Damien Echols’s attorneys have made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all documents, recordings, logs, calls or tips regarding the West Memphis 3 case. They have requested any potential new evidence in the form of confidential phone calls placed to the West Memphis Police Department’s tip line recorded since August 19, 2011, regarding the involvement of Terry Hobbs or anyone else in the murder of the three children. The West Memphis Police Department currently operates a Crime Stoppers Confidential Tip Line at (870) 732-4444.
According to a sworn statement from Laird Williams, who was visiting the West Memphis Police Department on August 14, 2012, he was told that the WMPD had received numerous confidential calls over the past year, many concerning the possible involvement of Terry Hobbs, stepfather of victim, Stevie Branch.
“On August 14, 2012, I met an associate from the University of Memphis School of Law at the offices of the West Memphis Police Department located at 626 East Broadway, West Memphis, AR, to review materials germane to the 1993 murders of Christopher Byers, Stevie Branch and Michael Moore. While in the WPMD offices, I was informed that the West Memphis Police Department is constantly receiving calls via their tip line regarding Terry Hobbs’s potential involvement in the murders of these three young boys, one of which was his stepson, Steve Branch. I was told one caller, a man who worked with Terry Hobbs when the murders occurred, had called repeatedly. I requested the procedures for dealing with these tips and was informed that the calls are recorded and delivered to the Criminal Investigation Division, headed by Captain Ken Mitchell. What CID does with this information is unknown.”
Based upon this information, which was corroborated by others who were present with Williams on August 14, Little Rock attorney Patrick Benca, who represents Damien Echols, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for “All documents, recordings, logs regarding phone calls or ‘tips’ made to the West Memphis Police Department tip line from August 19, 2011 until the present date regarding what has been described as the ‘West Memphis 3 case.”
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley were freed from custody on August 18, 2011.
The City Attorney for West Memphis Arkansas, David C. Peeples, rejected Benca’s request for information in two separate letters. In one letter dated September 19, 2012, Peeples denies that the WMPD has any information, “Please be advised that the West Memphis Police Department does not have any existing records that specifically set out the information sought in your request.”
Patrick Benca said, “We have reason to believe that the West Memphis Police Department has received information in the form of confidential calls to their tip line which has the potential to be very important to Damien Echols’s case, and that information should be made available to the defense team or those legal authorities responsible for reviewing such evidence. If the WMPD continues to refuse to turn over any and all information received that bears on the conviction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, we would respectfully ask them to turn that information over to District Prosecutor Scott Ellington for proper review.”
Prosecutor Ellington, who agreed to the Alford plea that allowed the three men to go free, has publicly stated numerous times that he would review any credible information regarding the case of the West Memphis 3.
Benca also suggests that anyone who has called the West Memphis Police Department with information about the WM3 case, please contact the WM3 Confidential Tip Line at (501) 256-1775. “There still remains a $200,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the murders of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers.”
The West Memphis 3 Confidential Tip Line has been very effective in obtaining new evidence in the case pointing to the innocence of the three men. Calls made to the tip line by three eyewitnesses have placed Terry Hobbs with the children immediately before they disappeared. Three other callers provided sworn statements that Terry Hobbs’ nephew, Michael Hobbs Jr., revealed the Hobbs family secret: that his uncle Terry was responsible for the murder of the three children.