pathology community in 1993, collections were not made and analysis, therefore, is not possible. Given the lack of entomological evidence, I do not feel the defense counsel would reasonably be expected to contact a forensic entomologist in the defense effort.

I hope this will be of use to you in your investigation. I am enclosing a copy of my current curriculum vitae for your information. Should additional information or clarification be needed, please feel free to contact me. As I mentioned earlier, I will be in Spain and Italy during the period 25 Oct. through 17 Nov. 1998, presenting workshops.

Sincerely yours,

M. Lee Goff

Professor of Entomology

Diplomate and Chair of Executive Board,

American Board of Forensic Entomology

This segment of the above letter is very important on this issue:

“The tissue reaction to the mosquito bite varies in severity among individuals and is not an immediate reaction. A period of time is required for the inflammatory reaction to develop at the site of the bite. If the individual was killed prior to the reaction developing, there would be no area of inflammation visible. The bites of mosquitoes are relatively small puncture wounds and, lacking visible inflamation, these would not be readily apparent on a dead body. I have attempted to locate bites on bodies of dead birds, where the approximate site was known, with very limited success. A pathologist should be consulted with respect to the duration of inflammatory reaction following death. I do not feel that Dr. Haskell’s conclusions that “they were not nude nor murdered in that brushy, wooded swamp like area” is supported by the lack of apparent mosquito bites.”

Mosquito bites according to the information need time for the inflammatory reaction of the human body to form in order for them to become visible to the human eye. As such this renders such claims as baseless, because it’s something that can be neither proven or disproven.

Pat Brown also covered this issue.

First, let’s look at behavior and reality. The boys were seen going on their bikes into the wooded area. Their bikes were found there. We can conclude the boys were in that area in the evening. If there were lots of mosquitoes, the boys would have gotten bitten up regardless of whether a crime then occurred or did not. We also do not know exactly how bad any mosquitoes were at that location and at the time the boys went into the location. Now, to the discussion in Turvey’s profile.

Turvey points out a lack of mosquito bites as proof that the injuries the victims sustained occurred in a location other than on the ditch bank or in the water. First of all, Turvey does not mention what the autopsy report states. Next, one must wonder if the photos would be of sufficient quality to glean this sort of information. ( Later on in this profile, Turvey complains that the autopsy photos are of such poor quality he cannot see the ”HUMAN bite marks” clearly enough to identify them as such). Let’s assume that there were indeed no mosquito bites on any of the victim. In order to make any absolute point about this issue, we must first ascertain what kind of mosquito activity is in the area. It is not enough to ‘assume’ that mosquitoes would be biting because there is a stream running through the woods. IF indeed there was a reasonable amount of mosquito activity, the next question would be “at what hour” do the mosquitoes tend to become a problem. If the boys were murdered before dusk, WOULD we see any evidence of mosquito bite marks on the bodies? Unfortunately, when Turvey makes his claims that the assaults could not have occurred outside., he offers us no substantial proof to back his argument.

Click here to read more about Pat Brown’s thoughts on the case.

So, all the evidence, including witnesses, the blood at the scene, and time of death would seem to show that the victims were murdered in the woods. Even John Douglas, an expert working with the defense states that the victims were murdered out in the woods and that there is no evidence to support a secondary crime scene.

 

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