Steve Branch visited the memorial for his son, eight-year-old Stevie Branch, and his friends – eight-year-olds Michael Moore and Christopher Byers - who disappeared 20 years ago to the day. They were found dead the next day.
"It's 20 years I haven't had with him," says Branch, "I wasn't able to watch him grow up, become a man, hopefully something better than I could ever be, but he never got that chance. It hurts me a lot."
What helps the hurt is the community's contribution to fix the memorial for the West Memphis Three victims that stands at Weaver Elementary School. The once broken down gazebo now has a new roof, repaired benches, new paint and fresh landscaping.
The West Memphis community made sure to plant 20 yellow rose bushes: One for each year since boys' senseless deaths.
"I didn't know that this many people around here had cared enough to do something like this for the kids. I really, deeply appreciate it," says Branch.
Branch says he came out on the 20th anniversary to the memorial to talk with his son, saying that he would tell Stevie, "‘Son, I love you. You may not be here with me in body but you're in my heart, in my mind and in my thoughts, and I know you're okay in heaven. That's a better place and I'm glad.''
According to the Associated Press, Prosecutor Scott Ellington says no new credible evidence has come up pointing to a new suspect in the West Memphis Three killings. The AP report adds that his office receives tips and calls weekly, none of which change his opinion that the three originally convicted men in the case are guilty.
Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley, Jr. spent 18 years in prison before a 2011 plea agreement in 2011 set them free prior to a retrial. Ellington says in the AP report that it would have been "practically impossible" to retry the case after 18 years.
People interested in donating money to the memorial for the young West Memphis Three victims can send donations to the following address:
Weaver Elementary Reading Grove/Playground Fund
1280 East Barton Avenue
West Memphis, Arkansas 72301
So far the community raised $2,300 of the $2,800 needed for the memorial renovations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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