The Interview

Leeza Gibbons: This is one of the most despicable crimes I have ever heard of. I mean, heartbreakingly sad, brutal. As you well know, the guests on this show did not want to appear with you. Do you feel the same way about them?

John Mark Byers: Yes, in a way I do because itís gonna be a real one-sided story. thereís quite a few of them, and Iím the only one standing up for the victims. I am not the villain.

LG: Well there are those who feel (and I know this is not news to you) that those three teenage boys who have charged with this crime and who are incarcerated right now are innocent. That they were convicted with no material evidence and that you perhaps are the real killer.

JMB: Leeza, letís talk about material evidence, thatís a very good subject. There was a lot of material evidence: there were hair fibers (sic), there were fibers, and hair that was found and matched on (sic) the homes of the three. There was blue candle wax found on the Boy Scout shirt that Michael Moore wore, and they found a broken [unintelligible] in Damien Echolsí trailer. I think it was by Anton Levey and it had a blue candle sitting there and dripping on the book. Those two candle waxes (sic) matched exactly.

LG: That is being disputed.

JMB: Well, thatís what was told into the police record, that I believe candle wax was there.

LG: Why do you think three teenage boys would abduct these little children and torture them? For what reason? What would be the motivation for that kind of a crime?

JMB: The motivation was known a year before it happened. After the court case was over and the documents were released, there was a reporter by the name of Bartholomew Sullivan who writes for the Commercial Appeal. And of course he does like a reporter and starts digging through, and it was found where Damien had been arrested about a year before on some type of charge. And he got to talking to the police, this is on police records and everything, and he told them that there was a cult there because they were asking him about dead animals they had found burnt and sacrificed with candles and things around different places outside the community. He said that he was the leader of a cult group there in West Memphis, and they were tired of animal sacrifices and were going to start to have human sacrifices.

LG: He claims he never said that!

JMB: Well itís in the police records. So the police are lying or he is.

LG: The criminal profiler who was brought on to evaluate the evidence in this case said there is absolutely nothing to indicate this was a satanic ritual. He goes on to say, and I know youíre familiar with this document, ďit is the opinion of this examiner that the primary reason for these killings was punitive, the victims were being punished for some real or perceived wrong.Ē

JMB: I totally disagree with that. Itís his opinion and heís entitled to it.

LG: Heís an expert in the area.

JMB: Expert to me, is a spurt to a drip of water. [unintelligible] So he can take his expert opinion and go with it. Iím the one who lost a child, not him. Thatís like him trying tell me how to raise my son when he has no children.

LG: It must infuriate you then as you sit here as an innocent, grieving father; it must infuriate you that fingers are pointed at you and that someone thinks that you did this.

JMB: There are what I classify morons, fools and idiots and that goes across the world wide! Some of them will go to believe anything but you cannot sit there ad deny that you do not know that there are cults and satanic groups across the country. Anton Levay, a very famous man before he passed away, had written many articles on black magic, witchcraft. And Damienís medical records that his defense lawyer (sic) entered where he had been seeing his psychiatrist and everything. He wrote in there that like he was a wolf and all the people on the face of the earth were his sheeps (sic) and he was going to kill as many of them as he could. Those were his words.

LG: What about some of the words that have been attributed to you? Things such as reports that came back from the school that you and your wife had said to the teachers that youíve been having problems and if you continued to have problems with him, youíre going to have to get rid of him.

JMB: "Get rid of him" was never said. Hereís what we did for our son; he was prematurely born, 25 weeks early, -- SIX MONTHS + ONE WEEK-- he fought hard to live and he was premature. He was also diagnosed, we didnít know ítil he was about four, that he had A.D.D and was hyperactive and he was dyslexic.

LG: Did you never say you wanted to get rid of your son?

JMB: Ahhh! Would you get rid of your children?

LG: Well of course not!

JMB: Well of course not.

LG: But you never said that?

JMB: Never in my life have I ever said I wanted to get rid of my son. He was my best friend, he would come home from school and work with me in my shop, and Iíd let him make jewelry with me. We went hunting together, fishing together, I was a Boy Scout ranger (sic) with him and pee wee baseball with him. Uh, the Boys Club footballs. I did everything with him!

LG: The day that the boys disappeared, the police reports indicate that you volunteered information about something that had gone on between you and Christopher that day. That he was skateboarding in the middle of the road, you were worried about his safety, and you punished him. You gave him a whipping.

JMB: Yes. A whipping accounted to a belt very similar to the one I have on, just a little woven belt, and it was kept there on the door. The children were never beat (sic) or abused. But my stepson, or my son, had on Levi blue jeans and I gave him two swats across the back end, similar to a rolled up paper that youíd pop a puppy dog with.

LG: Why did you tell the police about the whipping?

JMB: I was telling them the truth. They asked me what all had gone on since you found him, what happened when you came in the house, what happened when (sic) the last time you saw him, what was he doing. And I had nothing to hide, so why not tell them?

LG: Much has been made of a knife that you gave to a camera crew, was that a hunting knife?

JMB: Oh no, Maíam, it was a little utility knife bought from Snap-on Tools to cute cable and tape and the camera man had just a little old broken-off piece of a knife that wasnít worth anything. And they were having Thanksgiving dinner at our house and I had gotten it for Christmas from my wife three years earlier, she thought I would like it because I did hunt a lot, and fish. She thought it would be good for scaling fish basically because of the little narrow serrated edge like on a steak knife. But I didnít like it, it was kept put up in the living room for quite a while and then was in the bedroom. The police came through the house and the other investigators came through the house two or three times and saw it, looked at it, picked it up and put it right back down.

LG: Was this the type of knife that was used in the crime against the boys?

JMB: Oh no it certainly wasnít! The type of knife that they found was like one of the big Rambo survival knives with the great big edges ad gashes on the back side. Let me just ask America to think of this one question: if youíre involved in such a heinous crime and you have the murder weapon, now letís think logically here people, would you take that knife home and keep it? That and have it cleaned up until there was nothing but a little trace so small that they could only get blood type through DNA (sic). Now would keep that around in your house and give it to a man on the movie crew whoís going to be around everybody in there, or would you take that big Rambo survival knife, and there Jason Baldwin lived at the trailer park with a big lake behind it, and throw that knife as far as you could out in that lake? They found it a few months later, itís not rusty, it hadnít been there long at all. Now which would you do?

LG: My understanding is that it wasnít a big knife that was used, that it was a smaller knife.

JMB: Thatís incorrect. I can tell you how thatís incorrect, the prosecuting attorneys Brent Davis and John Fogelman, when they had started the closing argument to the jury, John Fogelman brought two grapefruits and he showed a picture of one of the boys that was cut across the stomach and abdomen (sic) area. Where the knife had gone in and just kind of gadged (sic) one of them open. Well, when you put the knife down on the picture print and when they applied it to the body, the gap between each one of them was like this far apart. And he took the grapefruit, hit it pretty hard with the big serrated knife and you could see the real jagged jumps like this on the pineapple (sic)! He took my knife, hit it just as hard and it was just a straight line.

LG: But thatís the injury to the abdomen and perhaps to the head.

JMB: And those other injuries were that type of knife were found throughout the other bodies (sic). Those defensive wounds on Michael Moore on his arms and all, have a straight indention (sic) coming in from the bevel of the blade and then the big jagged edges on the back. My knife had just a fine little serrated edge and cut smooth to the top. I didnít have that top burr on the top like the survival knife had. And people testified in court that they saw Damien Echols carrying such a knife in his hand.

LG: I apologize for the difficult nature of these questions but I know that youíve been through the trial and youíve talked about it before.... Of the three boys, your son Christopher sustained the most injuries. He was the only one who was emasculated, he was stabbed repeatedly in the genital area. Expert witnesses have testified that this was done by someone who knew how to use a knife, who knew how to cut basically. Were you trained as a diamond cutter?

JMB: No, maíam. I was a goldsmith, a jewelry man. I would take gold and colored stones or diamonds and put it together and make a ring. Of the lost [unintelligible] wax method or manufacturing it by fabricating the metal and making it (sic).

LG: Why do you think your son Christopher was the target?

JMB: My only, this is just my opinion, in Jessie Misskelleyís confession my son was hit first over the head with some big club. My prayerís always been that that knocked him totally unconscious and he didnít feel anything else and was not aware.

LG: The criminal profiler offers an opinion that whoever did this crime did it to gain control over these boys, that this was obviously not a sex crime. That it was done to teach the boys a lesson, and Christopher in particular.

JMB: Well, that once again like I said is his opinion. My feeling is that him being the first one that Damien Echols got and he basically was one of the smallest. Michael Moore took off running ítil Jessie Misskelley chased him and brought him back. So Damien had time all alone and Jason Baldwin had Steve Branch. Christopher was basically incapacitated when most of his injuries were (sic). The only defense wounds they found were on Michael Moore when they drug (sic) him back, and he must have had his hands up. You know struggling because they were, you know, defense wounds. And then Steve Branch, his face was almost beat off and he was stabbed and cut in certain places. And Christopher, oh my god, people want to think. You said it real politely and to have your -- Let me back up, there was a man that testified, Michael Carson, okay, of what Jason Baldwin told him that he did to my son. Now the defense lawyers want to state in Paradise Lost through interviews that Michael Carsonís probation officer told him all about it. Well now, how can this be? That all these records from the autopsy report and all that was sealed, and did not become public notice ítil it was brought out in court. And Michael Carson testified that day and had heard nothing about it, other than his discussion with the prosecuting attorneys. Thereís no way that the probation officer could have told Michael Carson about it, because he couldnít have known himself. Iím sure you know what they say he did to my son, you know Michael Carson stated he said that he cut his scrotum open, ate his testicles, cut the end of his penis off and he laid there and bled to death as they drank their blood. These arenít three normal older teenagers. The defense lawyer for Damien Echols started out his opening with "well, ladies and gentlemen, my client is a little weird.Ē"

LG: Well "weird" and a crime like this is a far stretch in between. These kids --

JMB: But someone who would do that has to be pretty weird!

LG: Someone who would do this would have to have had no conscience. These boys claimed that they were railroaded for this crime because they were different. Because they dressed differently, they like different kinds of music and this was a part of the country that was susceptible to ďsatanic panic.Ē The police needed to nail somebody, they needed to get answers to this community about this crime and that this one boy who confessed, whoís mentally challenged, didnít have enough intelligence to recognize he was being coerced into a confession that was full of holes. They said they all have alibis.

JMB: Yes, they all had alibis. And in court, Jason, Jessie Misskelley and Damien Echols, every one of their so-called alibi witnesses were met and challenged on the stand and were impeached and found their testimony (sic) totally incorrect. Every one of their alibis were bogus.

LG: What about satanic panic?

JMB: As for satanic panic, well, if you lived in a town of 25,000 and around the outside of buildings and all outside of town you see satanic symbols and emblems and find little burnt places on the ground where a fireís been made, and thereís dogís parts and animal parts thatís been burned had been there (sic), and candle wax left around, and beer cans, and no telling what all else. Wouldnít a light bulb pop on and go "what in the world could be going on here?" I mean, Leeza, think about it when you ride around in, say, downtown New York. When youíre near a bad part of town, you donít need you someone to tell you (sic) youíre in a bad part of town, you know bad things are going on all around you by what is going on all around you.

LG: You talk about the boysí past history, are there things in your past history that would make you look suspicious as well?

JMB: I cannot see how at all.

LG: Do you have a criminal record?

JMB: No, I do not.

LG: Burglary? Guns?

JMB: Ahhhh, the burglary charge when I was in the mountains was dismissed and dropped.

LG: There was a bite mark on one of the boys. The three teenagers were asked for dental impressions, as were you, they willingly volunteered. And you, as I understand, mysteriously had your teeth knocked out before you could give an impression.

JMB: No, I didnít mysteriously have my teeth knocked out.

LG: What happened?

JMB: In 1990, when I was starting to have seizures and realized something was going wrong in my body, for 18 months they treated me for epilepsy. And the medication for seizures was Tegretol and Tegretol causes the [unintelligible] disease which eats your gums away from your teeth. I had been in a car wreck a year or so after that, my teeth were just, they were terrible. I couldnít live with íem and I had to have them all surgically removed. It wasnít anything mysterious and Iíve never had anyone contact me and ask me to give any dental records. And for several reasons, when they interrogated everybody at the start, I didnít know how many of hundreds of people it was, but the group of questions they asked, they asked me the same ones. You know whatís strange? That even though you cant admit a polygraph, the only three people they said that failed the polygraph were the three that were convicted. Jessie Misskelley is the only one that I can say is any part of a man or has any part of a soul at all because, Leeza, I would have someone torture me, beat me to death, do the most terrible thing they could do to me before I would ever confess to doing something that heinous or being in it if I didnít do it. I would take it to my grave, knowing in my heart that I did not have anything to do with that. Could someone make you say you killed your child?

LG: What if he were not bright enough to recognize it?

JMB: Letís talk about brightness. Jessie Misskelley, they say he was, you know, a little "handicapped," you might say.

LG: A seventy two IQ.

JMB: Seventy two? Well, if heís that handicapped, how is he able to pass his GED and a driverís license and driving test? He must not have been too retarded. True?

LG: A driving test and being able to bluff your way through school unfortunately is a sad commentary on our education system at times.

JMB: Maybe the system failed him but if he can complete his GED and get his diploma and get his driverís test (sic), I donít see where heís retarded. And I was told this directly from one of the jurors that sat on the jury box in Corning, and Jessie Misskelley says it in the movie too, he confirms what this lady told me, that when they were in Corning, he just kept his head down and just acted like he didnít know what time it was. But when they would take them back out, the jury out the side, there was a hallway and the jurists could look down the hallway and there was a glass in it (sic) and they could see him in it laughing, talking, smoking cigarettes, drinking Coca Colas Part of the big time. So that was just a act (sic) he was putting on in front of them in the jury. Jessie Misskelley said in his jail cell he was interviewed (sic) "well, they just made me play dumb like that. You know they just made me do that". His defense lawyers made him do that, they were making him perceived to be mentally handicapped where someone could control or manipulate him but if you go that route, Charles Manson mind-controlled Tex Ritter (sic) and that group.

LG: Letís talk about the other loss that you suffered this year, uh afterwards, you lost your wife--

JMB: Yes I did.

LG: What happened with your wife?

JMB: When our son was murdered and I came up on the crime scene, and I saw the tape at the crime tape (sic) where they recorded it all, I busted through it and was wrassled to the ground by two police officers and the inspector saw me and came to me and I asked him ", Have you found him? Have you found him?" And he said yes. I said, " are they alive or what?" And he said it was a homicide. I can remember just being like the lights going out but we still talked. I said, "How did you find him?" and he named the officer that happened to step into this little creek that ran into the main bough [unintelligible]. He saw a tennis shoe. A purple and white Nikes (sic) and I just bought those for Christopher two days before. And then I had to walk home, which was about three blocks, there were other people at the house with my wife but one of the hardest things Iíve ever had to do was walk in and see her sitting there emotionally torn up and go over and tell her that our babyís been murdered. I never had anything that was that hard, it was more than I could even stand. And then the next weeks, it was like I was just in a movie, people telling me when to get up, when to go to bed, when to eat something. Ahhh, we totally lost our mind (sic). My wife lost her will to live, my customers that I had that I was trying to do jewelry for the best I could, I couldnít do work for them. I was basically, you know, torn up. We were just -- words canít put into the emotions.

LG: Did grief kill your wife?

JMB: Grief was a big part. She laid down many nights and just begged and prayed god to just take her. She just didnít want to live any more.

LG: But you had another son together, right?

JMB: No, he was. My wife had two children, Ryan and Christopher. Ryan was about six or seven when we got married, and Christopher was a little under two. I adopted Christopher, and Ryan-- I wanted to adopt him, but his father paid child support and came and saw him fairly regular so we left that, you know. But you know he called me dad and I treated him just like my son.

LG: I understand your wife being overwhelmed with grief but I cant imagine a mother wanting to not live and be there for her other son.

JMB: I posed that question to her and the only answers that I could get was that he tried so hard to live and come into this life, Christopher. And he had it all taken away from him so young, just eight years old, still believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. They werenít out running around being mean kids, they were lured out there and it was plotted.

LG: Did the boys know these teenagers?

JMB: I donít think they did. There was another fourth boy that was brought up that we wonít mention his name, that supposedly had been active in that group. He was their age that did befriend them, and I think he might have lured them out there not knowing what was going to happen because that was their clubhouse that they played out there.

LG: Everyone believes that whoever took these boys must have been someone that they trusted or knew, that they went willingly.

JMB: That why when the other fourth boy I think he had to be with them and theyíre like talking to him. One reason, on May 5th of that year was a full moon and sometimes between the first and the fifth is a satanic holiday. Where if you drink the blood of an unbaptized male child, you will have supernatural powers, you could walk through walls, you could fly. This was in some of the literature that they were reading and studying.

LG: If that were the case, then why wouldnít they have gotten just one child?

JMB: Thatís right, but there were three perpetrators, each one had one.

LG: Your wife, as I understand it and please correct me if I misstate, laid down one day with you. You woke up a couple hours later, and she didnít.

JMB: Yes, that was March 28 and we had laid down to take a nap, probably around one oíclock and at 3:30 when Ryan came home from school, he opened the bedroom door and we spoke to him. When I got up it was ten to five and I went and got a glass of milk, came back and asked her, you know, if she was thirsty. I tapped on her and you know she didnít make any movement but she looked fine. Her color was perfect, her lips. She was laying there speechless as could be, I laid my head over on her chest and I couldnít feel a heartbeat and I started reaching everywhere I could for a pulse. And my neighbor was a medic in the military, then I called him, then 911 was called right after. He was right next door. While he was coming over, I started CPR immediately.

LG: Did you say to the neighbor: "The police are going to accuse me of killing my wife. Theyíre going to say I smothered her?"

JMB: No, what I said was I hope the police do not treat me the way they did when Christopher was murdered.

LG: Like a suspect?

JMB: Yes, well, everyone was a suspect the police informed me. This is like a jigsaw puzzle and we got to take all the pieces that donít fit and put them over here, and all the pieces that fit will solve the puzzle. They interrogated me handcuffed to a chair and said "Look we know you did this, we know youíre involved in this, now who helped you and howíd you do it? You might as well come on and confess". I went holding the chair and went over the desk at this officer and got very belligerent and when they restrained me and pulled me back, course I was hyperventilating, the officer looked at me and said "we know you didnít do it but we had to get your reaction".

LG: The medical examiner did find fluid [unintelligible] in the eyes which would indicate she had been smothered.

JMB: No, thereís no way they found no bruises or abrasions at all. The cause of her death was undeterminable which the state says seven out of ten deaths are undeterminable. She didnít have a high enough degree of any type of medication but Iíve known of other people who have died from grief. My father died on 9/9 of 190, theyíd been married 56 years and on 12/3 of 190 my mother was sitting in a chair, in pretty fair health, and at 10 after 9, she just plunked her head down and died. She didnít want to live anymore after my father died, so itís not a real rare thing that people have broken hearts and tragedies can, and do, leave their bodies if they lose the will to live.

LG: Did you say that Christopher may have suffered from Attention Deficit Disorder?

JMB: Yes, he did. We had [unintelligible] pills from the dyslexic school in Memphis and there several other pediatricians to take care of that.

LG: He was taking medication?

JMB: Yes, and he was getting better. So we found out about it in the first grade.

LG: There were reports that show a trace of Ritalin, which is a medication for A.D.D., in him.

JMB: Alright he was bad about forgetting to take his medication, as most children would be, so we took a bottle with like five, or however many he had to have through the day, to his school, and they dispensed it to him. And then heíd been changed to another medication which I donít remember the name of and he was getting off of Ritalin. So thatís a possibility.

LG: Was someone else taking his medication?

JMB: Not to my knowledge, no.

LG: Were you ingesting the Ritalin?

JMB: Oh no, why I couldnít do any type of amphetamine or any type of thing like that with the brain tumors that I have and the heart rate. It would be, you know, it could kill any time at all.

LG: Were your medical records subpoenaed with regard to your claims that youíve had a brain tumor and--

JMB: Yes, the prosecuting attorney Brent Davis.

LG: Were you able to produce this?

JMB: They werenít asked for, Brent Davis had íem. They were the copies of the MRIs, and the CAT scans, and the blood work, and the doctors-- two renowned neurosurgeons-- to say what my condition was. And because of all the mental and emotional anguish that I have suffered and been through, I am currently under a doctorís care to help sleep and depression. Iím just real emotional and stuff.

LG: Two of the boys were found to have, One of them at least, some bruising on his genitals that would indicate that either someone else had been sexually stimulating him, or he had been stimulating himself. At any rate, the sexual appearance is that these were over-sexualized little boys. Do you feel, had there been any evidence, that would indicate that these little boys were having relations with each other?

JMB: Leeza, that would be pure speculation. These three eight-year-old boys were into skateboards, driving bicycles, playing with GI Joe toys. They were eight years old and I know my son had never been exposed to any type of thing like that through magazines, TV or whatever because we didnít allow it in the house. And the neighbor across the street, the Moores, I donít think so. And the Hobbs were very devout churchgoing people. All three of us (sic) were and that type of material would not have been in there. So where I think that could have come from, all the three were hog-tied in a similar fashion, but there were two knots tied one way, and one knot tied another according to the experts. Which meant one person tied up two of them, one person ties another because the knots revolved in the things that they have it (sic). And Jessie Misskelley told them things that only someone out there would know.

LG: But he also told them things like, there were so many discrepancies. What was used to tie up the boys, what he said wasnít exactly what was used-- he got a lot of facts wrong. And if he admitted he did it with the boys, wouldnít he know it?

JMB: I would imagine because like I said, he was the only one that appeared to have a little decency. He might not have been totally aware of everything that was going to go on. But I have seen and known as you have, many people that confess to a crime theyíre in, they want to lessen the part that they did, and add more to what the other did to make themself (sic) not look so badly. So I think he had enough nerve to say what he said, how their clothes were stuck down in the mud. They said it could have been somewhere else than a dump site, thereís no way. After a few weeks I went out there and the police told me it would be like after a nice -- You know how the leaves will just build up in a wooded area? [unintelligible] There was a steep bank up by the water and it was as clean as this glass top table. Not a leaf or anything on it. And they could not use it in court but Gary Gitchell showed me several Polaroid pictures that were taken at night with Luminol, and there were blood spatters everywhere. And the longs -- Damien Echols always wore a long, black trenchcoat in summer, he wore it all the time! That long duster turned up missing, now there was evidence that came out afterwards, that a shirt was found at Jessie Misskelleyís with two of the childrensí blood type on it, that didnít get entered into evidence. It was received by a loophole through the prosecution and was inadmissible. Uh, there was also a pair of tennis shoes that belonged to Jessie Misskelley who he gave to a friend because he couldnít stand to have íem anymore and he was going to testify for the prosecution. The defense got a ahold of íem and the shoes disappeared and that lost his testimony (sic).

LG: These boys may get a new trial. How do you feel about that?

JMB: I feel about, Jenny [I swear to god it sounds like that] truthfully, if they get a new trial, they get a new trial. That, in my opinion, will be a total waste of the taxpayerís dollars.

LG: What do you want to see happen to these boys?

JMB: Ultimately, to stand by their gravesides.

LG: You want them all on death row?

JMB: Yeah, well, one of íems on death row, and the other two are in general population so it really doesnít matter to me. As long as they are never released from jail would be fine but when theyíre gone, I made a promise to God to live long enough just to see them dead. Thatíll be some closure to me. Iím talking about occult, wicca, those other so-named bands ((sic), they are real, they are out there. Manson1s not preaching Jesus loves you, heís preaching death, suicide, all types of garbage. Now Marilyn Manson is going to be an idol and someone our teens look up to? What type of chaos do you think weíre in for? This is not rare, a satanic ritual happening somewhere, itís rare it happened in a small town and got found! Itís not rare because it happens all across America or the world for that matter!

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