On May 5, 1993, three eight year old boys were reported missing. The victims were Steve Branch, Christopher Byers , and Michael Moore who were all eight years old. They were reportedly last seen riding their bicycles into the Robin Hood Hills neighborhood. Their parents got really worried and decided to submit an missing child report. The same night the parents submitted the missing child's report, an unofficial search party had formed to look for the boys. The group did not find any evidence. The next day, the police found the bodies of all three boys were found naked, hogtied and lying in a creek. The autopsies showed that the boys had been severely beaten and cut which were contributing factors in all three deaths. It was further determined that Steve Branch and Michael Moore had drowned. Christopher Byers had more serious injuries than the other boys. His was genitally mutilated by his killer
Three teenagers were accused of the murders. Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and Jason Baldwin were wrongfully accused for the murders they never committed. They were well-known tastes for pop satanism like, books on witchcraft, Metallica records and were charged with the crime. The confession of Jessie Misskelley, a 17-year-old, implicated two of his friends, Jason Baldwin, 16, and Damien Echols, 18 committed the murders.The arrests unleashed a wave of cathartic hatred from the victims' families, who became instant local celebrities in the process. John Mark Byers, the stepfather of another victim, released his feelings toward his sons death. He wanted to kill those three innocent teenagers. John Byers wanted them dead.
"Johnny Cash wears black, doesn't he?"
Damien's father asked trying to defend his son against the charge of wearing sinister clothes. It soon became clear that this case had a complicated, unpredictable life of its own. These boys were being charged by the music they enjoy listening to and the color they wear. There was no evidence to tie the boys to the murders yet they were still charged because the way they expressed themselves was a way to charge the innocent boys.
The state's case is based on Jesse's testimony and the defense argues that the statements made by Jesse contained only facts first supplied to him by the police, and there is a fascinating cross-examination in which a police transcript shows Jesse shifting the time of the crimes from morning to noon to after school to evening under leading suggestions by police. Jesse trial was split off from the others, was found guilty and sentenced to life plus 40 years. He was offered a reduced sentence if he would testify at the trial of the other two teenagers, but refused. His mother says she told him she would be sitting right there in the courtroom, and didn't want to hear him lie.
At the trial of Damien and Jason, evidence of the satanic orientation of the murders is supplied by a state “expert occultist” who turns out to have his degrees from a mail-order university that did not require any classes or schoolwork. For the defense, a pathologist testifies that it would be so difficult to carry out the precise mutilations on one of the boys that he couldn't do it himself, not without the right scalpel, and certainly not win the dark or in muddy water.
The documentary interviews someone as a boyfriend, girlfriend, stepfather, stepmother, ex-wife or ex-husband. The parents of the murdered children are quick to believe the theories about the crime, and unforgiving. One mother says of Damien, “He deserves to be tortured for the rest of his life.” She curses not only the defendants, “but the mothers that bore them.” John Mark Byers, stepfather of one of the victims, who earlier has been seen in a video at the crime scene, re-creating the crimes in detail. John Byers gives the filmmakers a knife, they turn it over to the state. Crime lab reports show traces of blood that apparently came from the step father and son. At the end the verdict says they were all sentenced for life and Damien is getting death row. The West Memphis three fought for their case. At the end, after 18 years in prison the boys had to agree with the Alford Plea, which mandates that the state of Arkansas admits to no wrongdoing while allowing the WM3 to plead innocent, yet still remain guilty on court.