My interest in true crime started here. I saw Paradise Lost on HBO and was shook. I don’t remember a lot about the documentary, but I remember being captivated and horrified. I had no idea whether or not the West Memphis 3 did the crime, but I definitely saw issues with the case.
As time has passed, my interest has grown. I’ve listened to podcasts, watched the follow up installments of Paradise Lost and have dug through case evidence. So why not add one more item to my list of references. After reading several Reddit threads, this book seems to be the most well-received by the WM3 community. Although it was published before the WM3 were released, it provides excellent insight into the case.
The book follows the initial investigation of the teens and how they were eventually arrested and convicted. The police were well aware of Damien, and he had been on their radar for quite some time for being “disturbing.” He had been in and out of mental hospitals a few times. He had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was medicated. Jason Baldwin, however, was a good kid. He was never in trouble, made good grades, and most people liked him. Jessie Misskelley was a high school dropout with an IQ of around 70, making him at about a second-grader’s level of intelligence. He was constantly in trouble, was always fighting, and had a lot of difficulty keeping a job.
Through a series of ridiculous events, the three boys are arrested for the murders. Jessie was goaded into a confession, and even though he got a lot of the details wrong, the police used it as evidence. Basically, the three boys were viewed as Satan worshippers because they wore black, listened to Metallica, and weren’t good Christians like most everyone else. Oh, and Damien read Stephen King. (Where is my eye roll emoji when I need one?)
After the arrests, the book then follows both trials. Jessie’s was first, then Damien and Jason were tried together in the second trial. This book was great. It was well-researched, well-written, and full of detail. It took me a long time to get through because there’s no skimming a book like this. There are also around 400 endnotes that you MUST read to get the whole story. I ended up using two bookmarks- one for where I was in the book, and one for where I was in the endnotes. But I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in true crime or the case itself. It’s an excellent look at the justice system.