The Boot Injury

Jackie Hicks, the grandfather of Stevie Branch on Page 134 of the book, The Blood of Innocents:

“Some son of a bitch has done a number on this baby with a pair of combat boots or engineer’s boots,” Hicks told himself, then others.

Jackie would make the same assertion during his March 16, 1993 appearance on the show Geraldo. During the episode, Geraldo Rivera asked Jackie about what had happened to his grandson, which is described below:

Geraldo: Tell us. Help us understand that. What did they do to him? 

Mr. HICKS: What did they do to him? His jaw was completely tore loose from his face. His eye was busted in the socket. His chest and all was kicked and stomped. His face was kicked and stomped–just pitiful, pitiful. It’s something that a decent human being wouldn’t even do to a live dog, let alone a human being.

In both the film, West of Memphis and in news accounts on animal predation claims in the murders of Michael Moore, Stevie Branch, and Christopher Byers, a heavily cropped and enlarged autopsy photo was shown, alleged to be a turtle bite by those working for the defense or the film makers and celebrities helping the defense.

A link to a photo of the alleged “turtle bite” injury.

However testimony during the appeals process revealed that this injury was inflicted while alive, inflicted by an unknown implement according to Dr. Frank Peretti. And in fact there were numerous related injuries all on the face and head of victim, Stevie Branch, which one could not see in the cropped and enlarged photo that the defense and film makers presented to the public. But most significant was a rectangular or square like pattern which is visible in  numerous autopsy photos and even in the photo presented in West of Memphis.

 
The “turtle bite” injury seen in another autopsy photo, in a non-enlarged photo, with very minimal cropping.

The mysterious pattern highlighted.

A collage of several different photos of the same injury showing the rectangular pattern.

It appears, just from looking at multiple autopsy photos, that there was a pattern on Stevie’s face, like that of the sole of a boot or shoe print, which was more likely the source and cause of the so-called “turtle bite” injury.

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(Brent Turvey.)

Brent Turvey, a criminal profiler, hired by the defense had similarly discussed in an online chat the possibility of footwear impressions being on the head of Stevie Branch, though he discussed an injury on the back of the victim’s head that was shown during appeals to not be a footwear impression but an injury resulting from the back of his head slamming into the ground as the front of his head took a massive impact from whatever had struck him.

Below is Truvey’s conversation mentioning additional types of injuries the defense was looking into:

<Ratgrrl> What are pattern wounds exactly and what other kinds of wounds did you see on the kids?

<Brent_Tur> Rat– Potential footwear impression on the back of Stevie Branches head. Belt marks from a severe whipping, cutting deep into the tissue on Chris Byers thigh, and an impression from the knife hilt in the genital area of chris byers, where he was emasculated.

Link to Turvey’s full online chat.

Notice he mentions a footwear impression, but as stated before the specific injury he was discussing was determined to be the result of an impact to the front of Stevie Branch’s face, and therefore could not be a footwear impression. However that still left the injuries that Jackie Hicks described, saying that it looked like someone kicked and stomped on his face. Did Hicks just presume that his grandson had been kicked and stomped on with a pair of boots? Or did someone in Law Enforcement tell him that theory? And why was the defense investigating the notion that he had his head stomped on?

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(Boots worn by Damien Echols.)

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An Overlooked Witness?

In September of 1993, a then 27-year-old woman, by the name of Carrie Morris, provided a handwritten statement to police, alleging that on the date of the murders, that she had witnessed Damien Echols following Michael Moore in the hours prior to the crime. And as an additional item of interest, Mrs. Morris, happened to also be a long time family friend of the Moores, and could recognize Michael on sight.

Today in 2018, Carrie Morris still says she saw Damien following Michael on the day of the murders. In a series of posts she has made to social media, she again reaffirmed what she saw.

(Carrie Morris’s statements on Facebook.)

(September 29, 1993 police statement by Carrie Morris.)

Her 1993 police statement reads as follows:

On Wednesday, May 5, 1993, I was going toward Barton we, when I saw Michael Moore walking about 3 house’s in front of Mr. Echols. Michael Moore was going home to get his bicycle to go trail riding with Steve Branch. This was at about 3:30 or 4p.m. About an hour later Michael, Steve, Chris came and ask my daughter (Tiffany Morris 8 years old) to go ridin with them. I told them no. We left to go to Memphis, when they were chasing my truck. This was about 4:30pm.

Her timeline of events has the incident occurring at sometime around the window of 3:30 or 4:00 PM.

A police interview with Damien Echols’ friend, Jennifer Bearden states that on the day of the murders he was on the phone with several girls, including Bearden, her friend Holly George, and Jason Baldwin’s girlfriend, Heather Cliett. According to Bearden she was on the phone with Damien at some time around 3:15 or 3:30 PM that day, and that during this call he stated that he was going to walk to his friend, Jason Baldwin’s house.

An excerpt from Bearden’s interview with Detective Ridge:

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.

Based on Bearden’s events, that meant that sometime between 3:15 and 3:30, Damien got off the phone with her and began walking to Jason’s house. This gave Damien a roughly half hour to 45 minute window in which Carrie Morris could have in-fact seen Damien, as she said she saw him at some point between 3:30 and 4:00PM.

(Location of the sighting in relation to Damien’s home and the crime scene.)

Testimony from Damien at trial also stated that he often walked from his house directly to the service road on the other side of Robin Hood Hills in order to reach Jason’s house. And to do this he often walked around or near 14th Street.

(Area Damien walked to get to Jason’s house.)

Returning to Carrie Morris’s statement, she further stated:

Damien & Michael were both walking South on 700 block North Wilson on the East side of the street. I know it was Damien Echols because I saw his picture in paper after he was arrested. I knew it was Michael from school and knowing his parents all my life & known Michael for about 3 years ever since they moved back from Florida.

 

(Exact location of the Morris sighting.)

According to the sighting, Michael Moore was seen walking on the block behind his house, while Damien followed behind him.

(Homes of LG Hollingsworth and Heather Cliett in relation to the sighting.)

It’s of note that the location that Morris spotted Damien is also near-by to the homes of Heather Cliett and LG Hollingsworth. Cliett was one of the girls Damien had spoken to multiple times over the phone on the day of the murders, and LG was a friend of his who also happened to be the cousin of his then girlfriend Domini Teer. LG was also himself was investigated as a suspect in the murders and made a handful of statements indicating he could have been involved the crime, possibly after the fact.

Heather Cliett though, in an affidavit made in 2008 added a startling new piece of information to the puzzle. She claimed that on the day of the murders, stating that on May 5th, 1993, prior to the victims going missing, Christopher Byers was at her home. This is significant, as Damien had been speaking with her on the phone on that same day, and in relation to the Carrie Morris sighting, Damien was a short distance from Heather’s home when he was seen following Michael Moore around.


(Excerpt from Heather Cliett’s 2008 Affidavit.)

Given the time frame and location, the statement made by Carrie Morris would seem very significant, as it could be true. The time is compatible with the time that Damien left his home, and is in the general direction he would have walked to get to Jason Baldwin’s house, so it’s the right time and the right place. And the location of the sighting is near the home of one of the girls Damien was talking to on the day of the murders, and this same girl says that one of the victims was at her house that day.