The Softball Game Confession

(Softball Field at J.W. Rich Girls Club.)

On the day of Thursday, May 27, 1993, at around 5:30 or 6:00 PM, Damien Echols, along with his friends, Jason Baldwin, Jessie Misskelley, Heather Cliett, and several other friends, all showed up to a girl’s softball game at the J.W. Rich Girls Club, because several girls that Damien knew were playing softball that day, including Heather Cliett. That same day, Donna Medford brought her three daughters, Jessica Medford; Jackee Medford, and Jodee Medford, along with her daughter Jackie’s friend, Christy VanVickle to the softball field, because all three of her daughters had a game that day. Donna Medford’s niece Katie Hendrix also arrived at the field as well, traveling in a separate car.

As Donna entered the area of the three separate softball diamonds, she noticed a teenager walking behind her, traveling toward the bleachers, dressed all in black, wearing a black trench coat, and with long black hair, who seemed sorta odd. This teenager would turn out to be Damien Echols.

(Damien Echols at Skate World wearing his black trench coat.)

Both groups, the Medfords, and Damien and his friends both sat in two separate areas, with Damien sitting near to the concession stand, behind the bleachers. At some point after this, 14-year-old Jodee Medford, and 11-year-olds’, Jackee Medford, and her friend Christy VanVickle walked to the concession stand.

Jodee Medford had been walking ahead of her sister and her friend, and started to walk around the corner toward the concession stand, and as she did, she heard Damien state, “I killed the three little boys and before I turn myself in, I’m gonna kill two more and I already have one of ’em picked out.” Jodee had immediately turned around mid-sentence, because as she put it, “that didn’t sound right.” When she turned around she saw Echols sitting at a distance facing toward her, with the backs of his friends in her direction. She could see her sister and Christy VanVickle having run off immediately telling Jodee’s mother, Donna what they had all heard.

Jackee and Christy had only heard Damien say he killed the boys, but were terrified upon hearing it, and ran off and told Donna Medford right away.

According to Donna Medford, her niece, Katie Hendrix then confronted Damien from a distance, resulting in an altercation, where Echols then walked off. Her statement saying as follows:

“Katie Hendrix was also with me that night & repeated the same story. She also told me he had said he was going to bite her titties off. When he left she yelled ‘Did you really kill those 3 boys & he yelled ‘yes’.”

 

(Handwritten statement by Donna Medford.)

Heather Cliett, Jason Baldwin’s former girlfriend corroborated this account years later in a 2009 affidavit, writing that she had heard the commotion caused by Damien’s confession, stating that lots of people began shouting at him asking if he had killed the boys, matching the description about what Katie Hendrix had told Donna Medford. Cliett however claimed that people shouting questions at Damien about the murders was why Damien bragged about doing them in the first place, and that he was just trying to draw attention to himself:

“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.”

Cliett said she dismissed Damien’s confession, because she had been on the phone with him at around 9:30 or 10:30 on the night of the murders, and thus he couldn’t have attacked the victims around 6:45 PM,  then come home later that night and talked to her on the phone.

2009 Affidavit of Heather Cliett

Other eye witness accounts were also reported, including Katie LaFoy, who wrote in a police statement:

“I heard Damien Echols talking to a bunch of girls, one was a Jody Medford. I heard him say ‘Yea that I’m going to do it to some more people too.’

According to LaFoy she had also heard Damien threaten one of the people he was confessing to, saying, that if anyone he was speaking to told anyone, he’d “get them too to just see what was coming next.” 

Statement of Katie LaFoy

Another set of gossip confession statements also were reported, but a source was never verified. This all started with one set of witnesses, which included 8-year-old Juliann Deacon and her 13-year-old sister Jenni Deacon, who on June 1, 1993 were at a softball game at the J.W. Rich Girls Club, when a girl named Rachel Myers, told them, that she had heard Damien brag “about killing the three little boys and wanting to kill two more.” Jenni Deacon, the older of the two sisters came home following the game and told her mother about what Damien had allegedly said. A police report was taken of this incident seven days later.

Link to Deacon report.

Rachel Myers would then tell the police after that she had been told of Damien confessing at the softball game, by a boy named, Shannon Wolf, who Myers said claimed he heard it.

J’Nevelyn Blackmon would also state on June 10, 1993 that she heard from Shannon Wolf about roughly 2 weeks prior that Damien had confessed to the murders:

“Shannon Way came up and started telling us that Damien Echols had murdered those 3 little boys.”

J’Nevelyn also said:

“I heard that there was going to be a sacrifice of two virgins by a cult that Damien was alleged to be in. But I can’t remember where I heard it.”

Another boy, John Dudley Boals III, had also been told about Damien’s confession from Shannon Wolf. According to John Boals, he had been at his friend, David Smith’s house when Shannon Wolf came over. The three teens were watching a news story about the murders, when Wolf informed his friends that he had heard Damien brag about “killing these 3 boys.” Around 6:00 that day, the three teens went to the J.W. Rich Girls Club for a softball game and saw Damien and Jason Baldwin hanging out at the game.

When police eventually spoke with Shannon Wolf, he said he was told about Damien’s softball game confession by his friend, Shannon Boals. However, when police tracked down and spoke with Shannon Boals, she told them that Michele Carter had been the one who told her about the confession. And according to Boals, Carter told her “that Damien Echols came up to her and said that he killed those boys.”  Boals stated that later on, Michele Carter seemed concerned and asked her about if she was questioned or told the police anything about what she told her.

Statement of Shannon Boals

It was also when speaking with Shannon Boals, that the police met Katie LaFoy, who told them about her account of the event.

Shortly after receiving information on 14-year-old, Michele Carter, the investigators went and spoke with her as well, but upon speaking with Carter she denied that she was the one who told Shannon Boals about Damien’s confession, instead, asserting that Shannon was the one who told her about it.

Carter’s written statement reads as follows:

“I was told by Shannon Boals from Marion that there was a boy named Damien that said he killed the boys and he didn’t cut their thing off he bite it off. Shannon showed him to me and pointed him out to me. Shelley Wolf from Marion also told me that she cut herself one day and he ask her if he could suck her blood. Later on more of my friends Tara Cupples, Cory Catt, and Shannon Boals were standing with me in front on the consetion stand and we decided to go over and sit with her brother Trey Boals and a bunch of his other friends I am not sure what their names are. We all sat down and as we sat behind the blechers we saw Damien sitting beside us. We tried not to look at him so we moved over a little. He never talked to me except he asked who we were I told him Michele Carter he never said another word to me. Cory Catt and Tara Cupples left and it was me, Shannon Boals and Trey Boals sitting on the grass still and I just happened to hear Damien say something about him and the Devil so I decided to get up. Right before my game started Shannon Boals also told me that he wanted to kill two more people and he knew one of them was his ex-girlfriend. Shannon Boals said her brother Trey Boals knew more and that it was his friend Shawn something that told him. I think that was his name. I never saw him after that.”

From the story that Shannon Boals and Michele Carter told, one or both of the girls may have been witnesses to the confession, and perhaps may have even been some of the teens sitting with him who were threatened by Echols not to talk. Both girls pointed the finger at the other as the source of information however, but Carter despite saying that Boals was purely the source of her information describes herself as being part of the event, even saying she saw Damien sitting beside her, and how she tried not to look at him.

Another interesting detail in her statement was that Echols allegedly said he bit a victim on the penis. It was a fact of the crime, that Stevie Branch had an injury to the tip of his penis, testified to by Dr. Frank Peretti, like someone had pinched or bit it. And Jessie Misskelley would also confess to his lawyer, Dan Stidham, that he watched Echols, put his head between Stevie’s legs, and bite his penis.

STIDHAM: Did Damien ever suck on that boy’s penis?

MISSKELLEY: (long pause) That – the one that he was going to get, you know, screw him from behind. He went on him – he went down on him.

STIDHAM: Damien sucked that little boy’s penis?

MISSKELLEY: He didn’t suck on it, he bit it.

STIDHAM: What do you mean he bit it?

MISSKELLEY: Bit the top – the head of it.

STIDHAM: How do you know he did it?

MISSKELLEY: Not hard, but – I’m – I’m going to say he didn’t do it hard.

STIDHAM: How do you know that’s what he did?

MISSKELLEY: I seen him – I seen his head going down that way. I don’t know, you know, I don’t know if he – I don’t know if he did or not, but I seen his head go between that boy’s legs.

Another interesting tid-bit found in Carter’s statement was that his next victim was to be his ex-girlfriend. Echols had been arrested and in a mental hospital on three separate occasions, directly relating to an incident in which he ran away with his former girlfriend, Deanna Holcomb, because her parents didn’t want her seeing him.

Getting back to the day of the confession, shortly after the softball game, as Donna Medford, and her 3 daughters, along with Christy VanVickle were driving home that night, her daughters and VanVickle, kept talking about what they heard from the strange teenager in the black trench coat. The incident was so concerning that the Medfords continued to talk about it for days, until after the June 3, 1993 arrests, when Jodee Medford was babysitting and saw the news that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley had been arrested. Jodee recognized Echols as the teenager she heard bragging about the murders that night, and had even seen him again at the softball game the night after.

Upon recognizing Damien, she phoned her mother at work, who said to her, “well, I’m gonna have to wait to, you know, to-until I see that for myself.” Donna after getting home also recognized Damien as the strange teen in black that she had seen at the softball game, entering the field behind her.

Shortly there after, Donna drove to the J.W. Rich Girls Club with her daughter Jackee, and spoke with the director, Peggy Simmons, and told her that Damien Echols had confessed to the murders in front of her daughters. Simmons then reported the incident to police.

(Christy VanVickle, walking to take the witness stand in the documentary, “Paradise Lost”.)

At trial, Christy VanVickle, Jodee Medford, and her mother Donna testified to the confession, implicating Echols directly with his own words.

While on the witness stand Echols insisted that the witnesses all made it up:

Q. Do you know why the VanVickle girl would get up here and have any reason to fabricate a story under oath about you?

A. There have been Damien sightings since I can remember. People were calling the police department saying they saw me marching around through Marion carrying black candles while I was all the way on the other side of the country.

Q. We aren’t talking about a fake sighting.

A. It is the same principle. It was a fake sighting.

Q. You were there, right?

A. The second night I was not.

Q. But the first night is when she said you made the statement. You were there that night, right?

A. Yes.

Q. And your group was standing around you?

A. Um-hum.

Q. You had on the big black coat and long black hair?

A. Um-hum.

Q. And Jason was there?

A. Um-hum.

Q. She’s right about all those things, correct?

A. Yes.

Q. You don’t know why in the world she would get up here and under oath testify that you said those things? 

A. Little kids say that kind of stuff all the time to get attention.

Q. Do you know any reason why the one who was a little older, the Medford girl, would say that?

A. Probably because she mentioned something like that to her mom or something, and her mom carried it too far so she had no other choice than to get up here and talk about it.

Q. I guess Ms. Medford — do you have any reason to know why she would get up here and give that testimony under oath?

A. Because her daughters probably did tell her that.

 

Jason’s girlfriend, Heather Cliett later destroyed Damien’s assertions that the girls were lying, insisting that he confessed, but that it was just Damien wanting attention, and that she knew Damien better than anyone else, despite by her own admission only knowing him for a manner of weeks:

“I was surprised when I later found that some girls who I knew who were at the game claimed that Damien had said something about having killed children or words to that effect. The girls who reported those things did not know either Jason or Damien the way I knew them.”

In addition to Cliett, Damien’s own defense lawyers and their private investigator, Ron Lax had grilled Damien repeatedly prior to trial about the numerous confessions he had made in the weeks following the murders, to which Damien was highly evasive on their questions and at times refused to answer their questions.

Details on these questions are located in the book “Devil’s Knot” by Mara Leveritt, found on page 139:

“[Ron Lax’s assistant Gloria] Shettles wrote Damien ‘admitted that prior to arrest he made remarks to various persons when asked about the murders that might be misconstrued.’ However she added, ‘He did not make any remarks in a serious nature although his comments could have been misinterpreted.’ Now that Lax was visiting, he pressed Damien to be more specific. But Damien seemed unwilling or unable to acknowledge to the investigator that he may have hurt his own case. Lax wrote, ‘When I asked him about the numerous references in the police files regarding individuals who say Damien either told them he was responsible, or they overheard Damien say this, he does not answer, but merely sits there and stares.'” 

Shortly after Ron Lax and his defense lawyers questioned him about his confessions, Damien wrote a letter to his family, stating, “I don’t think Ron believes I’m telling the truth. Jason’s lawyers said they they believe he is innocent but they think I’m guilty.”

letter_to_family

(Letter Damien wrote to his family from jail.)

 

(Damien Echols being interviewed on Death Row by, CBS reporter Erin Moriarty for the documentary, “48 hours: A Cry for Innocence.”)

Damien Echols, despite for many years maintaining that all the eye witnesses lied, changed his story in an interview with CBS reporter Erin Moriarty, admitting that he had confessed to the crime at the Softball Game, but stated that in his own words, it must have been a “joke” when he made the confession, and those eye witnesses all misunderstood him. Quotes of the interview are found in a CBS news article, and the interview itself is found in the CBS “48 Hours” episode, “A Cry for Innocence.” The article reads as follows:

But the two girls who were at that softball game that Damien attended testified that they overheard him admit to the murders. 

“I don’t remember saying that at the time because to me, it – I didn’t actually do it. It would have been like a joke,” he says. 

“Help me understand why you would think that’s a joke back then,” says Moriarty.

“It’s the person I was and it’s the way I thought at that time in my life, and I – I can’t make excuses for it.”

 

Link to article

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