Father of Victim to Convicted Killer: 'I'm Here for You'

Lawyers, father of victim, 8, say new evidence shows "West Memphis 3" innocent.

ByABC News
November 1, 2007, 7:45 PM

Nov. 1, 2007 — -- For 14 years, John Mark Byers said, he has been sure who murdered his son.

In a case that shocked the small town of West Memphis, Ark., three teenagers were convicted in 1994 of brutally murdering three 8-year-old Cub Scouts, including Christopher Byers, in what prosecutors said was part of a satanic ritual. The boys were bound, stabbed and sexually abused, prosecutors said; Chris Byers' genitals were mutilated.

But in court papers filed this week, defense attorneys said new forensic evidence shows that the three men in prison for the murder are innocent. Among the other findings, the court papers say the genital disfigurement was caused by animals after the boy's death, and that no DNA evidence connects the defendants to the crime scene.

Now, in an interview with ABC News, John Byers for the first time, said that he is now convinced that Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley did not kill his son.

"I didn't want to see it," he said of learning of the new evidence. "I felt like Benedict Arnold. I'm going against everything I believed for 14 years.

"I want these three men to know I'm here for you," said Byers, who had himself been suspected of involvement in the murders by some people in West Memphis. "I hated you for years. I believed with all my heart you killed my son -- and I'm sorry for that."

Authorities have never called Byers a suspect.

Over the years, doubts have been raised about the convictions of Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley, known as the "West Memphis Three." The case has been the subject of two books and two HBO documentaries, "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills" and "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations."

Echols, 19 at the time of his trial, was sentenced to death. Baldwin, 16, and Misskelley, 17, were sentenced to life in prison.

But their lawyers and supporters hope that new evidence, presented in court filings this week by Echols' lawyers, could free them.

"We have uncovered powerful scientific evidence that Damien Echols is, in fact, innocent," Echols' lawyer, Dennis Riordan, said in a statement.