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(Beifuss, 1994) Misskelley confessed to his role in the killings, telling police the murders were linked to a cult ritual that included the rape and mutilation of victims. West Memphis police detective Bryn Ridge testified that elements in the case pointed to the work of a satanic cult. Steve Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore disappeared while riding their bicycles in May 1993. Acquaintances said Echols carried a cat's skull to school, wrote satanic poems, and claimed to worship the devil. During his first police interview Echols told Detective Ridge that his favorite author was Anton La Vey, author of The Satanic Bible. Mental health records indicate that Echols' parents expressed concern about his possible involvement in "satanism or devil worship" when he was hospitalized in 1992.Their nude bodies were found the next day in a drainage ditch. Just four months prior to the murders a clinician noted: "Damien explained that he obtains his powers by drinking blood of others." (Sullivan, 1994).A 1993 survey by the American Bar Association's Center on Children and Family Law determined that 26 percent of prosecutors nationwide have handled cases involving "ritualistic or sexual abuse." (Ross, 1994).
The prosecutor's opening statement referred to the ritual aspect of the crimes, and child victims described satanic ceremonies which included ritual murders.The alleged victims included their own children, traded between families and used for group sex, as well as children from the Bluebird troop run by Deborah Mc Cuan and the unlicensed day care facility in her home.The Mc Cuans and Kniffens were convicted on all counts in 1983, drawing aggregate prison terms in excess of 1,000 years.Iliana Fuster, a 17-year-old native of Honduras, also claimed to have been battered and sexually abused by Fuster. Stuart James Toward, 58, owner of Glendale Montessori School, pleaded guilty to child sexual abuse charges and received a 15-year sentence.She confessed to her role in the crimes against the children and testified against her husband. His office manager, Brenda Williams, 30, was convicted in 1989 and sentenced to 6 years in prison. West, Jr., a former juvenile officer, pleaded guilty on June 20, 1994, to 33 counts of sexual abuse.