The natural question one may ask is, how it is that it didn’t exclude them? To answer this question, it first must be understood the situation at the crime scene, and how evidence was collected. The bodies had been submerged in the water, destroying precious DNA and blood evidence that may have been located at the scene. A possible semen stain which had been located on the pants of one victim, was more or less ruined from being in the water over night. This would make it much harder to find any physical evidence, as the submersion of the bodies, naturally washed away evidence.
Next one must consider how the bodies were recovered.
When the victims were recovered, the police had to enter the ditch where the bodies were located, and rifle around in the water, digging out clothing, as well as touching the bodies. This cross contaminated them, introducing hair and fibers to the scene which hadn’t previously been there before, which is surprisingly all too common in criminal investigations.
In the book “Bodies We’ve Buried” by Jarrett Hallcox and Amy Welch, it’s remarked upon, some of the items investigators accidentally introduce to the scene. One of which is even cigarette butts.
“…as much as 30 percent of all cigarette butts found at crime scenes are not left by the perpatrator, as one might assume, but by someone who actually processed the scene. It’s a little disconcerting to think that so much time and money is wasted on a potential suspect, only to find out that “suspect” is the chief officer.”
The book also states the following…
“If you ask any CSI what the biggest problem they face in the field is, they will almost always say crime scene contamination. Contamination of the scene can not only mislead the investigation, it can also be a defense attorney’s dream come true.”
One can see from the photos that they were up to their waist at times.
The clothing would then be collected and set on the nearby ditch bank picking up anything that may have been there as well.
Here one can actually see items floating around in the water unrelated to the crime, further contaminating evidence.
There had been garbage and debris through-out. A simple fact was that there had been hair and fibers at the scene which may not have been from the killer(s).
Adding to this, anything from the home of the victims had additionally been introduced to the crime scene. Hair and fibers from their home environment could have been stuck to their clothing that day, further complicating the matter.
Now according to Lisa Sakevicius in her courtroom testimony, Stevie Branch was tied with two different shoe laces.
20 Q. On Exhibit 81 — if you would refer to that exhibit.
21 A. That is from Steve Branch.
22 Q. What were your findings as to the knots on Exhibit 81?
23 A. Examination of the ligatures revealed a black shoestring on
24 the right side tied in three half hitches with an extra loop
25 around the leg to a single half hitch with a figure eight around
1 the right wrist. The left side consisted of a white shoestring
2 tied in three half hitches around the wrist to three half
3 hitches around the leg.
4 Q. So on the left side on the wrist you had three half
6 A. Correct.
7 Q. And on the ankle you had three half hitches?
8 A. Correct.
9 Q. On the right side on the leg you had three half hitches
10 with what?
11 A. An extra loop around the right leg.
12 Q. On the wrist you had?
13 A. A figure eight.
14 Q. With one half hitch. Is that right?
15 A. Yes, sir.
Now, the hair connected to Terry was located on a shoe lace used to bind Michael Moore, but as seen by the above testimony, Stevie was tied up with two different laces. This means that the lace used to bind Michael could have been Stevie’s. All this means then, is that the DNA test only proves that Terry Hobbs had been in the same home as Stevie, since he was his Step-Dad. It doesn’t actually connect him to the crime. And even if it were Michael’s shoe lace it would still be the same, since both boys were best friends, and often played in each other’s houses. All that can be really said about the hair is that it’s secondary transfer, and was like brought to the scene by the victims.
Next it should be considered that DNA was a new thing at the time, and evidence wasn’t collected as well back 1993 as it would be today. Even in this age of CSI expectations when it comes to evidence, it can still be difficult to find the offender’s DNA. A prime example would be the Noura Jackson case. Jackson, had murdered her mother in 2005. At the scene despite blood being everywhere and the fact that Noura cut herself during the crime, not a single speck of her blood or DNA was located that could prove she killed her mother. There was DNA found, but it didn’t match Noura. There was also a hair, which again didn’t seem to match Noura. There was also no blood in Noura’s car. She had seemingly lucked out and left no real physical evidence to tie her to the crime. What ended up proving that she was the killer, was the fact that she was caught on surveillance tape buying first aid products to treat a fresh cut on her hand which was even bleeding in the video.
So, even today, DNA can be tough to link to a criminal.
For years there was confusion over the DNA results in the Boston Strangler case, with a recent DNA test proving that Albert DeSalvo was the Strangler, where as a past DNA test concluded he wasn’t the Strangler.
“The discrepancy between the 2001 results and today’s announced match might come down to the different samples analyzed by the different labs. “What [the 2013 investigators] have are slides from the crime scene that have semen on them, presumably from the perpetrator,” says Foran, whereas his team examined samples taken from Sullivan’s exhumed corpse. “One thing that confuses me is why they didn’t test those 15 years ago, because they could have. And we certainly did ask for them back then.” Add that to the long, long list of questions about the Boston Strangler case that might never get answered.”
Now over the years the defense team had tried to claim that a hair found at the crime scene from a black man was proof that their clients were innocent. They coupled this together with a siting of a black man at a Bojangles restaurant. This was a black homeless man who had blood on him and used the women’s restroom on the night of the murder. The man seemed disoriented and washed up in the bathroom, before leaving.
When this suspect failed, they tried to blame one of the step-parents. First they accused John Mark Byers, the Step-Father of Christopher Byers. Years later during a bitter divorce Pam Hicks, the wife of Terry Hobbs would accuse him of having molested their daughter in order to win custody of her. When that failed she tried to claim that Hobbs was the real killer of her son. The defense team soon seized on this, and pointed out how they had a hair that matched to him at the crime scene. In truth however there was countless hairs, probably several from family members of the victims. DNA testing couldn’t even match some items at the scene to the victims, despite that they had to have been the source of some of the evidence.
With all this background information laid out, let’s get into the documents pertaining to the DNA. Now this shows the DNA profiles of both the victims and the WM3.
Next you have the document from Bode which demonstrates which items had mixtures. The items are the combined Ligatures from Steve (34AB) and Michael’s penile swab (5D):
Now It tells where on the charts to look for the mixtures. The locus here is D5S818.
From the information show here pertaining to the ligature, the results on that locus are 10,11, and 12. The results are in the fifth column. Now here should only be two numbers, but instead it’s three.
On the swab the numbers are 9,12, and 13. The results are the second column. Again there should only be two numbers.
Now going back to the chart that lists the DNA profiles of all victims and the others tested, on the D5S818 locus you have:
Echols is 11,12
Miskelley is 11,12
Baldwin is 9,9
Moore is 9,13
Branch is 10,12
Byers is 11,12
The ligatures’ results for that locus read 10,11, and 12.
This means for that locus, alleles could be present from Echols, Branch, Misskelley, and/or Byers.
From the same ligature, the results for D3S1358 match only Steve out of the six people.
From the same ligature on the locus D13S317, the results read 8 and 11.
Both Branch and Echols have the same results on their known samples for this locus.
On Micheal’s penile swab, the results for the D5S818 locus are 9,12,13 .
Looking at the chart that lists the DNA profiles of all victims and the WM3 as relates to the D5S818 locus:
Echols is 11,12
Misekelley is 11,12
Baldwin is 9,9
Moore is 9,13
Branch is 10,12
Byers is 11,12
All parties have either a 9, 12, or 13 at this locus, so no one can be excluded.
So, as can be seen, the men were not exactly totally and absolutely cleared of this crime by DNA.
They were also further linked to this crime through DNA located on a necklace belonging to Damien Echols. Blood was found on it that matched to Echols, along with blood from either Stevie Branch or Jason Baldwin. The testing at the time couldn’t say for sure if the blood was Stevie’s or Jason’s, and because of this testing all of the blood samples are used up.
This testing is discussed in this deleted scene from Paradise Lost.
What this all means is that the men convicted of this crime cannot be claimed to be proven innocent through DNA.