Reviving an investigation that ended 14 years ago, West Memphis police recently questioned the mother and stepfather of Stevie Branch, one of three 8-year-old boys murdered in 1993. Three teenagers were convicted of the killings.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Stevie’s stepfather, Terry Hobbs, confirmed that West Memphis police had videotaped an interview with him within the last three weeks. Pam Hobbs, Stevie’s mother, also said she had been interviewed by police. The Hobbses are now divorced.
Terry Hobbs, who lives in Bartlett, Tenn., said police requested the interview with him as a result of recent DNA tests on items found with the bodies. Prior to the police interview, he said, he had been informed of the test results by Ron Lax, a Memphis private investigator.
Terry Hobbs said, “Ron claims that a piece of my hair is in the knots that tied up [victim] Michael Moore.”
“Does that bother me?” Hobbs continued. “No, ma’am, it does not. Why? Because I don’t believe a thing he has to say because he’s working for the defense team. And because if my DNA was at the crime scene, I think [Prosecuting Attorney] Brent Davis would be the one to call me about that, and not Ron Lax.”
Attorneys for the convicted men have said no DNA was found that matches their clients.
Terry Hobbs said police asked him “a bunch of questions” about his activities on May 5, 1993 — the day Stevie, Michael and Christopher Byers, the third victim, disappeared — and the following day, when the boys’ bodies were discovered submerged in a drainage ditch. He declined to answer further questions about what he was asked by police.
Pam Hobbs, who lives in Blytheville, said a lieutenant for the West Memphis Police Department also questioned her about her family’s activities around the time of the slayings. In the last couple of months, she has stated publicly that she now believes that the men convicted of the murders — Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr . — are not guilty.
“We have stages of grieving that we go through,” she said. “I guess I came to forgiveness. I’ve always wanted to know the truth, and when I was called by the defense — knowing the DNA was being retested — I guess that was the big eye-opener.”
Pam Hobbs said she “chose to believe all those years” that Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley were guilty, despite her realization during the trials that the prosecutors “didn’t have anything” and persistent doubts afterwards that the defendants “were smart enough or hateful enough to have done it by themselves and clean it up.”
The state medical examiner ruled that Stevie and Michael died by drowning and that Christopher, who’d suffered stab wounds to his groin, died from loss of blood.
Pam Hobbs said that in 2002, at a point when she and Terry Hobbs were separating, she sent a package containing “14 or 15 knives” owned by her husband to one of the defense lawyers.
Pam Hobbs said that she had done so after discovering among the knives “a little pocket knife” that her father had given to Stevie.
She said Stevie “carried it around with him all the time, because it was like part of his granddaddy. He would have had it May the fifth. He carried it with him from the day my daddy gave it to him until the day he was murdered.”