On the morning of June 3, 1993 it was decided to finally question Jessie Misskelley after his name had repeatedly popped up during the course of the investigation. That morning, Sgt. Mike Allen drove over to Jessie Misskelley’s trailer and spoke with his father, Jessie Misskelley Sr. His father informed Allen, that his son was sleeping over at Vickie Hutcheson’s house, and that he’d drive over and pick him up. Moments after that Jessie arrived and put a shirt on, then drove with Sgt. Allen down to the police station.
From Det. Bryn Ridge’s report concerning the events of June 3, 1993:
DETECTIVE SGT. MIKE ALLEN HAD ASKED JESSIE MISSKELLEY SR. IF IT WERE POSSIBLE FOR HIM TO TALK TO JESSIE JR. AND I UNDERSTAND THAT JESSIE SR. WENT AND PICKED JESSIE JR. UP AT WHICH TIME HE TURNED HIM OVER TO DETECTIVE SGT. MIKE ALLEN AT APPROXIMATELY 9:45 A.M. ON 060393.
According to notes of Jessie’s interview with police prior to taking a polygraph, Jessie told them all about Damien, saying that he had last seen Damien in person at Vickie Hutcheson’s house, which he said had been three weeks prior. He also stated that Vickie had asked him about introducing her to Damien, which was why Damien was over Vickie’s in the first place. He in addition had informed her that Damien was “sick” in the head. He further told the police that in his opinion Jason Baldwin had not seen Damien in over two months, which was an odd statement, as if he were trying to cover for Jason, but not Damien.
Other details he provided during the interview, were that Jason and Damien were always together and that Damien’s girlfriend was Domini, however he didn’t know what Domini’s last name was, but knew she was pregnant. He had also stated that Damien liked to drink blood, and had witnessed him do so during a fight involving Jason Baldwin and another teenager, named John Perschke, who had punched Jason in the nose, causing him to drip blood onto the ground. According to Jessie, he saw Damien go over to the blood, dip his finger in it and lick it off of his finger. When the police interviewed Perschke at a later date, he stated that Jessie Misskelley and several other teens, including Jessie’s friends Buddy Lucas, Damien Echols, and Jason Baldwin, had attacked him. And during this fight, Jessie pulled out a knife and pressed it to John’s throat, asking him, “would you like to be dead?”
During an interview shown on the talk show, “Geraldo,” Damien also discussed the question of his drinking blood, stating as follows:
“I wouldn’t say that I drank blood, uh, a lick.”
Echols then stuck his tongue out to emphasis that he only “licked” blood as he put it.
Besides the statements about Damien being “sick”, and how he liked to drink blood, Jessie told the police that he had heard that Damien and Robert Burch had committed the murders. He said he didn’t know much about Burch personally, but knew he used to live in Highland Trailer Park.
Jessie stated that as for himself, he was working at the time of the murders, which he falsely believed had happened in the middle of the day, so, Jessie had told the police that he had gotten off of work at 5:00 PM during this interview. Jessie’s claim of working until 5:00 would later turn out upon investigation to have been a lie, as Jessie had only worked until 12:30 PM that afternoon. Why would he be trying to lie about when he was working?
And according to Jessie, after he got off work at 5:00(he lied though), he went home and stayed home.
Det. Bryn Ridge’s account of Jessie lying about what time he got off work:
SGT. ALLEN WAS TAKING NOTES AS QUESTIONS WERE BEING ASKED ABOUT MISSKELLEY’S WHEREABOUT ON THE DATE THE VICTIMS WERE MURDERED. MISSKELLEY STATED THAT HE WAS WORKING THE WEEK THAT THE BOYS WERE KILLED AND THAT HE HAD BEEN AT WORK ON THE DAY THAT THEY WERE KILLED. HE FURTHER STATED THAT HE HAD GOTTEN OFF WORK THAT DAY AT APPROXIMATELY 5:00 PM AND THAT HE WENT HOME AFTER WORK WHERE HE STATED THAT HE STAYED AT HOME THE REST OF THE DAY. HE STATED THAT HE HAD NO FIRST HAND KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOMICIDE. AS HE WAS MAKING THESE STATEMENTS HE WAS NERVOUS AND FAILED TO LOOK AT ME IN THE EYES AND HAD THE GESTURES THAT HE WAS BEING DECEPTIVE IN THE INTERVIEW.
Det. Bryn Ridge testifying at trial concerning what time Jessie had gotten off of work:
FOGLEMAN: Alright. Now did you later — or first of all, what did he tell you about where he was that day?
RIDGE: He said he had been roofing earlier that day and that he had gotten off work at —
FOGLEMAN: What time?
RIDGE: He said 5:00.
FOGLEMAN: Alright. And did you check with the person he was doing the roofing for?
RIDGE: Yes sir, I did.
FOGLEMAN: You talked to him.
RIDGE: Yes sir.
FOGLEMAN: And did you find out that Jessie wasn’t telling you the truth about how long he had been working that day?
RIDGE: Yes sir, I did find out.
FOGLEMAN: In fact, what time did you find out he got off work?
RIDGE: 12:30 that afternoon.
Why was Jessie lying about what time he got off of work? For some reason Jessie felt he needed an alibi for himself during the middle portion of the day. And by the end of this interview, as investigators become more and more suspicious of Jessie’s statements, Jessie agreed to take a polygraph.
And according to the polygraph report he was lying when he denied any involvement or knowledge of the murders. The examiner, Bill Durham specifically stated that he was “Lying his ass off.”
It was at this time that Det. Gary Gitchell and Det. Ridge began to question Jessie about his polygraph results.
During this interview, Jessie suddenly began to change his story, saying he knew more about the murders, and explained why he knew, claiming that he had some phone calls with the REAL KILLERS. And who were the killers? His friends, Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols.
He informed Detectives’ Gitchell and Ridge that the night before the murders he had received a call from Jason Baldwin, with Damien Echols heard in the background. According to Jessie, they were planning to go out and “get some boys and hurt them.” He could hear in the background of the call, Damien say to Jason, that they should tell Jessie, “that they were going to get some girls or something.”
Jessie stated that he knew what they were up to, and told them that he didn’t want anything to do with it.
He further claimed that he had known who the victims were, because Damien once showed him a picture of the boys while he was hanging out with him and some other teenagers.
Jessie then launched into a bizarre story claiming that what Vickie Hutcheson had been alleging was true, that he and Damien were at Satanic cult meetings together with several other teens, saying it was a group of about 8 or 9 people, who were all friends. The names he gave the two detectives were:
A boy named Adam (Likely Adam Phillips)
Another boy named Ken (Likely Ken Watkins)
Another teenager, which Jessie just referred to as the “New Dude”
And another unknown boy described as having blond hair, and being tall and heavy-set
Of theses supposed meetings, which based on the names just sounded like a list of friends that Jessie, Jason and Damien had often spent time hanging out with. And according to Jessie, he said that they had met in numerous different places and would often build fires and just hangout. He claimed however to have once seen a briefcase that someone had brought with them, which had inside a couple of guns and some marijuana and cocaine.
But that wasn’t all, Jessie invented a story about how his group of friends was a cult and would initiate people in by killing dogs, then skinning the dog and eating part of it to get in. And that afterwords the entire group would partake in an orgy and all have sex with one another, including Jason and Damien, who he said were bi-sexual.
The final statement Jessie said concerning these cult meetings was that they all took place on Wednesday nights, and that these meetings had occurred at Robin Hood Hills before, but on that Wednesday night that the victims were murdered, there had been no cult meeting.
The detectives, also inquired with Jessie about the red car, that Vickie Hutcheson claimed Damien and Jessie had picked her up in on the night of a supposed cult meeting. Jessie responded that he thought that Damien might have driven a red car that was owned by Damien’s step-dad, Jack Echols.
The detectives also inquired multiple times about his statement that he had seen a picture of the victims before, stating that this was how he knew that they were victims murdered by Damien. In his description he gave to the police, Jessie said that the picture just showed three boys in front of a house. And accordingly Damien had been watching the victims for a very long time prior to the murders, having seen them in Robin Hood Hills previously and having taken a photo of them. A statement, eerily similar to that of Jessie’s emerged from that of Jason Baldwin’s girlfriend, Heather Cliett, who also told the police she had seen the victims in Robin Hood Hills before.
According to police notes from Officer Diane Hester on May 10, 1993, she picked up Heather Cliett, who had been a friend of Christopher Byers’ older brother, Ryan Clark and also was dating Jason Baldwin at the time of the murders. And when she picked up Heather, she not only led Officer Hester to Robin Hood Hills, but also into Devil’s Den, the area in the woods where the victims were murdered, and said she had seen all three of the victims on multiple occasions playing in Devil’s Den.
PICKED HEATHER CLIETT UP FROM EAST JR. HIGH – WENT TO THE DEAD END OF GOODWIN – SHE TOOK ME TO A PLACE THAT THE KIDS CALL DEVILS DEN WHERE SHE HAS SEEN ALL 3 VICTIMS ON SEVERAL OCCASSIONS RIDING THEIR BIKES. TOOK A FEW PICTURES – RETURNED HER TO SCHOOL @ 10:30 A.M.
Yet another possible connection emerged out of this interview. According to Christopher Byers’ mother, Melisa Byers, a few months prior to the murders, a man dressed all in black and with black hair had stepped out of car in front of her home and had taken a picture of her son Christopher. Melisa testified to this during Jessie Misskelley’s trial:
Q: Directing your attention to the last of February or the first part of March of 1993, was there an incident involving your son where he said something about a picture being taken of him?
A: Yes, he told us a man had taken a picture of him.
Q: Explain the circumstances of that, where you had been and how long you had been gone.
A: My other son Ryan was home and I needed some milk and cigarettes so there’s a little corner store right down Barton, it’s about two blocks from my house.
So Ryan was upstairs in his room, Chris was playing in the carport, and I said, “I need to run to the store right quick.”
So I left Chris at home. Ryan was there with him. Me and my husband jumped in the car, ran down to the corner store, bought cigarettes and milk and came right back.
When we pulled up in the carport, Chris come running out of the house, and he said, “Mama, there was a man here and he took a picture of me.”
I said, “What do you mean, took a picture of you?”
He said, “He pulled up in the driveway and he scared me so I ran out in the yard so I could get away from him and he took a picture of me.”
And I said, “What did the man look like?”
He said, “He had black hair. He had on a black coat, black shirt, black pants and black shoes, and he drove a green car.”
The way he described it to me – – he was only an eight-year-old child – – the way he described it to me was like a suit, a man in a suit. That’s what I thought – – a man in a suit, you know, and I didn’t go any further than that.
Q: When he ran out of the house, I mean – –
A: He was under the carport playing.
Q: Well, when he ran out of the house to tell y’all is what I’m talking about. What – –
A: He had ran back into the house and had locked the door.
Q: Okay. And when he ran out to tell you about this, what was his demeanor?
A: He was excited. He was frightened. And Ryan was upstairs and, of course, supposed to be watching his baby brother.
Based on the information procured from Melisa Byers and Jason’s girlfriend, Heather Cliett, it seemed possible, that Damien might have been stalking the victims prior to the day of the murders, similar to Jessie’s account.
The crime according to Jessie had been planned at least to some extent prior by Damien, who he said had also been watching different boys at the local skating rink where he and his friends liked to hangout, apparently looking for potential victims to try and attack.
After all this information had been relayed to Gitchell and Ridge, the two detectives inquired about if either Jason, or Damien had a knife. According to Jessie, Damien didn’t have a knife, which seemed like an odd thing for Jessie to say, considering if he were falsely pointing the finger at a suspect, most people would have claimed that Damien had a knife. Yet, Jessie only stated that Jason had a knife, and further said that Jason ALWAYS carried a knife on him, but said that it was usually a folding knife.
The police notes on this matter reads:
Jason has a folding knife
Damien doesn’t have one
Jason always carries knife
The detectives also once again visited Jessie’s claims that he knew about the murders first hand, because of phone calls he had had with Jason and Damien, saying that there were three calls. One call the day before the murders, trying to convince him to go with them to hurt someone, a second call the next morning from Jason, and a third call the night of the murders from Jason, with Damien in the background of the third call, saying, “We did it! We did it! What are we going to do now? What if somebody saw us?”
Det. Bryn Ridge’s report on what happened next:
DURING THE CONVERSATION I STILL FELT THAT JESSIE JR. WAS NOT BEING COMPLETELY TRUTHFULL ABOUT WHAT HAD BEEN SAID DURING THE CONVERSATIONS ON THE PHONE AND HIS TIMES ABOUT WHEN HE HAD GOTTEN OFF WORK ON THE DAY OF THE MURDERS. WHEN ASKED AGAIN ABOUT THOSE TIMES HE STATED THAT HE DIDN’T HAVE A WATCH ON AND THAT HE WASN’T SURE ABOUT THE CALL TIMES OR OF WHAT TIME HE HAD GOTTEN OFF WORK. HOWEVER HE WAS SURE THAT THE PHONE CALL HE HAD GOTTEN FROM JASON WITH DAMIEN IN THE BACKGROUND HAD BEEN AFTER DARK ON THE NIGHT AFTER THE MURDERS.
I ASKED IF HE WERE WILLING TO TAKE A POLYGRAPH ABOUT THE STATEMENT HE HAD JUST GAVE HE STATED THAT HE NEEDED TO THINK ABOUT WHAT HE HAD TOLD.
JESSIE TOLD OF ON ONE OCCASION HE HAD GONE TO THE SCENE OF THE MURDERS AND SAT DOWN ON THE GROUND AND CRIED ABOUT WHAT HAD HAPPENED TO THE BOYS. HE HAD TEARS IN HIS EYES AT THIS TIME TELLING ABOUT THE INCIDENT. I FELT THAT THIS WAS A REMORSEFUL RESPONSE ABOUT THE OCCURRENCE AND THAT HE HAD MORE INFORMATION THAN WHAT HE HAD REVEALED UP TO THIS POINT.
After this, Gitchell took out a piece of paper and drew a circle on it, asking Jessie if he was involved in the murders, saying that everyone who’s involved in the murders was inside the circle he drew. Then he asked Jessie, if he was inside or outside of that circle?
From the trial of Jessie Misskelley:
Fogleman: And was there something about a circle?
Gitchell: Yes sir.
Fogleman: Alright. Now was that done before or after you started tape recording?
Gitchell: That was before we started tape recording.
Fogleman: And do you recall the sequence of what took place when?
Gitchell: Uh, during Detective Ridge and I’s, uh conversation with Mr. Misskelley, uh there was a, I believe — I hope this is right — there was a, the diagram which I did, and then the picture and then the tape.
Fogleman: Alright. Were they one behind the other or were things in between?
Gitchell: Uh, there was some in between from the diagram, was the first thing. Then some time passed. And then there was the picture, um, just a few minutes passed from that point to the tape.
Fogleman: Okay. Now on the diagram, describe to the jury what this, what this was, this diagram.
Gitchell: Okay, um, a lot, I’m assuming a lot of people may be familiar with um a term, straddling the fence.
Gitchell: And that was sort of along the lines that I was thinking uh, when talking to someone that you do not feel is telling you the complete truth. Uh, quit straddling the fence, be on one side of it or the other. Uh, I did something a little different, in so much as I drew a circle, and I had several dots within that circle and several dots outside.
Gitchell: And I asked, which side is he going to be on, on this outside or the inside.
Fogleman: Alright. Now who’s inside the circle?
Gitchell: Uh, no one in particular. No one named or, um, but I, I indicated that law enforcement was on the outside of the circle.
Fogleman: Alright. In general, what was on the inside?
Gitchell: Uh, in general, uh, just who was responsible for these crimes.
Fogleman: Alright. When you did this diagram, did you say these dots inside represent a particular named individual or individuals?
Gitchell: No sir.
Fogleman: Alright. And what did you do with the circle and the dots?
Gitchell: Uh, you mean afterwards or? Just pretty much like I did then, just did it on a piece of paper and that was it.
Fogleman: (interrupting) Alright.
Gitchell: And, of course, showed that to Jessie ’cause he was right there.
Fogleman: Alright. And when you showed it to him, what happened, what did you do?
Gitchell: Uh he, he immediately said that uh, he wanted to be on the outside of the circle with the law enforcement.
Fogleman: Okay. And, um, and then I take it you had some more conversation.
Gitchell: Yes sir.
Fogleman: And then what took place?
Gitchell: Uh, a short time later, uh, I stepped out of the room, uh…
Fogleman: (inaudible) before you, alright is that when you got the picture —
Gitchell: (interrupting) Yes sir —
Fogleman: — when you stepped out of the room? Okay.
Gitchell: I stepped out of the office that we were talking to Jessie in, and um, got this picture, and then also I remembered a recording, uh, of a phrase, just only a phrase, I believe probably a four to five second phrase within that recorded statement that I wanted to play for Jessie.
According to Det. Gary Gitchell, following this, he began to feel that Jessie was far more involved in the crime than he was letting on, so he stepped out of the room and grabbed a picture of one of the victims laying on an autopsy table and an audio recording. He then showed the autopsy photo to Jessie to elicit a reaction from him:
Fogleman: Alright. Now, when you came back in the room, uh, I want to show you State’s Exhibit 76 and ask if you recognize that?
Gitchell: Yes sir, this is the, um, photograph that I showed Jessie. It has the number 3 on the front of the photograph, and on the back it’s number 107.
Fogleman: Okay. And what was the response to the photograph?
Gitchell: When I showed Jessie this photograph and he took it into his hand, and he just, he just went back in his chair like this. And, and he just locked in on it, fixed in on the photograph, and just kept staring at it and staring at it. And I could tell that he just was — I didn’t know how long he was going to do that. So I, I took it from his hand, and set it on the table that we were working on.
According to notes taken by Det. Bryn Ridge, Jessie stated in reaction:
Jessie looked hard at Picture and said it was of “Moore Boy” and that it was one of the boys in the Polaroid.
Jessie stated that he didn’t want to be a
part of this that Damien and Jason killed he
Next Gary Gitchell played for Jessie a tape recording of Aarron Hutcheson, a 8-year-old boy, who Jessie baby-sat for, who was friends with the three murder victims, and also was the son of Vickie Hutcheson, the woman that claimed Jessie took her to a cult meeting.
From the trial of Jessie Misskelley:
Fogleman: Okay. And then what happened?
Gitchell: Briefly, just a few minutes after that, of course I um had the tape, which I do have that tape with me at this time —
Fogleman: Alright. Your Honor —
Gitchell: — and I played this small portion of that tape.
Fogleman: Your Honor, we would ask permission to play that portion of the tape.
The Court: Alright. You will be permitted to do so.
Gitchell: This may take a little, you know, problems I had.
(squeaky speeding up of tape noise)
TAPE: Nobody knows what happened but me, out of all — (clicked off)
Gitchell: Should I do that again, your Honor?
The Court: I think so.
TAPE: Nobody knows what happened by me, out of — (clicked off)
Fogleman: Okay, what, what did he say for the jurors that didn’t pick it, catch it?
Gitchell: He said, “Nobody knows what happened but me.”
Fogleman: Okay. Alright. And when you played this tape, what was the defendant’s response?
Gitchell: He, he immediately stated that he wanted to tell us about it, at that point.
Fogleman: Alright. And um, at some point thereafter did Detective Ridge leave the room?
Gitchell: Yes sir, he did.
Fogleman: Alright. And uh, while Detective Ridge was out of the room, what took place?
Gitchell: Uh, at that point, uh, Jessie indicated to me that uh, he was present during that time that the boys were murdered.
Fogleman: Okay. Now was there (cough) had there been some statement, uh, or what statements if any did the defendant make in your presence about having been, uh, at the scene?
Gitchell: He, he had stated earlier that he had been at the scene, um, that um, also that he had gone back to the scene…
Fogleman: Alright, you said gone back. Were those his words?
Fogleman: Alright. Did he say that before or after, uh, he admitted being there when it took place?
Gitchell: Uh, let’s see. I, it may have been before.
Gitchell: It, it does get a little confusing, even for me.
Fogleman: Alright. What did he say about when he went back to the scene?
Gitchell: That, uh, he went out into the woods, where this occurred, the murders, and he set out and cried.
Fogleman: Alright. And uhh, after he admitted to you that he had been there, um, or I may be jumping ahead of myself. Now tell me again what he said to you while he was, while Detective Ridge was out of the room.
Gitchell: That uh, he was, he was present when the, the boys were murdered.
Fogleman: Alright. And after he admitted to you that he was present, what was the defendant’s response?
Gitchell: Uh, basically, uh, I stopped him at that point.
Gitchell: And uh, then I wanted to make sure it, it was obvious at this time we had more than just uh, a person that we were trying to get information from as to other parties. Uh, it was obvious to us that uh, we had a person here that uh, was involved.
Fogleman: Was there any kind of emotional response?
Gitchell: Uh, from Jessie?
Gitchell: Uh, well he was emotionally upset, you could tell that, uh, it was an emotional time for myself also.
Fogleman: Alright, when you say it was emotional for him and you could tell it, what told you that —
Gitchell: Well he had, he had tears coming down his eyes.
Fogleman: Alright. Had y’all yelled at him or been mean to him or —
Gitchell: No sir.
Fogleman: — threatened him or promised him anything, done any of those things?
Gitchell: None of those things happened whatsoever.
Fogleman: Alright, now after he admitted to being there, what did you do in order to preserve the conversation?
Gitchell: Okay, uh, I instructed that uh, Detective Ridge, I went out to the room said we need to get a tape recorder which is, this is the identical tape recorder that was used. Uh, the tape recorder was brought into the room, myself and Detective Ridge at that point, we advised him of his rights for the third time that day.
According to Gitchell, Jessie broke down crying after hearing the audio tape of the child he baby-sat for, saying he knew what really happened, because he was there when the murders happened, but insisted that he was only a witness and did not take part in the actual murders. Much like what Jessie had told Buddy Lucas, he had wanted to turn Jason and Damien in, but was afraid of going to prison himself. Jessie would stick to his claim that he was only a witness and only helped in the murders for the next three months, even with his lawyer.
Jessie’s father would also be interviewed by the local news, three days after his son confessed, insisting that Jessie was only a witness to the murders.
Transcript from the interview, which aired on June 7, 1993:
Misskelley Sr. : “I don’t believe he did it. ’cause he–
Reporter : “Do you think he might have been with them when they did it?”
Misskelley Sr. : “Yeah he could have been with ’em. But he did not have anything to do with it, I don’t believe.”
Link to the news clip: