May 5 Three eight-year-old boys — Stevie Branch, Christopher Byers and Michael Moore — are reported missing several hours after they left Weaver Elementary School in West Memphis.
May 6 The children’s bodies are found in a creek in an area known locally as the Robin Hood Hills. They had been beaten and hog-tied with their shoelaces.
May 7 Police interview 18-year-old Damien Echols about the crime.
May 9 Police interview Echols again along with his then-girlfriend Domini Teer and Jason Baldwin.
May 10 Police interview Damien Echols at the West Memphis Police Department.
June 3 After being interviewed by the police for hours, mentally challenged Jessie Misskelley implicates himself, Baldwin and Echols in the murder of the three children. Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley are arrested. Misskelley later recants his confession.
Aug. 4 The three plead not guilty to capital murder at a pre-trial hearing.
Feb. 4 A jury in Clay County Circuit Court convicts Misskelley of first-degree murder in the death of Michael Moore and second-degree murder in the murders of Stevie Branch and Christopher Byers and sentences him to life in prison plus two 25-year terms.
March 18 Baldwin and Echols are found guilty of capital murder by a jury in Jonesboro.
March 19 Circuit Judge David Burnett sentences Echols to die by lethal injection and Baldwin to life without parole.
April 7 Bob Lancaster skeptically reviews the trial in the Times: “The prosecutors convicted Echols of checking certain suspicious books out of the public library, and copying off dark passages (‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’) from the likes of William Shakespeare. God help him if he’d ever discovered Poe. And yet this vague proposition of the murders as an expression of an ignorant boy’s conception of the demands of demonology was the state’s entire case. That’s all we had. And an obliging jury—and a judge as dedicated to bringing forth convictions as he was to looking good—called it enough.”
Feb. 19 The Arkansas Supreme Court re-fuses to overturn Misskelley’s conviction.
June 22 The documentary film “Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills” by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky begins airing on HBO, casting doubt on the WM3’s guilt, drawing critical praise and sparking international interest into the case.
Dec. 23 The Arkansas Supreme Court refuses to overturn Baldwin and Echols’ convictions.
May 27 The U.S. Supreme Court rejects Echols’ appeal without comment.
June 17 Judge Burnett denies Echols’s argument that his defense team was ineffective in the original trial and denies Echols’ appeal for a new trial.
Dec. 3 Echols marries Lorri Davis at Varner SuperMax.
June 22 “Paradise Lost 2: Revelations” begins airing on HBO; it examines the “Free the WM3” movement and focuses on new evidence.
Oct. 30 The Arkansas Supreme Court affirms Judge Burnett’s denial of Echols’ 1999 appeal.
Feb. 24 The Arkansas Supreme Court denies Echols’ petition for a new hearing.
July 19 West Memphis police question the mother and stepfather of Stevie Branch. Terry Hobbs, who lives in Bartlett, Tenn., said police requested the interview with him as a result of recent DNA tests on items found with the bodies. Hobbs says he is not bothered by the evidence and maintains he has no connection with the crime.
Dec. 18 Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks and other WM3 supporters present Gov. Beebe with hundreds of postcards from supporters around the world asking for their pardon. The governor says he won’t pardon the three or commute their sentences.
Sept. 10 Judge David Burnett denies request for a new trial for Echols and declines to hold hearing to consider new DNA evidence.
Jan. 20 Judge Burnett denies Baldwin and Misskelley’s request for retrials.
Aug. 28 WM3 supporters stage a concert/rally in Little Rock to raise awareness for the case. Eddie Vedder, Natalie Maines, Patti Smith, Ben Harper and Johnny Depp perform.
Sept. 30 The Arkansas Supreme Court hears oral arguments to determine whether there should be an evidentiary hearing for a new trial. At issue is each side’s interpretation of the state’s DNA statute and the “intent” behind the law that grants access to DNA testing, and possibly relief, for those wrongly convicted of crimes.
Oct. 7 Former State Sen. Kevin Smith, D-Helena, who wrote the state’s DNA statute, says the intent of the law is clear: to allow a new trial or venue for post-conviction relief in cases just like this one.
Nov. 4 The state Supreme Court unanimously orders a new circuit court evidentiary hearing for Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley. The court says the circuit judge must consider not only the DNA evidence presented by the defense, but any other exculpatory evidence, including evidence not presented in the original trials.
Feb. 18 Attorneys for the WM3 file briefs on evidence and testimony they hope to develop in the Arkansas Supreme Court-ordered hearing on whether they should receive new trials. The defendants asked for new DNA testing of physical evidence from the case, including skin samples from the victims and their clothing. The men also want to call as witnesses the father of one of the victims and one of his friends because they are likely sources of DNA that was found in physical evidence, though no trace of the men convicted was found. They also asked for consideration of favorable findings by forensic scientists, of arguments that false statements were made about a supposed confession by Damien Echols and of evidence about jury misconduct in one of the trials.
March 17 Circuit Judge David Laser of Jonesboro schedules a hearing for Oct. 1.
Aug. 19 In a rarely used plea arrangement known as an “Alford plea,” Baldwin, Echols and Misskelley plead guilty to murder while still maintaining their innocence. Judge Laser releases them with time served and a suspended 10-year sentence.