Against Satanic Panics > Older cases > West Memphis Three

The West Memphis Three (1993)

by Diane Vera

Copyright © 2006 by Diane Vera. All rights reserved.

The "West Memphis Three" case did not fit the classic SRA mold at all. It involved neither "recovered memories" nor a daycare center; nor did it involve accusations by a divorcing parent. It involved an unquestionably real and brutal murder of three eight-year-old boys whose bodies were found near West Memphis, Arkansas, on May 6, 1993 - whereas, in most SRA cases of the more classic kinds, there was at most very flimsy evidence that the alleged crimes had even happened in the first place.

In the West Memphis Three case, the issues in question are: (1) whether the defendants were in fact guilty, and (2) whether the victims were killed as part of a "Satanic ritual," as was alleged. Many people now believe that the three teenage defendants - Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley - were improperly tried and convicted. (I'm still in process of learning about the details of this case myself.) And Damien Echols, the alleged ringleader, had apparently been more interested in Wicca than in Satanism.

Luckily for these three young men, the case has gotten enough publicity to inspire a network of people to raise money for appeals. The case is still going through a series of not-yet-successful appeals.

So far I haven't yet found any website presenting a summary critique of the supporters' case by non-supporters. If you are aware of any such websites, please let me know.

Although not an SRA case per se (it's a murder case, not primarily a child sex abuse case, real or imaginary), I consider the West Memphis Three case important because it's the type of case I think we're most likely to see more of in the future. We aren't likely to see very many more SRA cases fitting the classic 1980's-style mold, now that "recovered memory therapy" has been largely discredited and many of the daycare center convictions of the 1980's and early 1990's have been overturned. But there still are plenty of folks in Bible Belt backwaters who believe that any kid who wears black is a Satanist and that Satanists are prone to all manner of violent crime. And there still are, apparently, plenty of not-very-well-trained cops in Bible Belt backwaters too.

Back to: