(Damien Echols in the days following the murders wearing an axe necklace.)
Of the most significant allegations made by the defense and supporters of the West Memphis three was the claim that no DNA evidence was ever recovered that connected any of the convicted men to the crime. This allegation however is dubious and wholey inaccurate as one can easily see when they discover that DNA located at the crime scene and even on evidence recovered from a necklace belonging to Damien Echols had connected Mr. Echols to the murders.
THE LIGATURE DNA—
(WARNING! Link contains cropped image of autopsy photo depicting the ligatures of Stevie Branch.WARNING!)
DNA testing conducted years after the murders while the West Memphis Three were incarcerated revealed three DNA mixtures recovered the bodies of Stevie Branch and Michael Moore. One of these samples was located on the ligatures used to bind Stevie Branch at the crime scene. This DNA revealed a mixture of DNA, meaning there was DNA present from two different individuals on these bindings.
(The DNA findings from the ligatures, indicating three different numbers present on the D5s818 Locus.)
(DNA profiles for the West Memphis Three and the victims in the case.)
As seen in the images above, the numbers listed under D5s818 on the ligatures for Stevie Branch are 10,11,12. Normally there would only be two numbers present as seen in the second image showing the DNA profiles for the victims and the West Memphis Three, but here there is three numbers, indicating the presence of a second person’s DNA. In addition under the Locus for D13s317 are the numbers are 8,11.
Now, Stevie Branch’s profile for the D5s818 is only 10, 12. So that means the number 11 must be more than likely part of the profile from the second party who left their DNA on the ligature used to bind Stevie, and more than likely shared one of the same numbers as Stevie; either 10 or 12. And of the DNA profiles of the victims and the West Memphis Three, the only ones that could fit for D5s818 would be either Damien Echols or Jessie Misskelley, who both had 11,12 which would fit with the DNA mixture on the ligatures for Stevie Branch. However Misskelley’s profile for D13s317 does not correspond to the DNA, which is 8,11. This leaves Damien Echols as a better candidate for being the individual who’s DNA is mixed with Stevie Branch’s on the ligatures in question. So, whoever deposited the DNA on the ligatures just so happened to share a similar DNA profile to Damien Echols.
This item of evidence is often disregarded, because there was evidence of contamination present, which has been used by supporters of the West Memphis Three to suggest that any subsequent DNA recovered had to be from the real killer, and therefore any physical evidence against Damien Echols was not to be believed.
THE EVIDENCE OF CONTAMINATION–
The DNA profile for Stevie’s penile swab, revealed a profile that did not match to either Stevie, nor to any of the suspects. As can be seen, the numbers listed for D168539 are 8 and 11.
Examining the DNA profiles for all, it shows above, that Stevie’s numbers were 9,12, so the recovered sample, 8,11 is not from him. And none of the DNA samples from either the victims nor the suspects, had an 8 for D168639, so that means someone else left this sample, and the above autopsy photo shows what appears to be Dr. Peretti not wearing gloves when he was doing the autopsy photos of Stevie’s genital region at the same exact location as the penile swab.
Lastly another penile swab, this time taken from Michael Moore, may have been the result of contamination. The numbers again showed a mixture, this time for D5s818, and of this mixture it showed likely Michael Moore’s DNA and an unknown second individual’s DNA. Looking at the suspect DNA samples, none of them are consistent with the mixture of 9,12,13, which is not surprising considering that no gloves were worn when Stevie’s genitals were handled for the purpose of documenting injuries at the location. It’s therefore likely that the same may be true in the case of the DNA pulled from Moore’s genitals.
A response from the prosecution in this matter was that the bodies had sat over night in a ditch, submerged in water, and thus, any usable DNA from the killer had likely washed away. And with this in mind, the three DNA mixtures recovered from the bodies of Stevie Branch and Michael Moore were in question as likely contamination, particularly in light of the photo of someone’s bare hand touching Stevie’s genitals.
The fact of the matter was that the DNA pulled from the genital swabs was compromised during autopsy, likely by Dr. Frank Peretti, who had performed the autopsy.
THE AXE NECKLACE DNA—
(Crime Lab document detailing an investigation into dark spots located on Damien’s necklace, which later was proven to be blood.)
(Another document discussing the discovery of blood on Damien’s necklace.)
According to documents and video from the early 90’s, specs of blood were discovered on a necklace that had been worn by Damien Echols. The blood was too small at that time for exact DNA testing to be performed, but once again found a DNA mixture composited from blood from two different people on this necklace. DNA results revealed that one of the individuals who bled onto the necklace was Damien Echols, the chief suspect in the murders of the three victims. But DNA on the second individual was less clear as there was less blood. Tests determined that it either belonged to Stevie Branch, the victim who’s ligatures had DNA that could have been from Damien Echols, or the other possibility being Damien’s alleged accomplice Jason Baldwin.
To go further into this matter, there existed evidence that the necklace at one time belonged to Jason Baldwin, having most likely been given to him by a girlfriend prior to the murders. It is also known that both Damien and Jason wore this necklace as indicated in the below photo, which depicts Jason Baldwin wearing it.
In addition, Jason had several drawings in his room at the time of his arrest.
(Homework assignment belonging to Jason Baldwin with drawings in the corner.)
(Drawing of the axe necklace located on the above home work assignment.)
The question becomes, if one were to believe the blood on the necklace was Jason Baldwin’s, why was he bleeding on it? And why was there blood of Damien also? Could it be because they were killing three little boys and had they themselves been injured in the commission of the crime?
But the real more shocking scenario in this matter is the more likely probability that this DNA is that of Stevie Branch, the victim who Jessie Misskelley alleged in his confessions that Damien was most responsible for attacking and murdering.
Both matters are discussed in a deleted scene from the documentary Paradise Lost, in which the film makers for reasons unknown felt the incriminating evidence should be left out of the film.
These two DNA items act as physical corroborating evidence to the involvement of Damien Echols in the murder of Stevie Branch. The ligatures revealed a DNA mixture containing DNA from Stevie Branch and a second individual. This mixture as the documentation revealed was consistent with Damien Echols. Further, blood on a necklace worn by Damien and shown to be worn by him in the days and weeks after the murders, turned out to contain blood from two different people; Echols and a second individual. Testing demonstrated that it was very possible that the DNA of the second individual was that of Stevie Branch. Confessions by Jessie Misskelley also implicated Damien Echols as the killer of Stevie Branch.
The very fact that Echols could not be eliminated from the DNA mixture found on the ligatures would be corroborating evidence of the statements made by Jessie Misskelley, and per Jessie’s statements, Damien Echols had tied up Stevie Branch, therefore it would make sense that Damien’s DNA would be present there if he were guilty of the crime… of which DNA happened to be located on the ligatures which matched back to… Damien Echols just as Jessie Misskelley had stated in his confessions.
Going back to the necklace, if Damien was guilty the very fact that blood was located on an item of clothing belonging to him (the necklace) would be yet another strong corroborating item of guilt. It’s difficult to explain away blood from both himself and a second individual in an innocent manner that does not point to guilt in the homicides. And if Damien was the one who killed Stevie Branch, as Jessie Misskelley had stated, then not only would Damien’s DNA be on the ligatures but there would exist evidence, such as blood which would be upon his person, and it was. And if Damien was the person who killed Stevie Branch, then the blood would then be that of Stevie Branch… DNA testing showed that of the victims, the blood was consistent with that of Stevie Branch, further corroborating Jessie’s confession. IN BOTH INSTANCES of Damien Echols and DNA connecting him to the crime it always seemed to connect him to the murder of Stevie Branch. A coincidence? Very unlikely.