The Evan Williams Bottle

On, February 4, 1994, Jessie Lloyd Misskelley, Jr, was sentenced to life in prison for the murders of Christopher Byers, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch. And it was at this time he was escorted out of the courthouse and to a police car to be transported. It was during this car ride, that Jessie began to talk with the officers driving him, saying that the jury was right to have convicted him, because he really did do it, and not only that, but he was more involved in the murders than he had confessed to, admitting that he had been lying trying to lessen his involvement when talking to police.

Excerpt from the police car confession:

Jessie was asked how the boys were kept under control while being raped and not tied yet and he stated “They were like puppies, when you whoop a puppy and tell it to stay, it will.”

Report on Jessie’s police car confession.

(Jessie Misskelley on February 4, 1994.)

It was after this confession, that Jessie’s Lawyer, Dan Stidham spoke with him in regards to what he had told the officers.

Prosecutor, Brent Davis, related what followed in a hearing prior to Damien and Jason’s trial:

We then rode down to the Department of Corrections on Tuesday.  Mr. Stidham rode with me.  Mr. Fogleman and Mr. Gitchell met us at Brinkley, and we went to Pine Bluff.  At that time, Mr. Stidham talked with him for approximately ten or fifteen minutes, at which point he came out of the room, grabbed a Bible. went back in and — this is my personal observation — but approximately 30 to 45 minutes later Mr. Stidham exited.  He was very upset, unnerved, just kept mumbling things — “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do now.  I don’t know what to do now.”

From Jessie Misskelley’s February 8, 1994 confession with his lawyer, Dan Stidham:

STIDHAM: Okay. Jessie, a few minutes ago I asked you about making some statements to the Officers when they transported you from Piggott to Pine Bluff. You told me that you had told them some stuff. Is that Correct?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: And at first you told me that you were just making it up, that you were lying to them, and then you placed your hand on the Bible and told me that you were there when these boys got killed.

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: Uh, what’s the truth, Jessie? I want to know the truth.

MISSKELLEY: The truth is, me and Jason and Damien done it.

STIDHAM: You were there when the boys were killed?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: Now, what’s going to be very important is for you to tell me why it was that you have been maintaining that you weren’t there all this time?

MISSKELLEY: I was scared.

STIDHAM: what were you scared of?

MISSKELLEY: I always lied and I hadn’t ever put my hand on the Bible and swore. Nobody didn’t tell me to do that. If they would have told me that at first, I would have done it. Nobody told me to put my hand on the Bible.

STIDHAM: Okay. So basically, you’ve been lying to me and Mr. Crow for the past seven, or so months – about not being there when in fact you were there?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

During this confession, which he privately gave to Dan Stidham, Jessie admitted a greater involvement in the murders and even stated that he had fabricated previous claims from his first confession to police, because he didn’t want to go to prison for capital murder. It was also during this confession that Jessie provided a physical piece of corroborating evidence:

STIDHAM: Then what happened?

MISSKELLEY: Then Vickie went uh, went to the store and bought me some liquor.

STIDHAM: Vickie Hutcheson?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: Okay, so about 6 o’clock. Is that, where did you run into her at?

MISSKELLEY: I went to her house.

STIDHAM: So you went by (inaudible) to Vickie’s house? This is on May 5th, the day the boys were killed?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: And Vickie went to buy you some liquor?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, sir.

STIDHAM: Where’d she go, did you go with her?

MISSKELLEY: Huh-uh. (Negatively indicating)

STIDHAM: Did you stay at the house when she left, or tell me what happened?

MISSKELLEY: I was standing on the corner talking with Dennis, Dennis Carter.

STIDHAM: Standing on the corner where?

MISSKELLEY: By my house.

STIDHAM: So tell me how you went to Vickie and why she went to get you some liquor?

MISSKELLEY: I asked, no, Dennis asked uh, asked me, you know, did I know anybody to get us something to drink? I told him, Vickie will. So we gave Vickie some money and I went down her house and started talking just a little bit, and I asked her would she go to the store and buy me some liquor.

STIDHAM: And she said -?

MISSKELLEY: She said, yes. She said hand me the money, she said, I’ll go in a minute. I said, okay.

STIDHAM: You left her house, or what?

MISSKELLEY: I left her house, and me and Dennis went to my house and you know watched as she went around the corner and we sat there on the corner, sat there and talked about, you know, drinking. and stuff.

STIDHAM: So did Vickie bring you some liquor?

MISSKELLEY: Yes, she carried it to her house and me and Dennis went down there and got it.

STIDHAM: What did she buy you?

MISSKELLEY: Evan Williams.

STIDHAM: Evan Williams?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh.

STIDHAM: What is that, wine?

MISSKELLEY: Whiskey.

STIDHAM: Just one bottle?

MISSKELLEY: She bought two bottles.

STIDHAM: How big are the bottles?

MISSKELLEY: About – –

STIDHAM: Fifth?

MISSKELLEY: Yeah, about – –

STIDHAM: About this tall?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating)

STIDHAM: Then what happened?

MISSKELLEY: Then I started drinking out, uh, Dennis’ bottle, and I told him I was going to Lakeshore.

STIDHAM: So, did you go to Lakeshore?

MISSKELLEY: Yeah.

STIDHAM: what happened when you went to Lakeshore?

MISSKELLEY: I met Damien and Jason Baldwin.

(Vickie Hutcheson.)

In his statement to Stidham, Jessie stated that he and his friend Dennis Carter had gone and asked Vickie Hutcheson, an adult friend that Jessie knew and babysat for, to buy them both some Evan Williams Whiskey.

One of Jessie’s best friends, Buddy Lucas stated that on May 5th, 1993 he had gone over to drop off some barbecue chicken for Jessie and his father, when he saw Jessie walking away from his house with another teen, matching Jessie’s story about him and Dennis Carter going to ask Vickie for some whisky:

LUCAS – AND EVERYTHING, SO ME AND MY COUSIN REX WENT OVER THERE, TOOK THEM SOME CHICKEN AND EVERYTHING. I ASK THEM WHERE’S LITTLE JESSIE AND EVERYTHING. HE, BIG JESSIE SAID THAT UM, HE WENT WALKING THAT WAY AND EVERYTHING, AND WE LOOKED OUT THE DOOR AND HE WAS WALKING OFF WITH SOMEBODY ELSE. 

RIDGE – OKAY, WHICH WAY ARE YOU DESCRIBING? 

LUCAS – TOWARD WEST MEMPHIS 

RIDGE – OKAY, AND JESSIE WAS WALKING AWAY 

LUCAS – THEY WERE HEADED OUT OF HIGHLAND TRAILER PARK 

RIDGE – OKAY, JESSIE AND SOMEBODY, BIG JESSIE DIDN’T KNOW? 

LUCAS – UH-HUH 

RIDGE – IS THAT RIGHT? 

LUCAS – YES SIR 

                          (Buddy Lucas.)

Several other witnesses provided information concerning Vickie Hutcheson to Ron Lax, a defense investigator working for Damien Echols’ lawyers. One of these witnesses, was 16-year-old, Jennifer Michelle Roberts, who stated that Vickie had purchased whiskey and cigarettes for her.

Lax: Okay. Now, you’re sixteen years old? Aren’t you?

Roberts: Yes, sir.

Lax: And Vickie was how old? Thirty-two? Thrity-three?

Roberts? Thirty–thirty?

Lax: Thirty? Okay. She was at least thirty, then?

Roberts: Yes, sir.

Lax: So, ya’ll shouldn’t have had too much in common?

Roberts: No, sir.

Lax: But yet you hung around a lot together?

Roberts: Yes, sir.

Lax: And she told you a lot of things?

Roberts: Yes, sir.

Lax: In fact, she even bought you whiskey to drink? Is that correct?

Roberts: Yes, sir.

Lax: And gave you cigarettes?

Roberts: Yes, sir.

It was according to Jessie, in that February 8, 1994 confession to his lawyer, that after obtaining the Evan Williams, he met up with Jason and Damien, who had a bag with them that had beer cans in it, and that they all then walked to Robin Hood Hills, and were drinking out in the woods when the victims showed up. Immediately after the murders, Jessie fled the crime scene and was walking home, and while walking home, passed under a bridge. While under this bridge, Jessie became angry over the murders and smashed the Evan Williams bottle.

STIDHAM: Okay. What did you do with the whiskey bottle?

MISSKELLEY: Well, after I’d done seen what Jason did to – I don’t know which boy it was – but he cut his penis and everything, and I was still mad and I still had whiskey in my bottle. I walked down the street drinking whiskey, and all of a sudden I just busted it.

STIDHAM: Where’d you bust it at?

MISSKELLEY: On the overpass.

STIDHAM: Which overpass?

MISSKELLEY: Going towards – came back that way.

STIDHAM: Did you walk over the top of the overpass?

MISSKELLEY: I went back the same way I came. Up – up under by Lakeshore – where I busted it was at Lakeshore, by the Lakeshore where – between Wal-Mart and Lakeshore, over that overpass. I busted it there.

STIDHAM: On top of the overpass?

MISSKELLEY: No. I was underneath walking. I didn’t walk over it, I just walked underneath on the grass and stuff all the way through. And that’s when I busted the bottle.

STIDHAM: Underneath it?

MISSKELLEY: Uh-huh. (Affirmatively indicating)

STIDHAM: Directly underneath it?

MISSKELLEY: I just threw it and hit the side.

STIDHAM: Which side? Do you remember?

MISSKELLEY: Which side? Like they was going – I mean the road was going towards –

STIDHAM: Did you throw up? You told the officers that you threw up.

MISSKELLEY: No, I got – I was dizzy.

STIDHAM: Okay, where did you go after you left the overpass where you busted the bottle?

MISSKELLEY: I walked straight home.

Prosecutor, Brent Davis discussing the Evan Williams bottle:

Mr. Stidham then went back into the room, at which time he did not allow us, nor did we request or insist on having contact with his client.  He went back inside and talked for another hour and came back and to paraphrase indicated that his client’s story matched with the facts much better and there were a few things we needed to do to be able to corroborate his statement.

At that point we got in our vehicles, and one of the things to corroborate his client’s statement was to determine if there was an Evan Williams whiskey bottle under an overpass in West Memphis.

To quote Mr. Stidham, I believe at that time, “If we can find a bottle like he says, then that will convince me that it happened.”  At 9:30 or 10:00 at night we drive — ten o’clock in the evening — we proceed, the four of us, to roam underneath the overpasses of West Memphis and lo and behold find a broken bottle in the location indicated by his client.

We then take the bottle to a local liquor store where we proceeded to spend the better part of an hour matching the bottle with certain items, and lo and behold it matches with the brand name bottle Mr. Stidham had indicated that we should be looking for in the first place.

At that point Mr. Stidham says that wasn’t good enough to convince him.

Full hearing discussing the Evan Williams Bottle.

(Bridge where Jessie smashed the Evan Williams bottle.)

Also possibly matching Jessie’s confession was the recovery of some beer cans found at the crime scene, along with a grocery bag from Road Runner Petro, a gas station in the area where Damien Echols’ father, Joe Hutcheson worked.

(Beer can recovered at the crime scene.)

(Road Runner Petro bag found at the crime scene.)

 

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