It’s been over two years since Damien Echols, of the West Memphis Three, was released from prison and he’s making a rare trip back to Arkansas Monday to speak at UCA. Echols and his wife Lorri are traveling from their home in Massachusetts as part of the university’s Artist-in-Residence Series to discuss two books he has authored.
Echols is a New York Times bestselling author and will meet with classes to discuss writing and participate in a discussion with the public. Professor Francie Bolter wrote the proposal to bring Echols to UCA and said she hopes to explore his writing process.
“My colleague John Vanderslice and I are going to engage Damien and Lorri in a conversation about what it meant to try to be a writer in prison, to try to tap into the muse and how you would be able to even find any kind of creative spirit in such an environment,” said Bolter.
Echols was released from prison after serving on death row for the murder of three eight-year-olds. He and his codefendants were eventually offered a plea agreement as the state sought to avoid having to put them on trial again. Bolter said Echols’ appearance is about more than his controversial incarceration.
“One of the things Damien says in his book is that he wishes his identity isn't wholly the West Memphis Three. One of the things I certainly want to offer him is the opportunity to talk as a writer and as someone who's tried to be an artist and create something out of his experience. I'd like to offer him that identity, I think it's important,” said Bolter.
Bolter expects a capacity crowd of nearly 800 to be in attendance for the public discussion at 7:30 p.m. in Conway.