Investigation Discovery’s new special The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery will explore one of the most chilling crimes in recent history: the 1993 murders of three eight-year-old boys, and the trio of friends convicted of their slayings. Following their release from prison in 2011, one of the defendants Jason Baldwin reveals the new forensic evidence “gave him so much hope” in a sneak peek video obtained exclusively by In Touch. Learn all about “the West Memphis Three,” Damien EcholsJessie Misskelley Jr. and Baldwin, below.

What Led to Their Arrests?

Back in 1993, the parents of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers were devastated to discover the boys had been brutally murdered in a drainage creek. Police discovered the bodies with their hands and feet tied, and a preliminary autopsy report determined their cause of death was blows to the head. A circle of friends quickly stood out to investigators amid beliefs they were practicing satanic rituals. Echols, Misskelley Jr. and Baldwin were convicted as teenagers in 1994, after they all entered not guilty pleas.

West Memphis Three
Courtesy of Investigation Discovery

What Were Their Sentences?

Echols and Baldwin were tried together in 1994 because of the “Bruton rule,” meaning Misskelley Jr.’s confession could not be admitted against his codefendants, which resulted in him having his own trial.

Echols was given a death sentence and Baldwin was sentenced to life imprisonment. “Everybody is wanting me to die in the most horrible ways,” Baldwin says about the lynch mob mentality at the time.

Misskelley Jr. was sentenced to life imprisonment plus two 20-year sentences.

How Did They Get Released From Prison?

In 2007, compelling new forensic evidence was discovered “out of the blue,” as one woman mentions in the clip. Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley Jr. later entered Alford pleas, “whereby a defendant in a criminal case does not admit to the criminal act and asserts innocence.” After being incarcerated for nearly 18 years, all three men were released from prison in 2011.

The West Memphis Three: An ID Murder Mystery premieres Sunday, April 5 at 9/8c on Investigation Discovery.

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