Steve "Stevie" Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore were only 8 years old when they were discovered dead in a West Memphis, Arkansas bayou in 1993.
While another trio of boys — teens Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. — were later convicted of the murders, they were ultimately released from prison in 2011 after it became clear no physical evidence linked them to the boys’ deaths.
So, who is responsible for the murders of Branch, Byers, and Moore? No one knows for sure — but the last person who saw the victims alive on May 5, 1993 could possibly hold the key to unmasking the identity of the one who took their lives.
“The Forgotten West Memphis Three,” streaming now on Oxygen, is trying to find justice for all the boys in this case. Part of that mission includes pinpointing who saw the boys last before their mysterious killer.
Host and investigator Bob Ruff theorized this witness could be one of two people: Jamie Clark Ballard or Carlos Seals.
Jamie Clark Ballard
Jamie Clark Ballard lived a couple doors down from Branch’s family. She stated in a 2009 affidavit that she saw all three boys playing in her backyard the night they were murdered from about 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
At around 6:30 p.m., they sped off on their bikes, according to her affidavit.
She declined to speak with Ruff for the show.
Carlos Seals was in junior high school at the time of the boys’ murder. Police spoke to him during their initial canvassing efforts, but Ruff said that paperwork didn’t note what he actually told them.
Ruff tracked down Seals, who told him, "I think I may have been the last person to see them that day before, you know, the incident.”
Seals told Ruff that he saw Byers with his two friends on bikes at around 5:30 p.m. or 6 p.m., and that they were all carrying sleeping bags. Seals claimed the boys said they were going camping in the woods.
If the sleeping bag detail is true, it’s an element of the case that has never been reported before.
Another witness and associate of Seals, Bobby Posey, told Ruff that Byers came to his home around 3:30 p.m. that day to tell him that his dad had “whipped him” and that he was going to run away.
Seals’ timeline of events conflicts with Ballard’s sighting, so Ruff tried to figure out which one he believed would be more credible.
By speaking with Byers’ brother, Ryan Clark, Ruff also learned of another possible discrepancy in Ballard’s statement.
On the day of the murders, Ballard said she walked home from school with Clark, but he told Ruff that was impossible because he went to court for an unrelated matter directly after school.
Ballard had also claimed in her affidavit that she spoke to Clark about Byers’ death at school the following day, which is a conversation Clark said never happened. In fact, Clark called her recollection “false” and “dreamed up,” claiming he did not go to school that day.
Because Clark’s court appearance was corroborated by police records, Ruff thinks that Seals’ account was the most accurate.
"Of all the people that I've spoken to throughout my investigation, I believe that Carlos Seals was the last credible witness to see the boys alive,” he said.
To learn more, watch “The Forgotten West Memphis Three” now on Oxygen.
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