Atom Egoyan‘s upcoming drama based on the real-life tragedy of the West Memphis 3, Devil’s Knot, has been quite slowly accumulating cast members, with news on each new member of the production trickling out over the course of many months. Reese Witherspoon joined the cast in December as Pam Hobbs, the mother of victim Stevie Branch, and Colin Firth signed on in February to play Ron Lax, a private eye who offered his services to the WM3 before their trial in 1993. While the project itself was announced all the way back in August, with such delicate material to cover, perhaps Egoyan is taking his time in picking his cast (what an idea!).
Devil’s Knot has now added its third major cast member, and it is indeed a delicate role that is being filled – Deadline Seattle reports that The Killing star Mireille Enos will play Vicki Hutcheson in the film. Those who are familiar with the WM3 tragedy and trials surely know Hutcheson’s name – she became a key witness during the 1993 investigation into the murders of children Branch, Michael Moore, and Christopher Byers, a witness who later recanted her statements. The film continues the Golden Globe-nominated actress’ foray into features – she will next be seen in Gangster Squad and World War Z.
The West Memphis 3 Wikipedia page presents a short version of Hutcheson’s involvement with the case against Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin, and Jessie Misskelley, Jr., but damn if it’s not a doozie. Hutcheson was a new resident of West Memphis who just so happened to be at the Marion Police Department on May 6, 1993 (the day the boys’ bodies were found) to take a polygraph “to determine if she had stolen money from her West Memphis employer. Hutcheson’s young son, Aaron, was also present, and proved such a distraction that [Detective Don] Bray was unable to administer the polygraph. Aaron, a playmate of the murdered boys, mentioned to Bray that the boys had been killed at ‘the playhouse.”‘ When the bodies proved to have been discovered near where Aaron indicated, Bray asked Aaron for further details, and Aaron claimed that he had witnessed the murders committed by Satanists who spoke Spanish.”
However, the rest of young Aaron’s “statements were wildly inconsistent, and he was unable to identify Baldwin, Echols or Misskelley from photo line-ups, and there was no ‘playhouse’ at the location Aaron indicated.” And yet, a police officer “leaked portions of Aaron’s statements to the press contributing to the growing belief that the murders were part of a satanic rite.” If you know pretty much anything about the WM3 ordeal, you know that the satanic element became a huge part of the case and its investigation.
Eventually, Hutcheson revealed that she had met Echols and Misskelley at a Wiccan meeting after the murder of the boys, at which Echols “openly bragged” about committing the murders. Hutcheson, however, could not provide the police with the location of said meeting or the names of anyone else who was present. Years later, both Hutcheson and a then-teenage Aaron confessed that they had felt pressure from the police to make those statements and they were not true, Hutcheson herself deemed them a complete fabrication and accused the police of using her and conveniently misplacing key pieces of evidence.
The script for Devil’s Knot is based on Mara Leveritt’s 2003 book “Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three,” with a screenplay penned by Scott Derrickson and Paul Boardman.