The first film in the series, released in 1996, was Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. The film is an extraordinary achievement in objective documentary filmmaking, as Berlinger and Sinofsky interview numerous people connected with the case, including the parents of both the victims and the accused, members of the West Memphis Police Department involved in the investigation and the judge and most of the attorneys and legal counsel involved in the trial.
The film opens with some amateur footage (likely not taken by the documentarians) of the crime scene – and we learn that the naked and hogtied bodies of three 8 year-old boys have been discovered in a ditch in a wooded area of West Memphis, known as the ‘Robin Hood Hills’. The three victims were Christopher Byers, Michael Moore and Stevie Branch – with Christopher Byers’ discovered with his penis severed off. Approximately a month after investigations commence (and this information is revealed in Purgatory and was not disclosed in the first two installments) three teenage boys, Jessie Misskelley Jr., Jason Baldwin and Damien Echols were arrested on suspicion and eventually put on trial for the crimes.