Part 1- A Theory Emerges: The defense claims.
Part 2- Let There Be Light!: Examining the claim that it would have been too dark to carry out the murders in the woods.
Part 3-Not a Single Drop of Blood?: Breaking down the claim of a lack of blood at the crime scene.
Part 4- Time Of Death: Determining when the victims were murdered.
Part 5- Bug Bites: Examining the defense claims of a lack of bug bites as proof of the dump site theory.
Part 6- The Defense’s Own Experts: The words of a current expert on the matter.
PART 1: A Theory Emerges
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.
Now many have erroneously reported, or argued over the years that this was not the 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 seem to demonstrate.
A long time claim associated with the case, has been the insistence that there was no blood at the scene and no mosquito bites on the victims, and thus the murders must have taken place elsewhere and the bodies of the victims disposed of at the scene. Now these 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 the three teengers 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:
“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.”
The reasoning behind this was two fold. They could argue that the prosecution had the facts all wrong, and therefore the evidence might all be wrong. Then the other aspect that the defense was pushing with this would be that the teens did not own a vehicle, and thus 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 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. Not only that, but their clothes and bikes were found at the scene as well. That would mean that the killer would have snatched the boys up from the woods, killed them elsewhere, and then returned them back to the woods, bikes and all. That there sounds improbable.
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’s step-dad, who the defense was alleging to be the “real” killer.
Excerpts from Turvey’s profile read:
“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.”
“…he removed them to a location that he was familiar with, where he could feel dominant and establishes his authority by his presence alone.”
“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.”
“Disposal of the bodies in the water: This act very effectively washes all of the physical transfer evidence from the bodies of the victims. It also places the victims at a location separate from the assailant.”
“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.”
They were actually suggesting this ludicrous allegation for years.
In this scenario they were all three killed elsewhere, then the killer took their naked, tied up bodies, drove them out to the scene while a full on search of the woods was in the works, and dumped the bodies, clothes, and bikes at the site and some how avoided detection without being seen by a single witness.
This however contradicts the sighting of the victims entering the woods, making it even less plausible.
Now if those 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.
Prosecutor Brent Davis even addressed the accusations in his closing statements during the Echols/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.”
A witness by the name of Bryan Woody would state the following in an undated note.
“Subject stated that around 6:30 – 6:45 he observed 4 w/m with two bycycles going into the Robinhood area off of Goodwin. He stated his mother lives on Goodwin and he works at Radio World and that he remembers 1 of the boys to have blond hair in a spike because his little boy has the same hair style. He stated he grew up in the area + as a kid played in the Robin Hood area.”
Woody also made this statement.
“On 5-5-93 at approx. 6:30 P.M. Bryan got off work from Don’s Super Shine and was on his way to his mothers at 1823 Goodwin – went to Barton to Goodwin – turned on Goodwin by East Jr. High. At the dead end of Goodwin by N. 14th he observed 4 W/Ms – 1 was carrying a skate board and 2 bikes going into the dead end toward Robin Hood Hills. Just saw the backs of the boys but from the back one looked like Steven Branch because of the blond spiked hair. [After lunch with mom on 5/6,] he left and went to 14th + Barton and told John Mark Byers what he had seen. They asked if he would help them look – he went and got a 3 wheeler + helped search.”
So, according to Bryan Woody, he sees a bunch of kids, possibly as many as four while he was busy driving. He saw them enter the woods at about 6:30 P.M., which jives with the time the boys had seen by Dana Moore and by witness, Debra O’Tinger, and one of these boys appeared to be Stevie Branch. This was also near the Goodwin side of Robin Hood Hills which would have been the way the boys had entered the woods, since there’s only two ways to enter it. On the side near Blue Beacon you would have to travel on the busy service road which would be well out of the way for the boys, but the Goodwin side would have been well within bike riding distance for them.
John Mark Byers, the step-dad of Christopher Byers would also elaborate 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.
RIDGE- OKAY, UH, WHO WOULD BE CHRIS’S CLOSEST FRIEND?
MARK- THAT HE PLAYED WITH?
MARK- HIS CLOSEST FRIEND. I’D SAY THE CLOSEST FRIEND THAT HE PLAYED WITH WOULD BE STEVE AND THEN THIS LITTLE BOY NAMED AARRON BEFORE THEY MOVED TO MARION. THAT WAS THE ABANDONED HOUSE I CHECKED. WHERE…
RIDGE- DO YOU KNOW AARRON’S LAST NAME?
MARK- NO SIR. BUT, I CAN TELL YOU THE HOUSE. WHERE I LIVE, YOU GOT WILSON RIGHT HERE…”
Now according to Dana Moore, the boys left home close to 6:00, so this all seems to fit about right.
“Q: Later did you see him with somebody else besides Steve Branch?
A: Yes, sir. Chris Byers.
Q: Where did you see them at that time?
A: Going north on 14th Street.
Q: Were they walking or – –
A: They were riding their bikes.
Q: How many bikes were there?
A: There was two bikes.
Q: Who was on what bike?
A: Michael was on his. Chris was on Steve’s, and Steve was on his.
Q: So Chris and Steve were on the same bicycle?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: How far down were they from where you were?
A: Approximately six houses.
Q: What time of the day was it?
A: Six o’clock.
Q: Did you see him any after that?
A: No, sir.”
And Debra O’Tinger states that she the boys close 6.
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.
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 – –
Part 2: Let There Be Light!
A 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, which is untrue. This link here shows that the sun didn’t even go down until 7:49 in the town’s neighbor, Memphis, on the date of the crime.
This link here also shows there was still some light out til about 8:16.
So, if the boys entered those woods 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 enough light for the killer(s) to see and dispose of evidence.
Part 3: Not A Single Drop of Blood?
Paul Ford, as mentioned earlier was Jason Baldwin’s lawyer and had 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.”
Now let’s get to the luminol photos. Below is a link to all of them.
Numerous locations would light up around the crime scene for the likely presence of blood.
Some spots even lit up for a large amount of blood.
So there appeared to be a bit of blood out there according to the photos. Now this would suggest that the claim of there being no blood is false.
Some have even said that if this is blood, then it wouldn’t be enough to say that they were murdered there, that it could have gotten there from the bodies being dumped. This would be very unlikely, in light of the information and the fact that the human body doesn’t bleed as much as one would expect. 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.
According to the calculator Christopher Byers only had 2.3185562048 liters of blood. So he had roughly 2 liters of blood, which isn’t a really a whole lot.
His height and weight were obtained from the autopsy report.
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 bottle of Pepsi.
That’s not a lot of blood.
The spot that lit up the most from the luminol reaction, was the location suspected to be where Christopher was castrated.
The killer(s) had even allegedly tried to wash down, scrub, and scrape off this location, possibly with water, sticks, and leaves.
From the luminol, that looks like roughly the amount of blood you’d see from 2 liters of pop, especially after being washed away by the perpetrator(s).
According to the soil tests they were not able to say for a fact that there was blood on the scene.
“RESULTS OF ANALYSES:
The soil samples E1, E2, and E3, recovered from the crime scene were sprayed with
luminol, heated and then resprayed. A positive luminol reaction was not detected for the
presence of blood. Results were inconclusive.“
But… just because it was inconclusive doesn’t mean it wasn’t blood.
Well then “is it blood” you must be asking?
Well, because of how long it took them to do the luminol tests, and then get around to testing the soil it was most likely, but it couldn’t be definitively said. It had even rained on the crime scene at one point while waiting to do luminol testing. Here’s a look at what the case files say about it.
“(1) At a trail along a stream bed an approximately 11 foot high bluff overlooking the
stream positive reactions were noted on either side of a tree with more reaction noted to
the right side of the tree, facing the stream bed.
(2) An Area with used plastic sheeting west of the trail and the bluff gave more positive
reactions were noted.
(3) At the west bank of the stream bed, to the right of some trees, an area gave positive
reaction. It was explained by the Police Department that this was where two of the
victims were placed when they were recovered form the stream bed.
(4) In the stream bed, below the described (at one time) water line, positive luminol tests
indicated where one of the victims was found in the water as related by the West
Memphis Police Department.
(5) On the east bank of the stream bed were a pile of sticks and a depression in the soil
where luminol tests showed a concentrated area of positive reaction.
(6) North of this point luminol tests gave positive reaction to a large area of
concentration (described by West Memphis Police Department where the third victims
was placed upon recovery from the water).
(7) North of the point #6 near some tree roots, another large area of concentration of the
luminol reaction was noted.
(8) Trace amounts of positive luminol reaction was noted on the slope west of the area
where two of the victims were recovered and placed. (reference area #3). The areas north
and south of where the third victims had been placed (5) and (6) were unaccountable
known activity by the Memphis Police Department or rescue / recovery operations.
From these areas of noted luminol reactions for the presumptive presence of trace
amounts of blood the following opinion is rendered:
The traces of presumed blood detected along the trail (2), and at the bluff (1), and one the
slope (8) appear to be transfer of blood by the rescue and recovery teams.
Reaction in the areas where the recovered victims were placed is the apparent result of
trace blood transfer from the victims (3) and (6).
The area below the water level on the west side of the stream was accounted as where
trace amounts of the victimís blood diffused into the mud in the stream bed.
The areas (5) and (7) indicate activity prior to recovery of the victims and relate to
activity to the victims when perhaps they were being attacked.
It should be noted that the luminol testing was performed some days after the discovery
of the victims and at least one rainfall had occurred. There were no visible signs or
indication of blood at any of the locations that we investigated.”
According to this statement on the tests it rained, destroying valuable blood evidence. They were lucky enough just to get the luminol photos.
This is a drawing of some of the spots that lit up from luminol reactions:
Bryan Ridge would also testify 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.“
Well, why would someone be trying to wash away evidence if there wasn’t any blood on those ditch banks? This seems to further demonstrate that there was likely blood at the scene.
Part 4: Time Of Death
Criminal profiler, Pat Brown would eventually do a profile on 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 about the time of death:
“I was asked about the time of death. This is a good question and very important in establishing when the crime occurred. Below is a discussion from my analysis of the Turvey profile on the issue.
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.
An expert consulted by defense investigator Ron Lax would suggest that the boys might of died closer to 8:30.
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.
Part 5: Bug Bites
Now here’s another aspect of the dump site claim, 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.
Prosecutor Brent Davis had this to say on the matter during closing arguments, in reference to the claims of Paul Ford:
“He talks about no mosquito bites, and I think it is important. Because I think the kids were hit in the head and I think the evidence reflects they were hit in the head, they were tied up, and they were submerged in water before it got dark. In that timeframe between, the time they disappeared and the searchers started getting out there and it would have probably scared people of at that point because they’re getting close enough to the area where the bodies were ditched. That, between that time period, the reason you don’t have mosquito bites on the bodies is because soon after those children went into the woods around six-thirty, not too long after that time period–they’re playing in there and they’re abducted, they’re tied, they’re beaten in the head, the terrible cutting injuries are done to them, and they’re dumped in the water. And that’s why you don’t find the mosquito bites, and that’s why I’m not concerned about whether you can do this after dark, because I don’t think the evidence is consistent with it having been done after dark. I don’t think it’s consistent with them having been removed out of there. And I think that’s a reasonable conclusion you can draw from the evidence.”
The defense would not only argue over mosquito bites but the presence of maggots on the bodies.
A link to defense expert Neal Haskell’s claims during the appeals:
This letter to Brent Davis additionally says it all on the matter of both the mosquito bites and on the maggots.
Forensic Entomology Enterprises
c/o M. Lee Goff, Ph.D.
45-187 Namoku St.
Kaneohe, HI 96744
21 Sept. 1998
Mr. Brent Davis
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.
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 need time for the inflammatory reaction to form for them to become visible.
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.”
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.
Part 6: The Defense’s Own Expert
Famous criminal profiler, John Douglas would also agree with this being the crime scene. Douglas had been paid by the high priced defense team to make up a second criminal profile that pointed away from the WM3, similar to Turvey’s attempt. This time trying to point at a different step father, Terry Hobbs as the “real” killer. Unfortunately for supporters of the dump site claim, Douglas said that this was the crime scene and not a dump site.
“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. It required much balance crossing the bridge and the chances of falling off the bridge while carrying their bicycles was high. It is my opinion the victims left their bicycles hidden in the tall grass and weeds before they each walked across the pipe bridge. This is an important aspect of the crime to consider, because the offender in all probability threw the bikes into the bayou after crossing back over the pipe bridge walking in the same general direction where both he and the victims lived.”
So even there, a defense expert was saying that this wasn’t a dump site.
With all of this said, this information can bring us to only one conclusion, that the victims were most likely murdered in the woods some time after 6:30 and not murdered elsewhere and dumped there .