A literary prequel… THE BEGINNING: On May fifth, nineteen-ninety-three, in West Memphis Arkansas, three eight year old boys were found murdered in a patch of woods in the back of a truck stop. ..
The chief juvenile Officer had an idea of who might be a suspect. He had been keeping his eyes on him for the last year. Now, the Officer was determined to watch him even closer. He was seventeen at this time. He had long coal black hair and dark brown eyes. He was known as an outsider who wore solid black and a long black trench coat. He wrote dark and sometimes depressing poetry and was manic depressant. He mostly kept to himself, other than a small group of friends and a girlfriend. He also had a liking for heavy metal music and skateboarding. He was raised on Horror movies and loved to read. Especially Stephen King. His name was Micheal Hutchinson. He was later and better known as his desired name, which he had changed, to Damien Echols. Damien, his best friend, Jason Baldwin and another local youth, Jessie Misskelley Jr. were accused for the crime and sentenced to life in prison and one awaits lethal injection on Arkansas Death Row. Some say they are in the right place, others say they are innocent… They are now known as The West Memphis Three.
During the whole trial and a year leading up to it, HBO filmed an award winning documentary called Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. This documentary aired in 1996 and got many others involved in the case. It was directed by Joe Berlinger ( Book of Shadows: The Blair witch Project 2) and Bruce Sinofsky, who collectively directed the documentaries Brother’s Keeper (prior to) and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (afterwards).
The entire length of both documentaries are accompanied by the soundtrack of Metallica throughout. From Ride the Lightening… To the newer stuff. Metallica was also a big part of these three boys’ conviction. The band was intrigued by the story and let HBO use their music for free for this film. Jason Newstead can still be seen sporting the Free the West Memphis Three T-shirts.
Paradise Lost: The Child murders at Robin Hood Hills is a chilling documentary that follows the court case as it unfolds in the eyes of the city and soon the world (continued in Paradise Lost 2: Revelations). This gripping footage shows from the discovery of the bodies… to the incarceration of the three young men and the following effects it now has on many.
There are interviews with the victims’ families… As well as the families of the convicted, and the three teens (now men) convicted themselves. It does not leave a bias feeling, but a sense of wonder and question. It captures both loving sides of the parents, as well as angry and vengeful. From tears shed in a cemetery, to the blasting of a pumpkin with the three convicted in mind. It details heart wrenching footage of a support group meeting of victims’ families in which two families of this case are present.
The court footage is true crime drama documentation (or “Doc-u-rama”) at it’s best. It raises many questions early on in the case. The mood in the court room goes from saddened… to suspicion… to wonder… to absolute ridiculousness, such as a police officer (Well…department) losing valuable evidence and going through a drive-through to investigate a crime scene… to a knife given to HBO by one of the victims’ fathers, with blood between the handle and blade, matching his DNA. I will not ruin this for you… Watch this documentary and it’s just as gripping sequel and decide for yourselves…”WITCH-CRAFT… OR WITCH-HUNT?
Paradise Lost: The Child Hood murders at Robin Hood Hills is a must see for anyone who is into true crime and can spot true injustice when it is right before their very eyes. I give this documentary FOUR HORNS UP… Stay tuned next week for my review of the riveting sequel… Paradise Lost 2: Revelations. Until then, this is Jay…”Keep one foot in the grave, one fist in the guts and your eyes out for blood! Later!”
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders (1996)