DALTON, AR — On September 7, 2000, an anonymous hunter stumbled onto a horrifying sight: A human skull in a dry creek bed.
The bones were all that remained of Felicia Elliott, 8, who was killed on a stormy night in 1998 in Dalton, Arkansas, along with the rest of her family.
Investigators would later reveal horrific details of what the little girl had endured: After the killer massacred the rest of her family, Felicia was kidnapped, held captive in a barrel, and repeatedly raped before her throat was slit several days later.“A horror story writer could not invent a story worse than what happened to the Elliotts. To this day, it still gives me nightmares,” author George Jared, who covered two murder trials in connection with the case, wrote in his book The Creek Side Bones. “It’s a horror movie that runs on a continuous loop in my head.”
That horror story started at around 1:15 A.M. on July 30, 1998, when a Randolph County Sheriff’s Deputy responded to a call after reports that “there was hollering going on” at the home of Carl and Lisa Elliott.
The couple and their two children, Felicia and Gregory, 7, lived in a home near the river next door to Lisa’s stepmother and father.
As a massive storm raged outside, the officer approached the home and found nothing unusual — so he left without conducting a welfare check.
The next morning, when Lisa’s stepmother tried to go outside she found that something heavy was blocking the door. She went out onto the porch, and was horrified to find that the large object was Lisa’s body.
Lisa’s throat had been slashed, and her bloody handprint stained the door from the spot where she had crawled to her father’s house to try to get help.
Later, at trial, the Associate State Medical Examiner would testify that the mother of two took 27 blows to the head with a blunt object that was consistent with a tire tool found in the home. The killer had plunged the tire iron into Lisa’s throat, piercing her carotid artery and cutting off her air supply. This caused massive bleeding into her lungs, causing her to literally drown in her own blood.Gregory’s body was found inside the home. Records indicate the boy was held down, and the pointed end of the tire tool plunged into his throat multiple times. A single blow had crushed his head “like an eggshell.”
Around 48 hours later, Carl’s body was found in Eleven Point River. He had been shot in the back of the head and had superficial wounds on his throat.
Only little Felicia was missing.
Five years later — to the day — that the bodies of Lisa and Gregory were found, in July 2003, police arrested Charles (Chad) Wayne Green and his father Billy Dale Green in connection with the killings.
Records indicate the girl had been taken from the scene in a trash can, kept alive for two days, tied with duct tape, and sexually assaulted before death.
“Imagining what happened to that little girl. No one knew how long she was kept in that barrel, being raped and tortured,” Jared told CrimeFeed.
Police believed that the men had wrapped Felicia in a blanket and kidnapped her. Chad, a known pedophile, then kept the little girl bound in a barrel in his garage, as temperatures climbed to 100 degrees, and repeatedly raped her.
Police thought Billy might have also raped her. Eventually, according to Jared, Billy told his son that the “fun had to end,” and at that point Billy took Felicia to the creek and slit her throat.
Investigators said that the motive for the horrific quadruple homicide was money. The Green family were known for dealing drugs, and Carl’s family and friends admitted that he had been involved in methamphetamine deals with the family.
Police developed a theory that Carl had stolen some marijuana plants from the family that were valued at around $10,000. This theory was bolstered at trial when an acquaintance of Lisa Elliott testified that two months before the murders, Lisa had asked to borrow $10,000 to cover a debt that she owed the Greens.
The witness also said that Lisa was scared to death of the family, and testified that the reason that he waited so long to talk to police was due to fear for his own family’s safety.
Chad and Billy Green were both convicted of the murders in 2004. Billy was given the death penalty, while Chad got 40 years after agreeing to testify against his father.
But the saga was not over: In 2006, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned Billy Green’s sentence after ruling that improper testimony had been allowed. However, when prosecutors announced they would retry Billy, Chad then refused to testify against him.But this time, Chad lost his gamble.
The court ruled that by refusing to cooperate, Chad had voided his original deal. He was sentenced to four life terms in prison, 40 for the kidnapping and another 56 years for raping two young girls in an unrelated case.
In 2012, following a retrial, Billy was sentenced to serve four consecutive life sentences for the killings and 40 years for the kidnapping.
A jailhouse informant named Phillip Darren Shockey would later offer an alternate motive: He told the court that Lisa had learned that Chad had molested Felicia — and reportedly threatened to go to the police.
Over the years, author Jared — who covered the West Memphis Three trial and is no stranger to controversial cases — said that he developed his own theory.
Jared said that he believes that the chain of events that set off the murders may have started with an accident: He theorized that Chad could have given Carl some meth, and when Carl could not pay for it, a fight broke out.
Chad, who had a habit of firing “warning shots” at people who annoyed him, may have accidentally hit Carl — and then gone to the house to kill potential witnesses.“I first began to wonder about Billy when I found out that the weapon had been left behind,” Jared said. “Billy was a very smart criminal, so it didn’t make sense that he would leave a weapon behind,” he said. But, “Chad was an idiot.”
After finishing Carl off, Jared believes that Chad went after his “true motive” — Felicia.
Jared, who also wrote a book about the West Memphis Three called Witches in West Memphis: The West Memphis Three And Another False Confession, said that he befriended Damien Echols and his wife, Lori, after becoming involved in the case.
Jared said that Echols, who was released on an Alford plea, still suffers from PTSD related to his wrongful conviction and incarceration.
For more on the West Memphis Three, watch the “West Memphis Three” episode of Investigation Discovery’s True Crime With Aphrodite Jones on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Old Eleven Point River Bridge in Dalton, Arkansas. Carl Elliott’s body was found in the Eleven Point River on August 1, 1998. [Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department]