John Mark Byers, sometimes known as Mark Byers, was born on March 8th, 1957 in Marked Tree, Arkansas. Mark is described as being 6'5" and approximately 238 lbs. He is one of four children: Marilee Simpson, Beth Cossey, and George Byers. His parents, George W. Byers and Auvergne Dye Byers, are both deceased. Mark's father was described as a 32nd degree Mason and a member of the Scottish Rite. Mark himself was a Master of Ceremonies at the Masonic Lodge he belonged to in 1991.
Prior to marrying Melissa DeFir, Mark Byers was married to Sandra Byers. He had two biological children with Sandra - a boy and a girl. By 1989, Byers was married to Melissa and had a number of criminal charges against him relating to his treatment of his former wife and children (see below: criminal background before May of 1993). Sandra reported concerns that she felt Byers was involved in the murders to Gary Gitchell (Leveritt, 2002).
Criminal Background before May of 1993
Prior to the murders of the three boys in West Memphis, AR, Mark Byers had criminal charges relating to the use of terroristic threats, grand theft, and drug use. One of the terroristic threats pertained to a domestic dispute between Mark and his first wife, Sandra Byers. In 1988, it was alleged that he threatened her life and assaulted her with an electronic stunning device. Byers was 30 years old when he accumulated this charge and he was 35 when Judge David Burnett expunged it from his record. Despite the record having been expunged, documents detailing the charges were found at the Crittenden County Court by journalist Mara Leveritt.
In 1973, the parents of Mark Byers called the police, claiming that their son was threatening them with a butcher knife. The incident took place in his home town of Marked Tree, AR (Leveritt, 2002).
In October of 1990, the owners of a jewelry store Byers previously worked for pressed charges against him for allegedly stealing $65,000 in jewelry. The police did not arrest Mark Byers and so the owners took the complaint to the civil courts, filing a lawsuit against Byers and another couple. In 1991, Byers was ordered by the court to return the jewelry to the owners (Leveritt, 2002).
In July of 1992, Byers was arrested for "conspiring to sell cocaine and with carrying a dangerous weapon" (Leveritt, 2002, p. 22). He was booked in County jail in Memphis, TN and he was placed into the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Shortly before the murders, in December of 1992, Byers again faced criminal charges regarding $11,000 in stolen Rolex watches. Detective Bryn Ridge and Mike Allen were contacted by the United Parcel Service about the matter, reporting that the watches had been delivered to Byers and he was denying the shipment occurred. This matter had not been settled by the time the three boys were murdered in May of 1993. Byers eventually confessed to receiving the watches and selling them to a chiropractor in another town. Brent Davis made the recommendation that he not be prosecuted. Byers was asked to pay $7,400 in restitution which would allow him to avoid criminal prosecution (Leveritt, 2002).
Criminal Background after May of 1993
Death of Second Wife, Melissa Byers
Leveritt, Mara. (2002). Devil's knot: The true story of the West Memphis three. New York: Atria Books.