Jonathan Silberberg/HBO/AP
Documentary filmmakers Joe Berlinger (l.) and Bruce Sinofsky (r.) pose with former inmate and West Memphis Three member Jason Baldwin as they hold copies of the Commercial Appeal newspaper with a headline "3 Walk Free," in a scene from the documentary "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory."

West Memphis Three: $100,000 reward offered to clear their names

The West Memphis Three, convicted of killing three Cub Scouts, were released last year but not exonerated. A new $100,000 reward aims to clear their names.

Activists hope a $100,000 reward, offered by an anonymous donor on Tuesday, leads to an arrest and conviction in the West Memphis Three case.

The three men originally arrested in the 1993 murders of three Cub Scouts in West Memphis, Ark., were released last August after 18 years in prison. They offered an “Alford plea,” in which the three actively claimed innocence, but pleaded guilty for freedom in exchange for time already served.

The murders were described as Satanic and gruesome at the time, but no physical evidence, including DNA, linked the men, who were then teenagers, to the crime.

The three men – Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley – became a cause célèbre within parts of Hollywood and the music industry, with stars ranging from actor Sean Penn to singer Eddie Vedder championing their cause. Since their relese in August, the three men have led a whirlwind life of attending celebrity parties, learning 21st century technology, and coping with freedom. 

But West Memphis Three supporters want the men to have a clear name and won’t stop until the real murderer, or murderers, is behind bars.

“We know Damien, Jason and Jessie were not involved in this crime, and that those responsible are still in our community,” says Capi Peck, a founder of Arkansas Take Action, a group of concerned citizens seeking justice in case. “It may be difficult to provide information about a murder, but it is the right thing to do.”

In January, the defense team said that it had new evidence against Terry Hobbs, one of the Cub Scouts’ stepfather. Mr. Hobbs’s nephew allegedly told his friends that his uncle killed the three boys. The friends underwent polygraph tests. They passed the tests, according to the defense team.

Hobbs’s DNA has also been linked to the crime scene in previous investigations. Hobbs, however, has always maintained his innocence.

Billboards and radio advertising will promote the reward. A confidential tip line has also been created.

In 1993, a $30,000 reward was offered by the West Memphis Police Department. That reward contributed to luring Mr. Misskelley into a police interrogation that resulted in him falsely confessing to the crime and implicating Messrs. Echols and Baldwin.

Hollywood attention is continuing to keep the case in the limelight.

An HBO documentary, "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory," was nominated for an Academy Award on Sunday. Another documentary, "West of Memphis," spearheaded by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January. A movie, based on a book about the case, is in the works with Reese Witherspoon and Colin Firth reportedly starring.

The case could even become an issue during the state’s 2012 political season if Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington, who signed off on the Alford plea, decides to run for Congress in the First District’s Democratic primary. The deadline for filing is Thursday.

 “We are continuing to look at evidence brought to us by the defense team,” Mr. Ellington says. “If I decide to run, I’m certain I can address the questions people have about this case.”

The West Memphis Three saga continues to capture people’s attention globally.

Numerous websites follow the three men’s every move. Baldwin recently attended the Cinema for Peace Gala in Berlin and Sunday’s Academy Award ceremony. Echols, who served his time on death row, has recorded songs with Patti Smith, got a tattoo with actor Johnny Depp, and traveled to New Zealand to visit Peter Jackson. Misskelley lives a quiet life in West Memphis.

The enduring interest is now less about celebrity attention and more about finding a killer.

“Consider what's left: three unsolved murders,” says Brian Gallini, a law professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville. “I think society, for good reason, is uncomfortable with, one, leaving such a high-profile case unsolved, and, two, implicitly telling the killer that she or he got away with murder. If these three defendants did not commit the crime, then who did?”

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to West Memphis Three: $100,000 reward offered to clear their names
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today