The Phone Call Girls

Months following the arrests of the West Memphis Three, a group of girls often referred to in the case files by the nickname, “The Phone Call Girls”, stated that they could alibi Damien Echols. On the night of May 5, 1993, Heather Cliett; Holly George, and Jennifer Bearden would all place a series of phone calls and struggle through-out the day to get a hold of Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols.

It would begin on June 7, 1993, just days after Damien and his accomplices were arrested, with Heather Cliett reporting that she had tried to call her boyfriend, Jason Baldwin that day around 4:30 or 5:00 PM, but failed to reach him. She stated that she tried again around 6:00, but that the phone was busy. She stated that she didn’t get to see him again until that Friday, May 7, 1993, when she alleged she only said “Hi,” to him, then spoke to him on that Saturday when he told her that during the time that he was missing, he had gone to mow his uncle’s lawn.

(Heather Cliett’s June 7, 1993 police report.)

Heather had further told the police that at the time of the murders, during the period in which Jason was unaccounted for, that Jason was with Damien. She further stated that she knew this, because she called Damien that night, but could not reach Damien until 10:30 PM.

(Heather Cliett’s June 7, 1993 police report.)

The next day, she gave a handwritten account, stating that her, and Holly George had been on the phone with Damien at 9:00 that night. In this handwritten account, she changed the time that the phone calls with Damien took place, from 10:30 PM, to 9:00 PM. She originally just the day before on June 7th, said that she spoke to Damien at 10:30. She also said that the phone call involved the two girls talking with Damien about him leaving his pregnant girlfriend, Domini Teer for Jennifer Bearden, another girl who Heather knew. Cliett also stated that the next day, when she spoke to Holly, that she informed her that at the that Damien was unaccounted for, that he had been out walking the neighborhood.

(Heather Cliett’s June 8, 1993 handwritten account of May 5, 6, and 7th.)

And yet another undated report Heather from the same time period stated that she spoke with Damien sometime between 10:00 and 10:30.

In the same undated statement, Heather states that Holly told her at the skating rink two days after the murders, that Damien might have been walking around Ingram BLVD, a road that connects directly to the Service Road.

The full undated statement.

(Map showing Ingram Blvd.)

On September 10th, a few months after Heather gave her account to police, Holly George gave her’s, saying that on the day in question, Holly claimed she called Damien initially around 3:30 PM, and that later that night, Jennifer Bearden had spoken to Damien, a fact which contradicted Heather’s June 8th statement to police, in which she said that Holly and Heather spoke to Damien.

INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
TRIPLE HOMICIDE
BYERS/BRANCH/MOORE

ON 091093, I DETECTIVE B. RIDGE WENT TO THE RESIDENCE OF HOLLIE GEORGE IN BARTLETT, TENNESSE. I HAD FOUND THAT HOLLIE HAD BEEN ON THE TELEPHONE WITH DAMIEN ECHOLS ON THE DAY OF THE ABOVE NOTED HOMICIDE. IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT SHE HAD TALKED WITH DAMIEN ON THE TELEPHONE AT ABOUT 3:30 PM. SHE REPORTED THAT SHE HAD KNOWN DAMIEN FOR ABOUT A WEEK PRIOR TO THE TELEPHONE CALL. SHE INFORMED ME THAT SHE WAS AWARE OF JENNIFER BEARDEN HAVING CALLED DAMIEN AND TALKED WITH HIM DURING PERIODS OF TIME ON THAT SAME DAY. HOLLIE ALSO STATED THAT SHE HAD CALLED JASON ON THE SAME DAY. A TAPED INTERVIEW WAS CONDUCTED AS TO THE FACTS THAT SHE RELAYED TO ME WITH HER MOTHER BEING PRESENT ALONG WITH DETECTIVE BILL DURHAM, AND THE FIANCE OF HOLLIES’S MOTHER.

DETECTIVE B. RIDGE
WEST MEMPHIS POLICE DEPARTMENT

September 10, 1993 police report on Holly George.

According to Heather Cliett’s April 24, 2008 Affidavit, she admitted that she had lied to the police when she told them that Holly George had spoken to police on May 5, 1993, because she was covering for her friend Jennifer Bearden, who had wanted to date Damien. Bearden’s mother had a curfew on her phone use, and she was not supposed to be on it after 9:30 PM, nor would they have wanted their then 13-year-old daughter to date then then 18-year-old Damien Echols. This information explained the changing of the time of the phone call with Damien from 10:30 to 9:00, as well as why Holly had said that Jennifer spoke to Damien that night:

“My memory is that Holly George was not on the three-way call that I arranged. I did not really like Holly at that point, and I would have been much more comfortable talking to Jason, Jennifer and Damien. I believe that I told the police that Holly George was with me on the phone with Damien and Jason on the night the three young boys went missing in May of 1993. I was not on the phone with Holly that night. The reason that I did not tell the truth to the police was that Jennifer Bearden was my best friend at the time, and she had asked me not to tell the police that she had been on the calls with Jason and Damien. Jennifer told me that she was worried about what her mother would do if she found out that Jennifer’s name had come up as being on the calls. So after the police asked me to name who was on the calls, I gave them Holly’s name instead of Jennifer’s.”

Cliett further related in the 2008 Affidavit:

“I recall being on the phone with Jason and Damien the night the three boys disappeared. It was late at night and I was in bed acting as though I was asleep. My recollection was that I was on the phone with one or both of them until 12:30 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. That would have been the early morning hours of May 6, 1993, which was the day on which I found out that Chris Byers had been found dead.

“My memory was that during at least some of the phone conversation Jennifer Bearden had been connected by my three-way calling system, and that she talked to Damien Echols. I used to view Jennifer Bearden as Damien’s other girlfriend. I was aware that Damien was going out with Domini Teer at the time.

“After the killings happened, I had a number of contacts with the investigating police officers. I told them about having been on the phone with Jason and Damien that night. My memory is that the police were not really interested in my account of the phone calls. I also explained to them that I was on the phone very late that night, and that I had used a pillow to hide the fact that I was on the phone from my mother who used to look in on me from time to time in my bedroom. “

Heather Cliett, 2008 Affidavit.

Jennifer Bearden in a statement also taken on September 10, 1993 would claim to remember talking to both Damien and Jason several times on May 5th:

INVESTIGATIVE REPORT
TRIPLE HOMICIDE
BYERS/BRANCH/MOORE

ON 091093, I MET WITH JENNIFER BEARDEN AT HER RESIDENCE IN BARTLETT, TENNESSEE. THE INTERVIEW WAS A RESULT OF HAVING OBTAINED INFORMATION THAT SHE HAD BEEN ON THE PHONE WITH DAMIEN ON THE DAY OF THE HOMICIDE. SHE INFORMED ME OF SEVERAL TIMES WHEN SHE HAD BEEN ON THE PHONE WITH DAMIEN AND JASON DURING THE AFTERNOON AFTER SCHOOL AND UNTIL ABOUT 9:30 PM ON THE EVENING OF 050593. SHE GAVE A TAPED STATEMENT OF THE EVENTS THAT OCCURRED ON THAT EVENING.

Jennifer Bearden police report.

She first placed herself and Holly on the phone with Damien in a three way call that day, at some time after she got home from school. Then according to her, Holly hung-up and the three stopped talking. So, Jennifer called Damien back separately, and the two talked a bit more.

Jennifer: We weren’t talking about much we were just talking about you know if we were going to the skating rink this weekend, that weekend, and um, and Holly had to get off the phone, because her mom needed to use it. And um, I said Damien I’ll call you right back, she said, he said okay, and so he hang up, and um call, and I called him back. And we talked for a little bit, and he goes can you call me back, I’m going to Jason’s, he said call me in about 30 minutes, and I said okay. I called him back in about 30 minutes at Jason’s.

Ridge: And about what time was that call you made to Jason’s?

Jennifer: Between, it had to be some where in between 4:15 and 5, something like that 5, 5:30.

Ridge: Who answered the phone at Jason’s?

Jennifer: Jason.

Ridge: And did you talk to Damien?

Jennifer: Yeah, I talked to Jason about 5 minutes and the (inaudible) with Damien and he really wasn’t talking, because they were playing video games with his little brother Matt.

This statement explained why Heather Cliett could not reach Jason when she called, because he and Damien were hanging out at Jason’s trailer and had been on the phone with Jennifer Bearden.  Bearden further said that she called Damien at Jason’s trailer about a half hour later, and spoke with him:

 

Jennifer: He said him and Jason were going to go some where, him and Jason were going some where and that he um, wanted me to call him later at his house around 8 and I said okay.

Ridge: Okay, did he say where he was going to go?

Jennifer: No.

So, she claimed that he told her to call him back at around 8:00 PM, then spoke to him later that night at 9:20, which contradicted Heather Cliett’s account of getting Damien on the phone at 10:30:

Ridge: At 9:20 you get Damien on the telephone and he tells you that he and Jason had been some where?

Jennifer: Um Um (yes)

Ridge: Okay, you didn’t know where? Did you ever ask him where he had been that night?

Jennifer: I said something about it, but you know I really didn’t… didn’t really care. Cause they go places together all the time you know.

Years later in a 2004 affidavit, Bearden said the following about the time of the calls:

“I understand that I told officers that I called Damien back at around 9:20 p.m. or 9:30 p.m., so I explained that I called him no later than 9:30 p.m. But my belief is that the phone call lasted past 9:30 p.m. I was supposed to have been in bed by 10:00 p.m. I was concerned that if my mother learned that I had been on the phone past 9:30 p.m., she would have thought I had not been obeying her, or conducting myself as she would have expected.”

She had changed the time for her phone call, because she didn’t want to get in trouble with her mother.

In the same affidavit she’s vague on times, not mentioning the time as 8:00 PM for when she first called. Instead she just says it was 9:00 PM. Does that mean she first tried to call him at 9 and not 8?

“I recall making a call to Damien’s house that night, May 5, 1993. I believe the call was made around 9:00 p.m. This was the night before the announcement of the killings of the three young boys. The first time I called I got a busy signal. The phone at Damien’s house did not have call-waiting. I called again and Damien’s grandmother answered. She told me that Damien was not home yet.

At some point later on I called again and I got Damien on the phone. I believe I stayed on the phone with him from about a half hour. My impression is that this call began at around 9:30 p.m. and ended around 10:00 p.m.”

Link to 2004 Jennifer Bearden Affidavit.

Did this mean that she called an hour later like she said in her police interview?

Jennifer: He said him and Jason were going to go some where, him and Jason were going some where and that he um, wanted me to call him later at his house around 8 and I said okay

Ridge: Okay, and when you called back about 8

Jennifer: His Grandmother said he wasn’t there, and I was suppose to call back around 9. and I called back around 9:20, 9:30 and I talk to him for a little bit, but then I had to get off the phone, because I wasn’t suppose to be on the phone after 9:30.

A few years following her 2004 Affidavit, she testified during Jason’s Rule 37, appeals hearing, stating that she lied about the time so she wouldn’t get in trouble with her mother.

Q] Okay. And what time would you normally go to bed or did your mom make you get off the phone?

A] I was supposed to be off the phone by 9:30 and in bed by 10:00.

During this hearing, she also changed the time frame in which her original call with Damien occurred, placing it at some time between 3:15-3:45, which conformed with Holly George’s original account. After that she called Damien at Jason’s trailer at some time after 5:00:

A] Uh, I would have had to give him time to get there, so I believe it was probably around 4:30, 5:00.

Q] What do you remember about that call?

A] Uh, I called, Jason answered, uh, I think I spoke to him for just a moment and then I spoke to Damien, uh, I got a little aggravated because he was playing video games with Matt and they weren’t really talking.

On September 10th, 1993, the same day the police spoke with Jennifer Bearden, Damien’s sister, Michelle Echols also provided an account of the phone calls to Deputy Prosecutor, John Fogleman.

In this new account, she said Jennifer Bearden spoke to Damien on the phone, but not Heather Cliett, the girl who first reported the May 5th phone calls to police in the first place. Instead she said it was Holly George, the girl that both Heather and Jennifer had lied to police about being on the phone at 10:30 in order to cover for Jennifer. But in the statement, Michelle also clarified that she had never met either Holly or Jennifer before, which may or may not explain why she says Holly was on the phone instead of Heather.

According to Michelle Echols, following the three way phone call with Jennifer Bearden and Heather Cliett, Damien then called Jason Baldwin that night, and then after that he apparently called his girlfriend, Domini Teer and got into a loud argument that could be heard from outside of the room as Damien yelled at the person on the other end of the phone.

Another interesting item to note about Michelle Echols’ statement concerning the calls is she claims they happened some time around 8:00 and then lasted until around 9:30 or 10:00, which was around the time frame that Jennifer Bearden and Damien’s defense investigator Ron Lax had wanted the phone call between Bearden and Damien to have taken place, because it would help alibi Damien.

Michelle’s statement:

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. WHO’S HOLLY?

MICHELLE – HOLLY IS THIS, I’VE NEVER SEEN JENNIFER OR HOLLY. THEY’RE JUST GIRLS THAT HE MET AT THE SKATING RINK.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. AND UH, YOU KNOW HOLLY’S LAST NAME?

MICHELLE – HOLLY GEORGE.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. DO YOU KNOW WHERE SHE LIVES?

MICHELLE – I KNOW SHE LIVES IN BARTLETT.

FOGLEMAN – HAS DAMIEN EVER BEEN OVER TO HER HOUSE TO SEE HER?

MICHELLE – NO.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. UM, HOW LONG DID HE TALK TO HOLLY”?

MICHELLE – I’S SAY APPROXIMATELY 30 MINUTES.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. WHO DID HE TALK TO AFTER HE TALKED TO HOLLY?

MICHELLE – JENNIFER.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. UM, DO YOU KNOW HO LONG HE TALKED TO JENNIFER?

MICHELLE – UH, NO, NOT EXACTLY, I DON’T.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. AFTER HE TALKED TO JENNIFER, WHO DID HE TALK TO?

MICHELLE – JASON.

FOGLEMAN – TO WHO?

MICHELLE – JASON.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. WHAT TIME WAS IT WHEN HE TALKED TO JASON?

MICHELLE – UM, AROUND 9:30, 10:00. SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

FOGLEMAN – WHO DID HE TALK TO AFTER JASON?

MICHELLE – DOMINI.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY. HOW LONG DID HE TALK TO HER?

MICHELLE – AROUND 20 MINUTES. THEY HAD AN ARGUMENT THAT NIGHT.

FOGLEMAN – DO YOU KNOW WHAT THE ARGUMENT WAS ABOUT?

MICHELLE – NO, HE WAS IN THE BEDROOM. IN MY MOM AND DAD’S BEDROOM, AND SO…..

FOGLEMAN – HOW DO YOU KNOW HE HAD AN ARGUMENT?

MICHELLE – BECAUSE MOM WENT BACK THERE AND UM, HE GOT KIND OF LOUD AND WE COULDN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT HE WAS SAYING. AND MAMA WENT BACK THERE AND SHE MADE HIM GET OFF THE PHONE BECAUSE HE WAS ARGUING WITH HER. AND SHE DIDN’T WANT HIM ARGUING SO SHE MADE HIM GET OFF THE PHONE.

FOGLEMAN – OKAY, HE NEVER DID TELL YOU WHAT HE WAS ARGUING ABOUT.

MICHELLE – HE NEVER TALKED TO ME ABOUT THINGS LIKE THAT.

 

Full interview with Michelle Echols.

Getting back to Holly George, Holly insisted that she only spoke with Damien once that night, and never talked with anyone else, which corroborates Heather’s 2008 Affidavit statement, in which she said she lied to cover for Jennifer. George stated that she spoke with Damien earlier in the day and was later told by Jennifer Bearden she(Bearden) called Damien back at 9:00 PM, but Jennifer couldn’t reach him by phone, which may also help explain Michelle Echols’ accounts of the time of the phone calls:

RIDGE: SINCE THAT TIME HAVE YOU FOUND OUT ANYBODY ELSE THAT TALKED TO DAMIEN ON THE TELEPHONE THAT DAY?

HOLLY: NO, BESIDES JENNIFER BEARDEN AND

RIDGE: SHE HAD TOLD YOU SHE CALLED HIM AFTER

HOLLY: AFTER I HAD TALKED TO HIM AND HER EARLIER

RIDGE: OK DO YOU KNOW WHEN SHE CALLED HIM?

HOLLY: LIKE RIGHT AFTER I GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH HER AND THEY TALKED FOR A WHILE AND THEN THEY HANG UP (ILLEGIBLE) JENNIFER HAD TO GET OFF THE PHONE AND THEN SHE CALLED BACK LIKE AT 9 O’CLOCK OR SO

RIDGE: SHE CALLED BACK AT ABOUT 9?

HOLLY: (INAUDIBLE)

RIDGE: DID SHE TELL YOU WHAT THEY TALKED ABOUT?

HOLLY: UN UN (NO)

RIDGE: OKAY, DID SHE SAY THAT SHE HAD TRIED TO CALL HIM THAT EVENING AND COULDN’T GET HIM?

HOLLY: SHE SAID SHE TRIED ONCE COULDN’T GET A HOLD OF HIM BECAUSE NOBODY ANSWERED

RIDGE: ABOUT WHAT TIME WAS THAT DO YOU KNOW?

HOLLY: UN UN (NO) I FORGOT

RIDGE: BUT SHE TOLD YOU ABOUT IT OKAY, UM, DO YOU REMEMBER TALKING WITH HEATHER CLIETT THAT DAY?

HOLLY: THAT DAY NO

 

According to Heather Cliett, she lied when she stated that her and Holly were on the phone with Damien that night, and Holly said she had no recollection of being on the phone with Heather and Damien.

Further during the Rule 37 Hearing, Jennifer stated that Holly and Heather would never be on the phone together:

A] Heather Cliett, uh, she was, uh, lived in West Memphis, uh, she was intersted in Jason during that time we were friends.

Q] And was Heather also involved in some of the phone calls, in the three-way phone calls?

A] Uh, no, I believe I spoke with Heather myself, you know, on a three-way call. But she was never on the phone with Holly and I. Holly and Heather did not get along.

Q] Holly and Heather didn’t get along, but Heather and you were good friends?

A] Yes.

 

Holly stated years later, that she no longer even remembered the specifics of the night in question, just that she thought that she spoke with Jason and Damien on May 5, 1993 at some time:

“I remember that during the investigation of the West Memphis murder case, I was asked questions by police officers regarding my memory of phone calls that involved Damien and Jason.

I also have a memory of talking on the phone with Damien and Jason in May of 1993, and during the days surrounding the discovery of the bodies of the three young boys who were killed in West Memphis in May of 1993. I have no independent recollection of the exact time of specific phone calls or who may have initiated them.”

Affidavit of Holly George

The events of that night, really boiled down to Heather’s version of events, which had her and Jennifer Bearden speaking with Damien possibly as late as 10:30 that night.

Heather’s account stands as the most credible and had been the first and freshest account of that day, and as such might have been the real version of that night, and not Jennifer’s account as both girls were trying to lie to cover for Bearden’s bed time. Heather also stated that “Hollie” in her handwritten statement to police, had told her that during the time in which Damien was missing, he was out “walking around.”

(Heather Cliett’s June 8, 1993 handwritten account.)

She also thought he was walking maybe around Ingram Blvd, which connects to the service road.

(Undated statement by Heather Cliett.)

But as we know from Heather’s 2008 Affidavit, she lied to police about who really spoke to Damien, meaning that the “Hollie,” who told her that Damien was out “waling around,” was actually Jennifer Bearden.

The defense had at one point considered calling Bearden as a witness at trial, but had apparently decided against it as she never testified, most likely due to that her statement contradicted Heather’s earlier account.

beardenbearden2(Order for Jennifer Bearden to testify at trial.)

And according to Bearden she lied about the times so she wouldn’t get in trouble for being on the phone after 9:30, and said that Damien told her that he had been out with Jason Baldwin during the time that she was trying to reach him by phone:

Ridge: At 9:20 you get Damien on the telephone and he tells you that he and Jason had been some where?

Jennifer: Um Um (yes)

Ridge: Okay, you didn’t know where? Did you ever ask him where he had been that night?

Jennifer: I said something about it, but you know I really didn’t… didn’t really care. Cause they go places together all the time you know.

 

And Heather Cliett stated that this phone call took place at 10:30, well after the murders had occurred, and an hour after Narlene Hollingsworth would claim to have seen Damien near the crime scene.

(Heather Cliett’s June 7, 1993 police report.)

According to all the early facts of the case, Heather Cliett and Jennifer Bearden spoke to Damien on May 5th, 1993 at 10:30 PM. And according to Heather Cliett, she had only just said “Hi,” to Jason when she next saw him at the skating rink, on May 7, 1993.

(Heather Cliett’s June 7, 1993 police report.)

However, by the account of Brandy Wilson, Heather was sitting with Jason and Damien, when Damien is alleged to have bragged about murdering the boys.

The skating rink confessions of Damien Echols.

Heather had also witnessed Damien confess to the murders at a softball game she was at in late May, 1993.

“I was playing in a softball game on the day that Damien Echols showed up with Jason and some kids in the crowd at the game started shouting at Damien. They were saying things to him about having killed kids, and he was saying things back to people in the crowd. It was typical of Damien, and it was clear to me that he was calling attention to himself. Since I knew I had been on the phone with him on the night of the killings, I did not believe that he had anything to do with the situation.”

Damien’s softball game confession.

And following this 10:30 three way phone call with Heather Cliett and Jennifer Bearden, Michelle Echols stated that Damien had a phone call with Jason Baldwin and Domini Teer, and that during the time he was supposedly on the phone with Teer, Damien become loud and angry, but nobody knew what he was getting angry over, because he was in his parents’ bedroom with the door shut.

And yet another person alleged a phone call occurred that night between Damien and Jason.

Jessie Misskelley alleged that about an hour after he got home on the night of the murders he received a phone call from Jason Baldwin, and during this phone call he could hear Damien speaking in the background getting really excited and worried.

From Jessie’s June 3, 1993 confession to police:

DETECTIVE RIDGE: When he called you on the phone, did he say that he had just got in?

MISSKELLEY: He, he, he did, he called me, when he first got, called me, he said, how come I, how come I left, and said, I couldn’t stand it, I had to do something else.

DETECTIVE RIDGE: Okay. 

MISSKELLEY: And then Damien. . .

DETECTIVE RIDGE: You couldn’t stand it.

MISSKELLEY: And then Damien, I heard Damien in the background saying we done it, we done it, what we going to do now, what if somebody saw us?

 

 

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