JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington is now speaking to the media about the possible new evidence in the West Memphis 3 case.
Ellington met exclusively with Region 8 News Monday morning and said while his phone rang off the hook Friday, he's yet to receive anything from the WM3 defense team. "They called my office, and we hadn't received anything via Fedex, UPS, or pony express. We didn't receive anything and as of today, just after 10am on Monday, I have yet to receive anything from the West Memphis 3 Defense team," Ellington said.
Until the documents can be reviewed, Ellington says there's really not much more he can say about the case.
On Friday new information links the stepfather of one of the victims to the murders, and it's not the first time. But the defense is hoping the new development will re-open the case.
"About three years ago we set up a confidential tip line." said Lonnie Soury with the WM3 Defense Team. It was that tip line, which Soury says now, has new information surfacing in a case that's been ongoing for over two decades.
"This recent call came December 11th on our tip line from a man who says he was told by Terry Hobbs' nephew, that the Hobbs family secret is that Terry Hobbs killed the three children," said Soury.
This isn't the first time WM3 Defense Team has pointed the finger at Terry Hobbs, the step father of Stevie Branch. Just a few years ago, DNA evidence was found at the scene that links Hobbs to the crime scene. With this new information, the defense continues to build their case to trace Hobbs to the murders. "We took him and two other gentlemen, who had separate information, from over the past few years to Washington. We polygraph tested them and we took sworn statements," said Soury.
While the new information is just hear-say, Soury says it could hold up in court. "It is credible information that we are providing prosecutors. If this case was re-opened, these young men could testify. Hear-say is evidence. Judges routinely allow hear-say in," said Soury.
Damien Echols' Attorney Patrick Benca says he fully puts his faith behind the new information from three new witnesses. "Yes, absolutely. No doubt about it. That was confirmed not only with our investigators, which initially came away with a strong belief that they were telling the truth, but then the follow polygraph examination," said Benca.
A Memphis newspaper, who reached out the Hobbs family Friday, says when Michael Hobbs Sr. heard about the allegations, he laughed and said his son's three friends "made it up" after a falling out. But the defense team calls this new evidence critical in clearing the names Echols, Baldwin, and Misskelley, who pleaded guilty in August 2011 in order to walk free.
As for Soury, he's waiting to hear a response from District Attorney Scott Ellington. "We are requesting that Prosecutor Ellington take the evidence and take it the next step further; find out what the Hobbs family knows about the murders of these three children," said Soury.
Lonnie Soury, president of Soury Communications, Inc., has released a statement about the witnesses which can be read below:
(Mountain Home, Arkansas – January 20, 2012) Terry Hobbs' nephew, Michael Hobbs Jr., allegedly told his friends "my uncle Terry murdered those three little boys," according to declarations under penalty of perjury recently given to Damien Echols' defense team. The three new witnesses were polygraphed about what they stated Michael Hobbs, Jr. told them.
"One day Michael picked us up in his truck. He was very quiet and upset. Michael then said to us, 'you are not going to believe what my dad told me today. My Uncle Terry murdered the three little boys.' According to Michael, his dad called this 'The Hobbs Family Secret' and he asked us to keep it a secret and not tell anyone."
Another witness stated, "One night last winter, Michael and I were playing pool in his basement when the third friend asked about the West Memphis Three case which had been in the news. Michael responded by saying, 'My uncle killed three kids in West Memphis.' Michael was dead serious when he said this."
The three little boys referenced in the declarations were found brutally murdered in West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. DNA consistent with Terry Hobbs, stepfather of victim Stevie Branch, was later discovered in the knot of a shoelace used to restrain victim Michael Moore. Three eyewitnesses have also provided sworn statements that they saw Terry Hobbs with the three children on the day of the murders, immediately before they disappeared. Terry Hobbs has maintained that he never saw the three boys the day they were murdered.
A third witness stated that he was at Michael Hobbs Jr's home in 2003 or 2004 when he was told by Hobbs Jr. that the two of them could not go down to the basement to play pool because Michael Hobbs Sr. was down there having a conversation with Hobbs Jr.'s uncle. The witness said that he " listened with Michael Jr. at the top of the stairs. I heard two men talking. One appeared to be very upset even crying and he said 'I am sorry, I regret it.' The other man was trying to console him and said, 'You are in the clear, no one thinks you are a suspect, those guys are already in prison.'"
Echols' attorney, Stephen Braga of Ropes & Gray, said: "This is critical new information which reveals that the people closest to Terry Hobbs, his family members, may know much more about Terry's involvement in the West Memphis Three case than they have ever acknowledged. If this is the Hobbs Family Secret, then what a horrific cost that secrecy has imposed on the lives of so many people – perhaps most significantly Pam Hobbs who deserves to know what really happened to Stevie on the night of the murders, as do the Byers and Moore families. With the secret now out, let's hope that someone in the Hobbs family has the heart, the soul and the courage to come forward to tell the truth directly. In the meantime, I have given our investigative materials concerning these new witnesses – along with other related information - to District Attorney Scott Ellington for his review and action."
The new witnesses came forward after seeing a recording of the CBS News 48 Hours special on the West Memphis 3 case. At the end of that broadcast, attorney Stephen Braga was asked what's next in the effort to gain exoneration for the three after their plea deal. He responded: "Hopefully, some day we will find that smoking gun, that key piece of inculpatory DNA or a deathbed confession or a witness will come forward and say, "You know, this is really what happened."
Hearing those words moved the new witnesses to contact the West Memphis 3 Confidential Tip Line just a few weeks ago. The new witnesses were then interviewed by the Echols' defense team, signed declarations under penalty of perjury and passed polygraph examinations concerning what they say Michael Hobbs Jr. told them.
The Confidential Tip Line number is (501) 256-1775.