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Douglas has Arkansas connection that drives home his stories

Former FBI Investigative Support Unit chief John Douglas recalled profiling criminals and investigating several high-profile cases during a lecture Friday at South Arkansas Community College.

Douglas, who worked for the Bureau for 25 years, is known for his pioneering techniques in criminal profiling and his extensive study of the minds of criminals like Charles Manson, Richard Speck and “Son of Sam” David Berkowitz.

One of the cases Douglas highlighted resulted in murder convictions for three West Memphis teenagers who allegedly killed three eight-year-old boys in 1993. The suspects, Jessie Misskelly, Charles Baldwin and Damien Echols, are commonly known as the West Memphis Three.

Decades later, Echols’ wife Lorri Davis contacted him to investigate the case while filmmaker Peter Jackson was working on the documentary “West of Memphis,” he said.

“She said, ‘There’s the people in Hollywood who would like you to look with this team at this particular case,” he said. “This was a difficult case to talk to the parents and tell them, ‘You have the wrong guy and the wrong people in prison.”

Douglas said that there were things that investigators “had not done” like interview all of the victims’ family members and look at all of the evidence.

“The focus right away in the case, what they left out, Terry Hobbs was one of the ones that had this violent history. Not saying that he did it, but they found mitochondrial DNA of his at the crime scene that was conducted by our forensic team that never was analyzed before,” he said.

Bite mark evidence was used “all the time,” but is now considered unreliable, he said. Douglas showed a projection of what looked like “circular” bite marks on one of the victims during his presentation.

A theory in the case was that the marks weren’t bites, rather lacerations from a serrated knife that was found by state police in a nearby lake.

“Dr. (Frank) Perretti, he testifies, even though no one can say if it’s a knife or if a knife was even used. So Jackson brings in these top forensic people independently and they come up with an analysis — independent — as to where these marks are from … There was definitely blunt force trauma, but there was an alligator snapping turtle.”

Douglas and the forensic team put a freshly killed pig in water with an alligator snapping turtle. They concluded that the removal of a victim’s skin was done by one of those turtles, he said.

The victims’ clothes were buried underwater with makeshift stakes. The former FBI agent said he believes the motive for doing so was “a control thing” and the result of the victims’ death was a “personal cause homicide” consisting of trauma and drowning.

“The subject put sticks in the clothing so the clothing couldn’t be seen by the police or investigators, so that it was hidden. Do you think that these three teenagers would have the kind of sense to do that and why strip them down,” Douglas asked.

“West of Memphis” was released in late 2012, a year after the West Memphis Three accepted Alford pleas and were released from state correctional facilities.

Today, he’s an independent investigator, author and public speaker and he’s the inspiration for characters on hit shows like “Criminal Minds.” A Netflix original series, “Mindhunter,” based on Douglas’ book of the same name will be on the streaming service today, he said.

Brittany Williams may be reached at 870-862-6611 or Follow her on Twitter and like her on Facebook @BWilliamsEDNT for updates on Union County school news.

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