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Career Criminal & Police Informant, John Mark Byers”

THEORY: The killers are seasoned career criminals. They pretend to be “dumb” when it serves their interests. During the murders, one of the killers was working with the West Memphis Police Department as a drug informant. The use of the drug, Crystal Meth, played a part in their psychotic plan. Unofficially they were using, selling, distributing and producing crystal meth with police protection. One of the real killers may have also been involved in the murder of Officer Clark White 5 months before the child murders. Officer White was working with the State Arkansas Police in order to avoid prosecution himself regarding drugs and corruption in the West Memphis Police Department. The circumstances surrounding the case of Clark White are also intriguing given the fact that he was found poisoned to death in his trailer without any signs of struggle. Two African-American men were subsequently charged and convicted with his murder. However, the details of this case also raise serious questions.

 

On May 4rth (Different articles post different dates) of 1991, Christina Marie Pipkin, age 9, disappeared in Hickory Ridge, Arkansas. She was selling costume jewelry door-to-door in Hickory Ridge, Arkansas. A few days later, her body was found about four or five miles outside of town, floating face-down in Cow Lake Ditch in Jackson County, Arkansas. She had drowned and investigators believed she had been murdered. The jewelry order forms and pencil she had been carrying were never found.

(Link a transcript of the article in the Commercial Appeal)

 

 
FACT: After the murders of the three boys in West Memphis, Byers had said that the testicles of his stepson were in a jar of alcohol under Damien Echols’s bed. This story is untrue and is completely made up. The statements among many others drew attention to Byers. John Mark Byers also tells tales of brain tumors, fights, and medical conditions that may or may not be true.

 

FACT: A reporter for the Arkansas Times decided to look into John Mark Byers’s background in 1994. She contacted retired sheriff’s deputy, C. L. Carter from Marked Tree, the town in eastern Arkansas where Byers had grown up. The former deputy recalled that in 1973, when Byers was just sixteen, his parents had called police to their house, claiming that their son was threatening them with a butcher knife. Carter recalled, “Mark had a knife after them. He wanted them to give him money to buy dope.” The former deputy cornered Mark in a closet and ordered him to throw down the knife. Carter said he vividly recalled that, as he was putting handcuffs on Byers, the teenager looked at him and vowed, “I’ll cut your throat.” Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.390 &  391, 2002.

 

FACT: In September of 1987, police received two calls at around 7am about a “woman screaming” in a trailer while two children stood outside unattended. When the police officer arrived, the children told him that, “his mother and daddy were inside the trailer fighting.” The police officer walked into the trailer and found John Mark Byers pointing a “black object” at Sandra Slone, who “was crying and visibly upset.” The police officer reported that when John Mark Byers saw him, he got off the woman and became “arrogant.” He also reported that Sandra Slone, John Mark Byers’ x-wife “was crying and begging him not to leave.”  Sandra reported that John Mark Byers walked into their trailer and demanded his biological children. The police officer noted that according to Sandra, “Byers began to threaten her, telling her that he wanted full custody of the kids, that he was going to kill her, and that he had an electric shocker and kept acting like he was going to use it on her.” The notes also stated, “Mr. Byers acted strange. A few minutes he would calm down and talk normal, but then all of a sudden he would get arrogant again, advising me that he was the father and he was going to take the kids. He also became upset when I advised him that I was going to keep the Power Zapper, which he wanted back. He appeared to have been either on some type of medication or intoxicant by the manner in which he was acting.Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, pp. 19 & 20, 2002.

 

FACT: In October of 1990, Byers and Melissa briefly worked at a jewelry store in Jonesboro, Arkansas.  During brief employment, $65,000 had been stolen from the store. When the police failed to make an arrest, the owners filed a civil lawsuit against the Byerses and another couple. The case was heard in April of 1991 in a Jonesboro court and resulted in the Byerses’ two codefendants being ordered to return the items. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.299, 2002.

 

FACT: John Mark Byers was charged and convicted with terrorizing his ex-wife by threatening to cause her death. A “terroristic threatening” charge is a felony offense. On May 5th, 1992, exactly 1 year before the murders, John Mark Byers’s record was formally thrown out even though Byers never fulfilled the terms of his probation. None other than Judge David Burnett and Prosecuting Attorney John Fogleman were in charge of the case. “On May 5th, 1992, Circuit Judge David Burnett signed an order absolving Byers of all legal consequences arising from the assault and death threat on his ex-wife, Sandra.” Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p. 21 2002.

 

FACT: Private Investigator Ron Lax interviewed Byers’s ex-wife, Sandra Slone, in February of 1994. She stated that, “Byers was supposed to be clean from drugs at the time she met him (1977) and promised her he would never become involved in drugs again; however he continued to do so.” While she lived with him, she was forced to move twice without explanation and to a different city. Ms. Slone stated that, “it always seemed as though Byers had connections with someone, because he became involved in drugs and illegal activities, but never was arrested. Sandra Slone immediately suspected Byers was responsible for the murders and described him as extremely violent and said her children were deathly afraid of him. She stated Byers used to beat her and the children, but did so in a way, which left no visible marks or bruises when dressed. She said that she had reported her fears for herself and her children to Inspector Gary Gitchell in a phone call after the murders.” According to Sandra Slone, Gitchell told her that John Mark Byers was not a suspect and that she should get over her personal problems. There are no records of this phone call in the West Memphis Police Department’s case files. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.205 & 380, 2002.

 

FACT: In Paradise Lost, Part 1, John Mark Byers states, “I know that three babies were killed right out here where I stand. I know my son was castrated and possibly laid there on that bank and bled to death. I know he was choked. I know one boy’s head was beat in beyond recognition. I know one little boy was skinned almost like an animal… cut… had to shave his head… had all types of injuries to the head where they just kept beating him and pounding him and killin’ ‘em and killin’ ‘em. It’s like they enjoyed it. They killed ‘em two or three times.” The image below is taken from Paradise Lost, Part 1 where John Mark Byers is standing at the location where the bodies were found stating the above.

(Download this Quicktime Video Clip from Paradise Lost, Part 1) (Right Click and “Save As”)

The above image is taken from Paradise Lost, Part 1.

 

FACT: After the murders, John Mark Byers relives an account while being filmed in the documentaries where he was himself tortured. Byers states, “When they were describing the injuries to my son, it brought back things that had happened to me in my past when I was tortured, when I was attacked, and when I had 5 people beat me up and torture me but I lived through it, and it brought back all those feelings and all those emotions of it happening to me and it was like they were reading off what happened to me and I lived through it instead of what happened to Christopher and it was almost like a mental thing.”

(Download this Quicktime Video Clip from Paradise Lost, Part 2) (Right Click and “Save As”)

 

FACT: Before and after the murders in 1993, neighbors of the Byerses wondered about the “close” relationship John Mark Byers had with certain members of the West Memphis Police Department including Detectives Bryn Ridge, James Sudbury, Mike Allen, and Gary Gitchell. A few months after the murders, it was learned that John Mark Byers was working as a “drug informant” for the West Memphis Police Department. He was unemployed and yet afforded to live in a two-story house with a pool. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p. 21, 2002.

 

FACT: In July of 1992, John Mark Byers was arrested in Memphis for conspiring to sell cocaine and carrying a dangerous weapon. They placed him into the county jail but during his first night there, Byers was released, without explanation, into the custody of U.S. Marshals. The records in this case were scarce and representatives of the U.S. Marshals Service later acknowledged that records did not indicate who or the reason why Byers was released. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p. 22, 2002.

The above image is taken from Paradise Lost, Part 2.

 

FACT: In Paradise Lost, Part 1, ~30:52… John Mark Byers states, “You know one thing I like about this right here black powder gun… is they can’t pull any type of ballistics on it if by some chance you was to shoot something with it. Every bullet rifles through the chamber just a little bit different… so they just can’t pull no ballistics off this one.” The image below is taken from Paradise Lost, Part 1 where John Mark Byers is loading his black powder gun and coating the bullets with some kind of lubricant.

(Download this Quicktime Video Clip from Paradise Lost, Part 1) (Right Click and “Save As”)

 

FACT: During Christmas of 1992, John Mark Byers was investigated for felony theft and mail fraud. He was suspected of stealing $11,000 in Rolex watches and a ring that were sent to him over the mail but that he denied receiving. At first, Detectives Bryn Ridge and Mike Allen of the West Memphis Police Department were asked to investigate John Mark Byers regarding the stolen watches. After five months, the West Memphis Police Department’s investigation was fruitless. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.22, 2002. It was only after UPS contacted the Arkansas State Police that conclusive evidence was found that Byers had in fact stolen the watches. He sold them to a chiropractor in Jonesboro, Arkansas, who produced two cancelled checks totaling $9,050, that were made out to Byers and later endorsed by him. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.38, 2002.  Prosecutor Davis did not file any charges against Byers and simply asked him to pay $7,400 in restitution instead of facing prosecution. It is unclear whether Byers was ever made to pay the amount due to the fact that he was unemployed. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p. 155, 2002.

 

FACT: In September of 1994, John Mark Byers and Melissa Byers were jailed after investigators in Sharp County concluded that they were responsible for the theft of antiques worth more than $20,000 from a residence near their home. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.298, 2002. Police found three Oriental rugs in the Byers’s home, which had been reported stolen. An officer noted, “Mrs. Byers told us that she had purchased them from a flea market, but she couldn’t remember when, where or produce any receipts.” According to an affidavit filed by the neighbors, John and Donna Kingsbury, Melissa Byers stated “that we had put them in a hole and they would put us in a hole we wouldn’t get out of. You can’t watch your family twenty-four hours a day.” John Kingsbury told reporter, Angela Roberts, that there were bullet holes in the side of his house. “I cannot prove how they got there,” he said, “but they are there. They say they are victims, but we are victims too. No friends of our children are allowed to come to our house because of all the trouble we’ve had.” Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.390, 2002. Before long, the motor home that had been burglarized mysteriously exploded and burned in their driveway. The woman who was out of town at the time told authorities that the vehicle’s propane tanks had been empty. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p.299, 2002.

The above image the Kingsbury’s motor home before it mysteriously exploded. The image is taken from Paradise Lost, Part 2.

 

FACT: In October of 1994, John Mark Byers was charged with “contributing to the delinquency of a minor” in Hardy, Arkansas. The assailant was riding with John Mark Byers in his truck when they pulled up next to John Shaver, Jr., the assault victim. Byers acknowledged that he’d instructed his passenger to get a pocketknife out of his car and fight with it, holding it closed in his fist. The teenager reported that Byers had told him, “That’s the way to do it.” Byers reportedly told Hardy’s police chief, Ernie Rose, that as the fight ensued, Byers stood by his car with a .22 bolt-action rifle pointed at the ground in order to assure that the fight was “far” and warned the onlookers to “stay put.” The assailant beat the other teenager with a closed knife in his fist to the point where John Shaver needed to be hospitalized with a concussion. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, p. 390, 2002.

The image to the left shows John Shaver, Jr. who had to be hospitalized after the fight. The image to the right is the .22 bolt-action rifle John Mark Byers used to keep onlookers from stopping the fight. Both images are taken from Paradise Lost, Part 2.

 

FACT: On March 29, 1996, Melissa Byers died. John Mark Byers called a neighbor to come help. When the neighbor arrived, he found Melissa Byers naked on the bed and told John Mark Byers to perform CPR on her. He then called an ambulance and she later died at the hospital. The autopsy report stated the cause of death was undetermined since she had so many drugs in her system. Byers’s girlfriend at the time stated that Melissa Byers died the day she had asked him for a divorce. She also stated that John Mark Byers had threatened Mandy with her life if she disclosed the fact that he had hypodermic needles in his drawer. Needle wounds were found on the body of Melissa Byers. Ryan Clark was reported as having an “eerie look on his face” when he was putting clothes on his mother before the ambulance arrived. He was reported as “mumbling incoherently” and got in his car and almost flipped it as he screeched away from the household before the ambulance arrived. The autopsy reports were inconclusive and could not determine the exact cause of death of Melissa Byers. Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, pp 300 & 301, 2002.

The above image is taken from Paradise Lost, Part 1. John Mark Byers is kissing Melissa Byers after the trials.

 

FACT: On April 19th, 1999, John Mark Byers dialed the wrong number. Arkansas State Police trooper, Brant Tosh answered his personal cell phone as he was issuing a citation. The caller invited him to “come by his house and buy some more stuff.” Officer Tosh asked, “What kind of stuff?” The caller answered, “Pot, the good stuff.” The state trooper said, “I’m busy with a girl,” and asked the caller if he could send his friend “Jeff” to pick it up. The caller chuckled and agreed. The state trooper then cleverly stated that he didn’t know the exact street names in order to give his friend the precise directions. The caller outlined the route to his house. An undercover narcotics officer arrived at Byers’s house and purchased narcotics from Byers. Coincidentally, the state trooper, Brant Tosh, was responsible for transporting Jessie Misskelley to Clay County one night and also baby-sat Jason Baldwin in the detention center after his conviction. In regards to Jessie Misskelley, Tosh reflected, “I was a young officer back then. I just remember that he talked all the way. It just seemed he had the mind of a seven-year-old. It struck me that he seemed very childish, like way behind his age.” Source: Atria Books: Mara Leveritt, Devil’s Knot, pp 299 & 392, 2002.

 

FACT: In Paradise Lost, Part 2, John Mark Byers is filmed speaking with a polygraph examiner before taking a polygraph test regarding drugs. The polygraph examiner asks: “Do you use drugs?” Byers responds: “No Sir.” The polygraph examiner asks: “Have you ever used drugs?” Byers responds: “Yes Sir.” The polygraph examiner asks: “What?” Byers responds: “Marijuana. I’ve tried Coke. Some pills.” The polygraph examiner asks: “Did you ever have a habit?” Byers responds: “No Sir, just experiencing as a teenager and going to college.” A little bit later in the interview the Byers says that he’s taking Xanax, Zoloft, Sinequan, Haldol, and Depakote, all of which are mood-altering medications. The polygraph examiner asks: “What happens when you don’t take this?” Byers responds: “I’ll get real nervous and just like a, kind of paranoid feeling. I’ll just have panic attacks.” The polygraph examiner asks: “Your doctor said that you’ve had a multitude of psychiatric problems, what does he mean by that? Have you been diagnosed as having a particular, some sort of psychiatric condition that has a name to it that they’ve told you about or anything?” Byers responds: “Just from what she said, Manic Depressive, Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.” The polygraph examiner asks: “Did you ever hallucinate?” Byers responds: “Yes sir, I have. I’ve seen a bug on the floor or something. That’s usually when I’m in a manic or a panic attack, you know, it seems like I’ll see things out of the corner of my eye, truly not there.”

(Coming Soon: Download this Quicktime Video Clip from Paradise Lost, Part 2) (Right Click and “Save As”)

 

FACT: In Paradise Lost, Part 2, ~1:10. John Mark Byers is filmed speaking with a polygraph examiner before taking a polygraph test. The polygraph examiner asks, “Have you had any other problems with the police?” Byers answers, “Not major, no sir.” The examiner asks, “You’ve had problems? Is that what you’re saying?” Byers answers, “oh well, speeding tickets, I got a DWI one time after my wife was murdered, uh, nothing really major no.”

(Download this Quicktime Video Clip from Paradise Lost, Part 2) (Right Click and “Save As”)

The above images are taken from Paradise Lost, Part 2. John Mark Byers is excited to have passed the polygraph exam.

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