Lowcountry family relives nightmare after release of 'West Memphis 3'

GOOSE CREEK, SC (WCSC) - Three 8 year olds were hog tied with their own shoelaces, left naked and found dead in a ditch in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas in 1993. Nearly two decades later, their convicted murders were released from prison on an Alford Plea and the shockwaves of their release is being felt here in the Lowcountry.

Eight hundred miles away from West Memphis, the Andrews family flips through pictures of their daughter's class picture in the second grade. Their fingers land on one little boy, then another.

The two boys were victims of gruesome murders 18 years earlier. And now, the family that now calls Goose Creek home, is reliving the past.

"It was crazy," says Debra Andrews. "It was a witch-hunt."

Andrews got word from friends that the 'West Memphis 3,' high school students that were arrested and charged with the three children's murders, were freed last Friday bringing back a rush of memories.

"I lived across the street from the school and I drove my kids to school," says Andrews. "That's how bad it was. People were panicking."

But none more panicked then the Andrews family whose daughter was in the same second grade class as two of the 8-year-old victims.

"It was frightening," says Debra's husband William. "We kept our kids inside, they weren't allowed out. We made sure we were with them... It was just a very frightening time."

So frightening that William Andrews was on board with the conviction in the earlier months of the trial.

"When they arrested those boys we all wanted to believe they did it," says Andrews, but his mind soon changed.

After really listening to the evidence against the three high school students, Andrews realized there was no evidence.

Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley changed their pleas in an Arkansas Court Friday to guilty, which in turn freed them on grounds of the Alford Plea.

The plea means they're found guilty, admitting that the court has enough evidence to convict them without admitting to the crime.

And now Andrews says Arkansas has a bigger problem that they may never address.

"The real problem now is the real killer or killers will never be found because Arkansas satisfied that those boys did it," he says.

Until their release, Echols was sentenced to die and both Baldwin and Misskelley received life sentences. Under the plea deal, the 'West Memphis 3' were sentenced to 18 years in prison, with credit for time served.

But as a part of the deal the three men have each been given 10-year probations and according to court documents if they break probation in any way they'll be sent back to prison.

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