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The Robin Hood Hills murderer(s)

"Expert" testimony at trial

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Dr. Dale Griffis was accepted by the court as an expert in occult killings. This is an unusual specialty for an expert, because many investigators believe that an occult killing has never occurred in the United States in the past decade. 1,2 There have been some murders by psychopathic serial murderers who claimed to be Satanists, but police investigations have shown that they were simply using Satanism as a cover and as a justification for their acts.

The text of the Arkansas Supreme Court decision in the Echols-Baldwin case contains a brief description of Dr. Griffis' testimony. 3 We believe it to be based on fantasy from a number of sources:
bullet beliefs from the 16th century about imaginary Satanic worshipers that were used to justify the Witch burnings
bullet actual practices of Wiccans and other Neopagans who Dr. Griffis associates with child sacrifices (Wicca is a gentle, Neopagan religion, similar to Native American spirituality)
bullet practices of what conservative Christians often call "the occult" in which many benign occultic practices like tarot card reading, astrology, tea-cup reading, membership in the Masonic Order etc. are linked to child abuse.

His "expert" testimony was in fact a jumble of fantasy, hoaxes, and religious intolerance. It must have adversely affected the jury by filling their minds with misinformation.

The supreme court text reads as follows, with our comments interspersed:
bullet "Dr. Dale Griffis, an expert in occult killings, testified in the State's case-in-chief that the killings had the "trappings of occultism."

Occultism is very simply a collection of activities whose only point of similarity is that knowledge about them is not known to the public but is only released to persons in training. Other that this one common factor, they have very little (if anything) in common. The occult includes:
bullet some religions: Satanism, Wicca and Spiritualism
bullet many spiritual organizations (e.g. Masonic Order, Order of the Eastern Star)
bullet methods of foretelling the future (e.g. tea cup reading, tarot cards, runes, astrology)

By linking all of these unrelated activities together under the umbrella term "occult", Dr Griffis' testimony would have reinforced the conservative Christian jurors' prejudices and directed them against the accused.

bullet "He testified that the date of the killings, near a pagan holiday, was significant, as well as the fact that there was a full moon."

Here, he attempts to link Paganism with occultic crimes. This is simply a display of religious hatred and misinformation. Many Neo-pagans celebrate a "Sabbat" on May 1 which was 4 days before the murder. But the religious celebration is performed at the beginning of May, not 4 days later. There was a full moon on the evening of May 5. However, Satanists do not hold rituals at the time of full or new moons. If the murders were intentionally committed on the day of a full moon, a likely explanation would be that the murderer(s) were adopting local superstitions and attempting to divert suspicion to Satanists.

bullet "He stated that young children are often sought for sacrifice because "the younger, the more innocent, the better the life force."

He is referring to ancient Christian propaganda about child sacrifice, dating back to the Witch burning times. Children sometimes die during Christian exorcisms. But these are accidental killings. We have been unable to find evidence that any children have been intentionally ritually murdered in the United States in this century by followers of any religion.

bullet "He testified that there were three victims, and the number three had significance in occultism.

We believe that the number three has no particular significance among Satanists. Wiccans sometimes refer to the three aspects of their Goddess, but the number 4 is much more important to them; they recognize four cardinal directions, four major sabbats and four minor sabbats. The number three has much greater significance in Christianity, where it is the number associated with the Trinity. It appears in over 400 locations in the Bible. Again, he is grouping a large number of unrelated activities under the term "occult" and implying that occultists sacrifice children. There were probably three victims because the murderer(s) had access to three boys at the time. If two boys had passed by, there probably would have been two victims.

bullet "Also, the victims were all eight years old, and eight is a witches' number."

There is no evidence that the age of the victims was known to the murderer(s). The only groups in North America which regularly calls themselves "Witches" are Wiccans and other Neopagans. Here, he is attempting to reinforce prejudice of the jury against the defendants by consolidating their fears of Witches, gathered from child nursery rhymes, horror movies, comic books etc and linking them to Satanism and the Occult. There are indeed eight seasonal days of celebration in the Wiccan yearly calendar. But eight is in no way a magical number for Wiccans. It could be used to point at a Christian killer; the number 8 appears more than 100 times in the Bible.

bullet "He testified that sacrifices are often done near water for a baptism-type rite or just to wash the blood away."

No occultic activity baptizes people. Baptism is largely a Christian ritual. Here, Dr Griffis is reaching back centuries to an era when Witches and Satan worshipers were believed to have rituals which parodied Christian rites. There is no evidence to support this hoax.

bullet "The fact that the victims were tied ankle to wrist was significant because this was done to display the genitalia, and the removal of Byers's testicles was significant because testicles are removed for the semen.

He seems to believe that a males testicles are filled with semen, and can be "milked" through castration. This is not true. In fact, semen is composed primarily of "the mixed product of various glands (prostate and bulbourethral) plus the spermatozoa." 4 It collects in special sacs near the prostate gland. Also, males do not produce sperm until puberty, and the victims were years away from that. There was no semen or sperm to collect from the testicles.

bullet "He stated that the absence of blood at the scene could be significant because cult members store blood for future services in which they would drink the blood or bathe in it."

These beliefs are also derived from 16th century superstition. Blood-drinking was commonly attributed to Satan worshipers; it is mentioned even today in anti-Satanic literature written by some Christians. More likely, there was no blood at the murder scene because it was washed away by the creek. If there was blood at the scene, Dr. Griffis would probably have concluded that the presence of blood was significant.

bullet "He testified that the "overkill" or multiple cuts could reflect occult overtones.

If the murderer(s) were really intent on collecting their victim's blood, they would hardly stab them in multiple locations. It would be far more efficient to make a single cut and drain the wound. "Overkill" might well be an indicator of a crazed, psychotic killer or killers.

bullet Dr. Griffis testified that there was significance in injuries to the left side of the victims as distinguished from the right side: People who practice occultism will use the midline theory, drawing straight down through the body. The right side is related to those things synonymous with Christianity while the left side is that of the practitioners of the satanic occult.

Here, he is describing modern day Satanists as performing anti-Christian rituals. This is another belief derived from the 16th century, and is without foundation. Satanists do not parody Christianity. In fact, Satanism and Christianity are two religions which are essentially unrelated.

bullet "He testified that the clear place on the [river] bank could be consistent with a ceremony."

If there were evil Satanists who conducted sacrificial rituals, one would more likely expect evidence of ritual tools having been present: an altar, candles, a circle on the ground, candle wax, footprints, etc. None was found.

bullet "In sum, Dr. Griffis testified there was significant evidence of satanic ritual killings.

In fact, every instance of sex murder and mutilation that we are aware of was perpetrated by psychopathic sexual sadists. Many investigators have concluded that the only ritual killings performed during religious rituals in the U.S. are done inadvertently during Christian exorcisms.

We suspect that the three boys were murdered by one or more profoundly disturbed sexual predators, and not by adult religious Satanists or teen-age dabblers in Satanism. With the help of Dr Griffis' "expert" testimony, the jury probably concluded that Satanists were responsible for the murders. Since Echols had a copy of "The Satanic Bible" at home, one would expect the jury to find Echols and Baldwin guilty.

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  1. An on-line copy of the FBI report on the (non)existence of evil Satanic cults by Ken Lanning, titled "Investigator's Guide to Allegations of 'Ritual' Child Abuse" is at:
  2. G.S. Goodman et al "Characteristics & Sources of Allegations of Ritual Child Abuse", Clearing House on Child Abuse & Neglect Information, Suite 350, 3998 Fair Ridge Dr, Fairfax VA, 22033. [Free summary available by calling (703) 385-7565]
  3. The text of the decision of the Supreme Court of Arkansas of 1996-DEC-23 can be read at:
  4. Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, F.A. Davism, Philadelphia PA, (1977), P. S-30

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Copyright 1997 to 2002 incl. by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2002-DEC-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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