The story began on May 5, 1993, when a trio of eight-year-old boys disappeared while out playing near their homes in West Memphis. Their parents subsequently reported them missing, and police dispatched search teams the next morning. Then later that afternoon, the dead bodies of Stevie Branch, Michael Moore and Christopher Byers were discovered in a muddy drainage ditch, naked and hog-tied.
West Memphis police soon pinned the crime on three local teenagers: Jason Baldwin, 16, Jessie Misskelley Jr., 17, and Damien Echols, 18. Echols, who was assumed to be the ringleader, was a high school dropout with a taste for trashy horror books and heavy metal. He had a history of psychiatric problems; he was a misfit and a rebel; and he fitted the profile that police were looking for.