Satanic Panic in the South
On the evening of May 5, 1993, three boys from West Memphis, Arkansas, were last seen riding their bikes together. In the early evening, Chris Byers' stepfather, John Mark Byers, reported that his stepson had not come home and he was becoming worried. The police were also notified of two other boys who had been with Chris and were considered missing, Michael Moore, and Stevie Branch. The police and the parents of the missing children searched the neighborhood unsuccessfully until 3AM the next morning. The bodies of the three eight year old boys were discovered in a wooded area in Robin Hood Hills the next day at 1:30 PM. The boys had been hog-tied and severely beaten. Their naked bodies were located in a shallow creek in an isolated patch of woods behind the Blue Beacon truck wash. However, the question that remains until this day is whether justice was served in this case. Perhaps you are not familiar with the West Memphis Three, otherwise known as the Robin Hood Hill Murders. Most people would not of heard of this case unless they were citizens of the small town; however, HBO produced a documentary, "Paradise Lost," which graphically showed this case in a different light. This Peabody Award winning documentary brought the story of this crime and its aftermath into the national spotlight in 1996. The implication it left was that satanic panic, public hysteria and media sensationalism was responsible for the convictions in the case, not solid evidence. This is a shattering account of what a fundamentalist community in the south can accomplish toward the blatant destruction of American justice.
West Memphis is a predominantly Southern Baptist town in Eastern Arkansas. Most citizens of West Memphis are typical of other small towns across the country- poor, undereducated, and unwilling to accept anything that appears to be unlike them. The actions and reactions to this crime are classic examples of how rumors are passed on as the truth. Webster's defines 'witch hunt' as an intensive effort to discover and expose those who are disloyal, subversive, etc.…. on the basis of slight or doubtful evidence. The case and trial of the West Memphis Three was a present day 'witch hunt'.
Since the early 1980's, many police officers have attended seminars on Satanic Ritual Abuse and Murder. People have been taught that an underground network of Satanic cults kidnap, torture, and kill children in their rituals; however, there has been no evidence found to substantiate these claims. A juvenile probation officer that was present at the crime scene behind the Blue Beacon felt this scene was a prime example of Satanic Ritual Murder. This officer had recently attended a conference on Satanism in today's society, so the thought of satanic criminals was fresh in his mind. The officer immediately felt there was only one person in their community that would be capable of committing a crime that...