Isn`t it odd that what really happened in West Memphis, Arkansas on May 5, 1993 is just now coming to light? When I saw that West of Memphis (directed by Amy J. Berg) was showing at the Arbor in North Austin, I thought to myself, `I probably won`t go see it, since it will simply repeat everything I already know.` I`ve been following this case carefully for a number of years, and while I don`t consider myself an expert, I do have a good grip on the multi-layered social, criminal, and judicial ramifications of the Memphis Three. I`ve written several pieces on the case in various stages of its ever changing evolution.
Well, I did get out of the house (I had a bad case of cabin fever) on Sunday afternoon and trekked my way up to North Austin to see the documentary, more out of curiosity than anything else. It took me by surprise, there was so much new evidence here, things I`d never heard before! It runs 147 minutes, but you`d never know it, since there`s no filler; especially good for someone like me, who`s seen all the Paradise Lost parts many times over, read and own the Devil`s Knot by Mara Leveritt, and has plundered the internet ravenously for details regarding the case.
Much of West of Memphis covers the best remaining suspect (who was most likely the real killer of the three boys), Terry Hobbs, who was married to Pamela Hobbs in May of 1993, and was the stepfather to Stevie Branch. We`re really getting into the thick of the problems here, going down in the Hobbs` household, back in those times. We also learn much more about how bad Terry Hobbs acted back then and we get details of his criminal past (I must confess, I`d never heard much of this prior to last Sunday).
The most important question we might ask, is why didn`t Terry Hobbs` criminal profile see the light of day around that time, the early summer of 1993? Maybe it did, but was pushed under the rug by the witch-hunting prosecution team of West Memphis. Everything about this case is weird, yet I wonder whether Pam was suspicious of Terry, even in those early moments, just after the boys bodies were discovered in the Robin Hood woods. Most chilling, was a stepdaughter (pardon me, I forget her name) saw Terry using bleach doing his laundry the night they disappeared.
My favorite (fairly) new incriminating evidence, is the testimony of Jamie Clark Ballard, who actually saw the boys in her backyard at about 6:30 PM (or was it precisely at 6:30 PM?) on the day they vanished when riding their bikes. Moreover, Jamie Ballard can link Terry Hobbs as being the last person who was with the boys on that early May eve. Terry calls for the boys to come home; was he angry with Stevie at that point? Why didn`t Jamie Ballard`s revelation see the light of day at the original time of the crimes?
And then we have Pam`s haunting memory of Stevie`s beloved pocketknife. Pam wondered why his pocketknife wasn`t found in his pants. She suspected the killer must have taken it; only to find out later, her husband had it. I believe Pam was suspicious of Terry very early on, but put it aside in her mind; in denial, you might say. Did she know of the sexual abuse of her children by Hobbs? Although it is revealed in the film, she knew Terry hated Stevie, and was possibly jealous of her love for her boy.
The madness (between Terry and Pam) finally ends in November of 1994 when Terry shoots Pam`s brother, Jackie Jr. Hicks. We also learn of Hobbs` harrowing home invasion of Mildred French (I`m still looking for a date and place for this prior). Finally, and this is the ultimate shocker, along with the ravenous giant turtles snapping away at fleshy body parts, we learn that Terry had actually confessed to having killed the boys to his brother. Yet the oddest thing of all to me, is seeing news footage of Terry Hobbs at the time of the crime, and realizing he was acting his way through the consequential pandemonium, or Satanic Panic that followed! Nothin` is stranger.
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