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In a Harlem apartment strewn with crystal swords, Tarot cards, and wands made of deer bone, Damien Echols and Lorri Davis prepare to perform a ritual from an occult tradition called the Golden Dawn. Wearing black bathrobes, they sit facing each other on an oriental rug, tattooed wrists pressed together. Damien stands facing east, Lorri seated by his feet, and draws a pentagram in the air. He repeats this while facing north, west, and south, circling Lorri while she meditates. Then he invokes archangels.
Michael to my right. Gabriel to my left.
Sandalphon below me. Metatron above me. When the ritual is complete, Damien is sweating and Lorri is blissful, encased in what they visualize as a protective sphere of light, flanked by flaming blue pentagrams and towering angels.
It was winter, Inthey were convicted of the brutal murders of three eight-year old boys, who had been found dead in a ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas, hogtied with their own shoelaces. No concrete evidence linked the teenagers to the murders. Baldwin, then 16, and Misskelley, then 18, the alleged accomplices, were sentenced to life in prison. Damien, the alleged ringleader, then 19, was sentenced to death.
A week after seeing a gaunt, shackled Damien in Paradise LostLorri sent him a letter in prison. I am committed to doing whatever I can to make your life a little more bearable. He grew up in a shack with no electricity and loved Metallica and horror movies. She did architectural projects in the Hamptons and visited the MoMA on weekends. He was the furthest thing from who I was. But soon, they were writing each other daily: about whirling dervishes, year locusts, puberty, Faust, quitting smoking, Paganini and Interview with a Vampire.
Four months after the first letter, Damien called Lorri on the phone. They started talking every day. Telling only a few close friends about her budding romance with a death row inmate, she hopped on a plane to visit him.
But they could speak only through a plexiglass wall. To get closer, they sat on the counter, leaning against the partition.
He sent her a shirt; it smelled like cloves. She addressed each envelope in sepia ink and lipstick-kissed the seal. They concocted a fantasy life together, planning to open a bookstore, travel to Egypt, and dress each other in green velvet cloaks. Eventually, the phone bills from New York to Arkansas grew too expensive, and the physical distance too painful. It would infuriate the guards.
In Decemberthey married in a Buddhist ceremony, held in the prison visiting room, where they were allowed to touch for the first time. When asked how they held onto the hope that runs relentlessly through their thousands of lettersLorri and Damien say they felt something greater than hope.
We always just saw that we were gonna have a life together. We were just waiting, is all. Jackson helped pay for DNA testing that eventually convinced the State of Arkansas to negotiate their release. In August,the day finally came: after entering an Alford plea, which allowed them to maintain their innocence while pleading guilty, the West Memphis Three walked free — though, after 10 years in solitary confinement, Damien, then 36, could barely walk.
Still, the symptoms of PTSD seemed insurmountable. Even as they traveled the world advocating to abolish the death penalty, basic human interactions and mundane activities like grocery-shopping triggered panic attacks. It shattered me psychologically. We were horrible to each other. We were both suicidal at one point. Over pizza at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Lorri shows off a new ankle tattoo, of a year-locust, pictured on a stamp on an early letter to Damien.
But inwhen these insects next emerged, the couple was too mired in trauma to commemorate it as planned. In the past year, the fog around them has lifted. His soul flies around, and falls in love with the woman in New York.
In the gardens, they hold hands and peer into a windowed hutch, home to several peacocks. When Damien was on death row, Lorri would go about her day constantly imagining he was with her. There were so many people who wanted him murdered. Paradise found: she waited for him while he was wrongly on death row. Damien Echols and Lorri Davis at home. Photograph: Reto Sterchi. Carey Dunne. Wed 14 Feb Damien Echols: how I survived death row. Reuse this content.Married but looking in West memphis AR
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