Stephanie Scurlock with WREG-TV in Memphis recalls the 20 years she has spent covering the West Memphis Murders case. (Photo: Bre Conyers, THV 11)
MEMPHIS, Ark. (KTHV) - News reporters always remember the big stories. They are the ones that send them flying out of the newsroom, that prompt live shots from the scene, that make national news, and keep them awake working for days on end.
There's no doubt the murders of 8-year-old Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers, and Michael Moore was a big story. But Stephanie Scurlock with WREG-TV in Memphis, Tennessee had no idea it would turn into a 20-year-long big story.
Being about two years on the job when the case began, Scurlock is the only TV reporter that has covered the West Memphis Murders from the day the boys' bodies were found, until now ... 20 years after they were discovered brutally murdered.
"I remember the parents being told that there kids were found and they of course were just devastated," Scurlock recalls. "I remember Pam Hobbs just crying uncontrollably because her child was found, and he was found dead."
After the discovery, attention quickly shifted to who committed the heinous crimes; a day later, Damien Echols and Jason Baldwin were interviewed in connection with the murders. Within a month, they, along with fellow teenager Jessie Misskelley, were arrested for the crimes.
"The day they were arrested, I was outside the jail and crowds of people had just gathered to see just who are these people that would do something like that."
The three were tried and found guilty of the crimes. While Baldwin and Misskelley were sentenced to life in prison and Echols sat on death row, opinion started changing.
"It was like all of a sudden I get this phone call from Mark Byers (Christopher's dad) and he was like 'I wanna talk, I don't believe they did it.'"
Byers wasn't the only who thought the three should be free. Public opinion changed and as more evidence appeared, many called for a re-trial for the suspects.
"(Early on), there was a lot of hatred when you talked about them because what they were accused of was so horrible," Scurlock explained. "Then I watched the evolution as the stories began to come out and the documentaries were being made, I watched the evolution of maybe they didn't do it."
Once the questions started arising, attention shifted from the murder victims to the so-called victims of justice. People from around the world rallied behind the West Memphis Three and called for them to be released from prison.
Despite the public opinion, Scurlock was still surprised to see what happened in August 2011, when the three men walked out of confinement after agreeing to an Alford Plea.
"I never thought that Damien, Jason, and Jessie would ever be free."
Twenty years after the West Memphis Murders, there still does not appear to be a definitive answer as to who killed the three boys, or why they were killed. The West Memphis Three defense attorneys continue presenting new evidence in the case, and hearing continue to take place.
"It seems like there is a new twist to this story every few months," Scurlock said. "I don't know when it will ever end."
Scurlock, who is originally from Dermott, Arkansas and went to University of Central Arkansas continues covering developments in the West Memphis Murders case for WREG-TV.