George Jared is a journalist who moved to the area just before the horrific West Memphis 3 murders and covered the case for the Jonesboro Sun. Over the years, he went from being convinced that Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley Jr., and Jason Baldwin were guilty of murdering the trio of 8-year-olds to thinking they were convicted on the basis of a false confession.
Jared interviewed Echols on death row. He has written, he says, more stories on the case than anyone else in the world. The culmination of all this work is the recent publication of Witches in West Memphis: The West Memphis Three and Another Story of False Confession. He'll have a booksigning at Novel on Saturday, December 2nd, 2 p.m.
The story of the West Memphis 3 has been told many times by now. How is your take unique?
I realized there was no scientific evidence tying them to the murders. My opinion morphed, and it was during this period that I interviewed Damien Echols while he still sat on Arkansas' Death Row.
Who are the "witches" of the title, and what does false confession have to do with the murder of the boys?
Many, including Damien Echols, have compared what happened to the West Memphis Three to the Salem Witch Trials, held about 300 years ago in Massachusetts. Supposed "witches" were burned at the stake with little or no proof of witchcraft, and often "false confessions" were leveled. In this case, there is no DNA or forensic evidence that ties the three to the murders. The center of the prosecution's case is a confession by Misskelley. He confessed several times, and each time he got critical facts wrong. To those who think the men are guilty, these confessions are the smoking gun evidence, even though they are highly inaccurate.
- Echols (left) and Jared
Do you have a theory who killed the boys?
Many West Memphis Three supporters think a stepfather to one of the boys killed them. A hair that is a strong DNA match for him was found in a ligature that bound one of the boys, and another hair that could be a DNA match for his alibi witness was found on a tree stump next to where the bodies were dumped. I interviewed his wife numerous times and she told me she thinks he took part in the killings. I've interviewed him several times, and he has denied any role in the boys' deaths.
George Jared signs "Witches in West Memphis" at Novel Saturday, December 2nd, 2 p.m.