Statement Analysis®

Jesse Misskelley's Confession


On June 3, 1993, detectives from the West Memphis Arkansas Police Department interviewed Jesse Misskelley. It has been reported that the interview lasted for several hours and Misskelley did not have an attorney present. An attorney is not required unless a suspect asks for one. The interview was not recorded except for his confession. Let's see what Jesse Misskelley said happened the day the three little boys were killed. Here are some excerpts from his confession.

Detective Ridge: Okay, what occurred while you were there?

Misskelley: When I was there, I saw Damien hit this one, hit this one boy real bad, and then uh, and then he started screwing them and stuff and then uh,

As he tells his story, Misskelley repeats the phrase "hit this one." This repetition shows us he is slowing the pace of his story so he can think about what he should say. This usually indicates the story is not coming from memory but he is thinking about what to make up.

Misskelley used the word "this" to refer to one of the boys. While this word indicates specificity (as in how I just used it) it also shows closeness. We would not expect him to use language that brings him close a murder victim. He could have said, "I saw Damien hit one boy real bad" or "I saw Damien hit one of the boys real bad."

He again repeats himself, "then uh, and then" showing us he is thinking about what to say.

When the word "started" is used with another verb, it means the act was not completed. For example, in the statement, "I started cutting the grass" the person is telling us he did not finish mowing. If the person does not tell why the action was stopped, we have some undisclosed information. In the statement, "I started cutting the grass but then I ran out of gasoline" we know why the person stopped cutting the grass. Misskelley states that Damien "started screwing them." Had he said, "Damien screwed them" the act would have been completed. By using the word "started," Misskelley has withheld some information as to why Damien stopped screwing them. The information he is witholding could be he is making up the story. He also tells us that Damien screwed more than one boy - "them."

Misskelley again withholds some information because he does not tell us what he means when he uses the word "stuff."

He ends his statement with "uh" showing us he is pausing to think about what to say next.

Detective Ridge: Alright, you got in front of you a picture that was taken out of the newspaper I believe, it's got three boys and these are the three boys that were killed on that date in Robin Hood Woods, okay. Which one of those three boys is it you say Damien hit? The third picture which will be,

It appears detective Ridge cut Misskelley off in his previous answer and then asked him about the pictures he had in front of him. Even if Misskelley had a long pause you should always let the subject finish his statement. You want to obtain a pure statement.

Misskelley: Michael Moore

Detective Gitchell: This boy right here,

Misskelley: Yeah,

Detective Gitchell: Alright, that's uh the Byers boy,

Misskelley: Christopher

Detective Gitchell: That's who you are pointing at?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm.

It appears detective Ridge pointed to Christopher Byers's picture and Misskelley identified him as Michael Moore. Detective Gitchell realized Misskelley has misidentified the picture so he asked him about it. When the detective mentions that is the "Byers boy" Misskelley confirms it.

Detective Ridge: If you read the captions, the grisly slain from left, 8 year old Michael Moore, Steven Branch and Christopher Byers. Okay, so you saw Damien strike Chris Byers in the head?

Misskelley: Right.

Detective Ridge: What did he hit him with?

Misskelley: He hit him with his fist and bruised him all up real bad, and then um Jason turned around and hit Steve Branch.

When you hit someone a bruise does not immediately appear. There could be some swelling and a red mark but a bruise with a blue and purple appearance would not appear until a day later. We would have to clarify what he meant when he used the word "bruised."

Detective Ridge: Okay

Misskelley: And started doing the same thing, then the other one took off, Michael uh Moore took off running, so I chased him and grabbed him and held him, til they got there and then I left.

Again we have the use of the word "started." In stating that Michael Moore ran off, he hesitates while stating his name. When looking at the pictures of the boys, he was able to mention Michael Moore's name without hesitation. Is he unsure of which boy ran off or did he pause because he is making up the story?

Misskelley was asked, "What occurred while you were there?" Therefore, he should only be telling us what happened. Explaining why something took place (so) is considered out-of-bounds.

He stated that he "held him till they got there." We will find that he will change this part of his story as the interview continues.

He concludes his answer with the word "left." When people use this word it often indicates sensitivity and the possibility they have withheld some information. Misskelley tells us he "left" but he does not state what happened after he left. Where did he go? What did he do?

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Detective Ridge: When he hits the first boy and then Jason hits another boy, and one takes off running,

Misskelley: And the other takes. . .

Detective Ridge: Where does he run to?

Misskelley: That one, he runs out, going out the, out the park and I chased him and grabbed him and brought him back.

Misskelley again stumbles on his language repeating three times what Michael Moore was doing. Earlier in his interview he said that he "held him till they got there and then I left." Now he contradicts himself and says that he "brought him back."

Detective Ridge: Which way does he go, I mean, does he go on back towards where the houses are

Misskelley: He goes on back. . .

Detective Ridge: He's going to Blue Beacon, is he going out towards the fields,

Misskelley: He's going,

Detective Ridge: Where's he running to?

Misskelley: Towards the houses.

Detective Ridge: Towards the houses?

Misskelley says Michael Moore was running towards the houses. This may be true but it was also suggested by the detective's question.

Detective Gitchell: Where the pipe is that goes across the water?

Misskelley: Yeah, he's running out there and I caught him and brought him back, and then I took off.

Misskelley again states that he brought Michael Moore back. He then says that he "took off." This is a change in language from his earlier statement where he said that he "left." There are no synonyms in Statement Analysis. The phrase "take off" and the word "left" do not mean the exact same thing. Truthful people will usually use the same language throughout their statement unless there is a justifiable reason for changing the language. A change in language means there was a change in reality.

Detective Ridge: Okay, when you came back a little bit later, and all three boys are tied?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm.

Detective Ridge: Is that right?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm, and then I took off and run home.

He uses the phrase "took off" again. Unlike his previous use of the word "left," he now tells us what he did after he took off; He went home. The word "run" is in the present tense. This indicates his story may not be coming from memory. If he was thinking about what happened, he should have said "ran home.

Detective Ridge: Alright, have they got their clothes on when you saw them tied?

Misskelley: Un-uh, they had them off.

Detective Ridge: They had already gotten them off. When he first hit the boy, when Damien first hit the first boy, did they have their clothes on then?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm.

Detective Ridge: Alright, when did they take their clothes off?

Misskelley: Right after I, they beat up all three of them, beat them up real bad.

Changing pronouns is an indication of deception. The deception could be that Misskelley beat the boys up. He then changed his language to indicate Echols and Baldwin beat them up. The deception could also be that he is making up this story. Because it is not coming from memory, he uses the wrong pronoun.

Detective Ridge: Beat them up real bad, and then they took their clothes off?

Misskelley: Mm-mm.

Detective Ridge: And then they tied them

Misskelley: Then they tied them up, tied their hands up, they started screwing them and stuff, cutting them and stuff, and I saw it and I turned around and looked, and then I took off running, I went home, then they called me and asked me, how come I didn't stay, I told them, I just couldn't.

Again we have the word "started."

Twice he used the word "stuff." The detectives did not clarify this by asking him what else was going on. Misskelley is either withholding information or because he is making up the story he has no details so he uses a passive word in describing their action.

"I saw it and I turned around and looked." This statement makes no sense. He may have been thinking about saying, "I saw it and I turned around and looked away." However, he did not say that.

Again he is telling us he left the crime scene. He is consistent in this portion of his statement in using the phrase "took off."

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Detective Ridge: Alright, you went home and about what time was it that all of this was taking place?

Misskelley: They call me up about

Detective Ridge: I'm not saying when they called you. I'm saying what time was it that you were actually there in the park?

Misskelley: I was there about twelve.

Detective Ridge: About noon?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm.

Detective Ridge: Okay, was it after school...had let out?

Misskelley: I didn't go to school.

Detective Ridge: Well, these little boys

Misskelley: They, they skipped school.

Detective Ridge: They skipped school?

Misskelley: They's going to catch their bus and stuff, and they's on their bikes and so,

Detective Ridge: Alright, they were on their bikes, where were the bikes at?

Misskelley uses present tense language with the word "call." If he was recalling the story from memory, he should have said "called."

Misskelley states he was in the woods around 12:00. The detective may have realized this does not fit the time frame of the murders so he asked for clarification; "About noon?" Misskelley confirms it was noon. It appears the detective tries to steer Misskelley towards a later time frame by asking him if it was after school had let out. Misskelley does not answer the detective's specific question with a "yes" or "no."

When the detective suggests that the three little boys were in school, Misskelley states the boys skipped school. The problem is he stuttered by repeating the word "they." He may have been flustered because his answers are not adding up or he may have been pausing for time to think about what to say.

The detective asked Misskelley if the boys skipped school. Again, he does not answer the specific question. Misskelley wants us to believe the boys missed their bus but he stops short of stating that. He also uses present tense language; "They's going" "They's on their bikes." If the boys were going to catch the bus to school, why would they be riding their bikes? Misskelley's explanation does not add up.

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Detective Gitchell: Now, did you say that the boys skipped school that day? These little boys did?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm,

Detective Gitchell: Are you sure?

Misskelley: They was going to catch the, going somewheres and like I said, Damien, Damien and nem left before I did, I told them I'd meet them there and stuff, I had to get ready, and I meet them there and it was early in the morning and so, they went ahead and met, met me, they went ahead went up there and then I come up, you know, later on behind them.

Misskelley wants us to believe the boys missed their bus so they skipped school and were in the woods around noon. The problem is he cannot bring himself to say the boys missed their bus. All he said was, "They was going to catch the." We cannot fill in the blanks for him.

He then uses the phrase "Like I said." Deceptive people will sometimes refer back to their previous statement as if this is evidence they are telling the truth. When we look at his previous statement he still did not tell us they missed their bus; "They's going to catch their bus and stuff."

He then repeats several words perhaps stalling for time to think about what to say next.

When people use the phrase "you know" they often want us to take for granted what they have said is true. However, we take nothing for granted and only believe what people tell us. On the other hand, some people may have a habit of using this phrase. Misskelley only uses this phrase five times which would not constitute a habit.

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Misskelley: I was there until they tied them up and then that's when I left, after they tied them up, I left.

Detective Gitchell: But, you saw them cutting on the boys,

Misskelley: I saw them cutting on them, and then they, they,

Detective Gitchell: So, what else, what else left is there, after that?

Misskelley: Then they laid the knife down beside them and I saw them tying them up and then that's when I left.

Detective Ridge: Were the boys conscious or were they,

Misskelley: They were unconscious then.

Detective Ridge: Unconscious.

Misskelley: And after I left they done more.

Detective Ridge: They done more.

Misskelley: They started screwing them again.

Detective Ridge: Okay, how were they screwing them when you saw them?

Misskelley: They, Jason stuck his in one of them's mouth and Damien was screwing one of them up the ass and stuff.

Detective Ridge:Okay, and the one that they were cutting the penis off of, did any of them, or cutting the penis or whatever was being done, did they have sex with him at all?

Misskelley: No

Detective Ridge: Did any one of them?

Misskelley: Jason did.

Detective Ridge: Jason did?

Misskelley: Jason was screwing him while Damien stuck his in his mouth and got a blow job.

Four times in this portion of his interview Misskelley states he "left" the scene of the crime. Throughout the entire interview, he repeats this 9 or 10 times.

He repeats the word "they" perhaps to give him some time to think about what to say. It appears he was not given the opportunity to finish his thought.

He tells us that Damien and Jason did more after he left. Later in the interview he will tell the detectives that the three of them have not discussed these murders. If that is true, then how does he know they did more to the little boys after he left?

Again he uses the word "started."

He changes his language from "they" to "Jason." Perhaps he does not remember or maybe he is making up the story.

When asked if they had sex with Christopher Byers, Misskelley answered "No." When asked a second time "Did any one of them?" he changes his answer and states that "Jason did." Why did he change his answer? It is doubtful he was initially trying to protect Jason. Maybe his memory was refreshed or maybe he sensed that "No" is not the answer the detectives were looking for.

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Detective Ridge: Okay, let me ask you something, now this is real serious and I want you to be real truthful, and I want you to think about it before you answer it, don't just say yes or no, real quick. I want you to think about it. Did you actually hit any of these boys?

Misskelley: No.

Detective Gitchell: Now, tell us the truth.

Misskelley: No.

Detective Ridge: Did you actually rape any of these boys?

Misskelley: No.

Detective Ridge: Did you actually kill any of these boys?

Misskelley: No.

Detective Ridge: Did you see any of the boys actually killed?

Misskelley: Yes.

Up to this point in the interview, Misskelley has answered questions in the positive with "Yes," "Yeah," "Right," "Mm-hmm" and "Positive." He answered questions in the negative with "No" and "Un-uh." The reason he answered all of these questions with a "yes" or "no" is because he was told to do so; "Don't just say yes or no, real quick."

Detective Ridge: Okay, which one did you see killed?

Misskelley: That one right there.

Detective Gitchell: Now, you're pointing to the Byers boy again?

Misskelley: Mm-hmm.

Detective Ridge: How was he actually killed?

Misskelley: He did, he choked him real bad like.

Detective Ridge: Choked him? Okay, what was he choking him with?

Misskelley: His hands, like a, like a stick, he had a big old stick, and he's kind of holding it over his neck.

Detective Ridge: Okay, so he was choking him to the point where he actually went unconscious, so at that point, you felt like he was dead?

Misskelley: Yeah

Misskelley goes back to answering questions with "Mm-hmm" and "Yeah" which is not as affirmative as saying "Yes."

He stumbles in his language; "He did, he choked him real bad like."

When asked what was he choked with, Misskelley states "His hands" and then repeats himself; "Like a, like a stick, he had a big old stick."

What does he mean when he says, "Kind of"? This shows us he is not committed to his statement that a stick was used to choke Christopher Byers. The evidence indicated that none of the boys were choked with an object. Here Misskelley's words, "He's kind of holding it over his neck," match the physical evidence that no stick was used to choke the boys.

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Detective Ridge: Okay. Has Jason and Damien talked to you since this happened?

Misskelley: Un-uh.

Detective Ridge: They haven't talked to you about this?

Misskelley: They, they, they hadn't said nothing around me, cause I'm around some of my friends, they don't say nothing.

Detective Ridge: When you've been by yourself, and I'm sure in the last three weeks you've been by yourself with them sometime.

Misskelley: You know Damien he just, he keeps on asking me how come I left and stuff and hadn't anybody said anything to me about it.

Misskelley stumbles in his language repeating the word "they."

He uses the word "cause" which means he is explaining something instead of telling us what happened.

The detectives know if these three teenagers committed these murders it would almost be impossible for them to have not talked about it. They also realized that Misskelley gave a weak answer stating he is always with some other friends which is why the three of them have not discussed the murders. The detectives then challenge him on this. Misskelley responds by saying "you know." The problem is we do not know. He has to tell us. He uses the word "just" to minimize what Damien is asking him. He then uses his favorite word "stuff" to withhold information.

The last part of his answer is strangely worded; "Hadn't anybody said anything to me about it." We believe what people tell us. If they did not commit these murders, then they would not have discussed their involvement.

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That same day the detectives would interview Misskelley a second time to clarify a few things. Two things stand out in this short second interview.

Detective Gitchell: Just sit there. Jessie, uh, when, when you got with the with the boys and with Jason and Baldwin when you three were in the woods and then the little boys come up, about what time was it? When the boys came up to the woods?

Misskelley: I would say it was about it was about five or six, five or six.

Detective Gitchell: Now, did you have your watch on at the time?

Misskelley: Un uh.

Detective Gitchell: You didn't have your watch on?

Misskelley: Un uh.

Detective Gitchell: Uh, alright you told me earlier around seven or eight or, which time is it?

Misskelley: It was seven or eight.

Detective Gitchell: Are are you sh -

Misskelley: I remember it was starting to get dark.

Detective Gitchell: Ok, it

Misskelley: I remember it was starting to get dark.

Detective Gitchell: Ok, well that clears it up. I didn't know, that's what I was wondering, was it getting dark or, or what.

Misskelley: We got up there at six but the boys come up when it was starting to get dark.

The detectives know Misskelley's time is off. They may have even known the three little boys were in school at the time Misskelley said they were in the woods. The detective asked him what time it was when the three little "boys came up to the woods." Misskelley now changes his statement and says that it was "five or six" as opposed to his earlier statement "I was there about twelve." Does he now have a better recollection or is he telling the detectives what they want to hear?

The detective then states that Misskelley earlier had told them it was "around seven or eight." He then asked Misskelley "Which time is it?" Misskelley responds "It was seven or eight." Again, he is changing the time of his story.

Misskelley then tries to justify the two different time references by saying Damien, Jason and himself got there at six but the little boys got there when it was starting to get dark which would make it around seven or eight. Just a few moments earlier he said the little boys got there at five or six.

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Detective Gitchell: Ok, and what did they use to tie them up?

Misskelley: A rope.

Detective Gitchell: Ok. What color was the rope?

Misskelley: Brown.

The boys were bound hands to ankles with their shoe strings. It is possible that Misskelley views shoe strings as being a rope. It is also possible that the shoe strings had mud on them making them look brown. It is also possible that he is just guessing.


Conclusion

Because Misskelley has an IQ of 72, this may account for some of his language. This may be the reason why he hesitates and repeats himself. This could be why he has withheld a lot of details, used present tense language and had some changing pronouns. However, his aptitude does not account for everything he said. If he was telling a truthful story, his language should still be consistent; did he leave or did he take off? His limited use of the phrase "you know" indicates he expects the detectives to take for granted what he is saying is true. He should remember if he held Michael Moore or if he brought him back after catching him. He should know approximately what time of day it was. Yet, his initial time reference is way off since the boys were still in school. He then changed the time he stated they were in the woods. His account of the injuries does not match the medical examiner's findings. He states numerous times that he "left" or "took off." When he mentions leaving the crime scene he usually changes his story. He said the boys were tied with a rope when they were actually tied with shoe strings.

The authorities believe the discrepancies in Misskelley's statement are due to the fact he is trying to minimize his involvement. However, his language indicates he was never there.


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