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Wayne Bertram Williams (born May 27, 1958) was identified as the key suspect in the Atlanta Child Murders that occurred between 1979 and 1981. In January 1982, he was found guilty of the murder of two adult men. After his conviction, the Atlanta police declared an additional 23 of the 29 child murders solved.
Williams was born and raised in Atlanta's Dixie Hills neighborhood, from which many of the Atlanta Child Murderer's victims would later disappear. An aspiring DJ, he ran an amateur radio station from his parents' house, and was well-known in the area for scouting local musicians, particularly teenagers.
He also had a reputation in his community as a liar who invented impressive stories about himself, the details of which were too outlandish to be true. He was rumoured to be gay, but this has never been proven. His only encounter with the law prior to becoming a murder suspect was in 1976, when he was arrested (but never convicted) for impersonating a police officer.
He first became a suspect in the child murder case in May 1981. His car was spotted directly above the sound of a loud splash heard in the river by a stake out team. He was stopped by police and questioned, and claimed that he was going out of town to audition a young singer. This alibi fell apart after police found that the address and phone number he gave them didn't exist.
Three days later, the nude body of 27 year-old Nathaniel Cater, who had been missing for days, turned up in the river. The medical examiner on the case ruled he had died of "probable" asphyxia, but never authoritatively said he had been strangled.
Police theorized that Williams had killed Cater and had thrown him off the bridge the night they had pulled him over. Their suspicions about Williams increased after he failed a polygraph test, and hairs and fibers on one of the victims' bodies were found consistent with those from Williams' home, car, and dog. People working in Williams' studio also told police they had seen him with scratches on his face and arms around the time of the murders, which the police thought could have been inflicted by victims during a struggle.
Williams held a press conference outside his parents' home, proclaiming his innocence. He was nevertheless arrested on June 21, 1981, for the murders of Cater and 29-year-old Jimmy Payne.
Trial and conviction
Williams' trial began on January 6, 1982. The prosecution's case relied on an abundance of circumstantial evidence. During the two-month trial, prosecutors matched 19 different sources of fibers from Williams' environment: his bedspread, bathroom, gloves, clothes, carpets, dog and an unusual tri-lobal carpet fiber to a number of victims.
There was also eyewitness testimony placing Williams with different victims, blood stains from victims matching blood in Williams' car, and testimony that he was a pedophile attracted to young black boys. Williams himself took the stand, but alienated the jury by becoming angry and combative during a single instance.
Williams never recovered from the single outburst, and on February 27, the jury deliberated for 10 hours before finding him guilty of murdering Cater and Payne. He was then sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment.
Williams' conviction has been disputed. Many in the community did not believe Williams, the son of two teachers, could have killed so many children and adults. On May 6, 2005, DeKalb County Police Chief Louis Graham ordered the reopening of the murder cases of four boys killed in the area between February and May 1981 that were attributed to Williams.
However, the authorities in neighboring Fulton County, Georgia, where the majority of the murders occurred, have not moved to reopen the cases under their jurisdiction. Williams has always vehemently denied the charges. Dekalb County finally closed its case after finding no new evidence.
On August 6, 2005, it was revealed that Charles T. Sanders, a white supremacist affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan who had been investigated for a role in the Atlanta child killings, once praised the crimes in secretly recorded conversations. Although Sanders did not claim responsibility for any of the deaths, Williams' lawyers believe the evidence will help their bid for a new trial.
Sanders told an informant for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the 1981 recording that the killer had "wiped out a thousand future generations of niggers." Police dropped the probe into the KKK's possible involvement after seven weeks, when Sanders and two of his brothers passed lie detector tests. The case was once again closed on July 21, 2006.
Former FBI profiler John E. Douglas wrote in his book Mindhunter that, while he believes Williams committed many of the murders, he did not commit them all. He added that he believes law enforcement has some idea of who the other killers are, and that "it isn't a single offender and the truth isn't pleasant."
The Atlanta Child Murders, known locally as the "missing and murdered children case", were a series of murders committed in Atlanta, Georgia, United States from the summer of 1979 until the spring of 1981. Over the two-year period, a minimum of twenty-eight African-American children, adolescents and adults were killed. Atlanta native Wayne Williams, also African American and 23-years-old at the time of the last murder, was arrested for and convicted of two of the murders.
In the summer of 1979, Edward Hope Smith (14) and Alfred Evans (14) disappeared four days apart; both their bodies were found on July 28. Their confirmed deaths were the beginning of the series of murders believed to be committed by the "Atlanta Child Killer", so-called because it was popularly assumed there was only one perpetrator. The next murder victim, Milton Harvey (who was also 14), disappeared on September 4, 1979, while traveling to the bank to pay a credit card bill for his mother. His body was later recovered.
On October 21, 1979, Yusuf Bell went to the store to buy snuff for a neighbor, Eula Birdsong. A witness said she saw Yusuf getting into a blue car before he disappeared. His body was found on November 8, 1979, in the abandoned E.P. Johnson elementary school. He was still wearing the brown cut-off shorts he was last seen in. He had been strangled. The police did not immediately link his disappearance to the previous killings.
The next victim, 12-year-old Angel Lenair, was the first female victim of the killer. She disappeared March 4, 1980 and was found 6 days later, strangled, tied to a tree and possibly sexually assaulted. On March 11, 1980, Jeffery Mathis disappeared while on an errand for his mother.
On June 9, Chris Richardson went missing on his way to a local pool. On June 22 and June 23, seven-year-old Latonya Wilson and 10-year-old Aaron Wyche went missing. The extended wave of disappearances and murders panicked parents and children in the city, and the government struggled to ensure the safety of children. Nonetheless, apparently linked murders continued.
The murders of two children, Anthony Carter and Earl Terell, occurred in July 1980.
Between August and November 1980, five more killings took place. There were no known victims during the month of December. All the victims had been African-American children between the ages of nine and 14 and most had been asphyxiated.
The murders continued into 1981. The first known victim in the new year was Lubie Geter, who disappeared on January 3. Geter's body was found on February 5. Geter's friend Terry Pue also went missing in January. An anonymous caller told the police where to find Pue's body.
In February two murders occurred, believed linked to the others. In March, four Atlanta linked murders took place, including that of Eddie Duncan, the first adult victim.
In April, Larry Rogers was murdered, as well as adult ex-convict John Porter and Jimmy Ray Payne.
After William Barrett went missing on May 16, 1981, his body was found close to his home. The last victim added to the list was Nathaniel Cater, 27 years old.
Investigator Chet Dettlinger created a map of the victims' locations. Despite the difference in ages, the victims fell with the same geographic parameters. They were connected to Memorial Drive and 11 major streets in the area.
Capturing the suspect
As the news media divulged that physical evidence was being gathered from the corpses, the FBI privately profiled that the killer would dump the next victim into a body of water to remove any evidence. Some victims had already been put in the river. Police staked out the James Jackson Parkway/south Cobb Drive bridge over the Chattahoochee River between Atlanta/Fulton County and suburban Cobb County to monitor suspicious activity that might be connected to the murders. On the last night of their stake-out, May 22, 1981, detectives got the first major break in the case when an officer heard a splash in the water beneath the bridge. He saw a white 1970 Chevrolet station wagon slowly driving away from the bridge.
An Atlanta police patrol car and a second unmarked car carrying federal agents first followed and then stopped the station wagon about a half mile from the bridge. The driver was 23-year-old Wayne Bertram Williams, a failed music promoter and freelance photographer. The Chevrolet wagon belonged to his parents. Dog hair and fiber evidence recovered from the rear of the vehicle were later major factors in the police building a case against Williams, as they matched his dog and carpet in his parents' house. During questioning, Williams said he was on his way to audition a woman named Cheryl Johnson as a singer. Williams claimed she lived in the nearby Cobb County town of Smyrna. Police did not find any record of Cheryl Johnson nor of Williams's claimed appointment with her.
Two days later, on May 24, the naked body of Nathaniel Cater, 27, was found floating downriver just a few miles from the bridge where Williams had stopped his car. The medical examiner determined the body had been in the river no more than 36 to 48 hours. Based on this evidence, including hearing the splash, police believed that Williams had killed Cater and disposed of his body while the police were nearby.
Several pieces of evidence led the police to consider Williams the prime suspect. On June 21, 1981, they arrested him. A Grand Jury indicted him for first-degree murder in the deaths of Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne, age 22. The trial date was set for early 1982.
Jury selection began on December 28, 1981, and lasted six days. The jury was composed of nine women and three men, with a racial composition of eight African-Americans and four Caucasians.
The trial officially began on January 6, 1982, with Judge Clarence Cooper presiding. The most important evidence against Williams was the fiber analysis between victims and the 12 pattern-murder cases, in which circumstantial evidence culminated in numerous links among the crimes. This included witnesses testifying to seeing Williams with the victims, and some witnesses suggesting that he had solicited sexual favors.
On February 27, 1982 - after only eleven hours of deliberation - the jury found Wayne Bertram Williams guilty of the two murders. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in the Georgia state prison at Reidsville.
On May 6, 2005, the DeKalb County, Georgia, Police Chief Louis Graham ordered the reopening of the murder cases of five boys who were killed in DeKalb County between February and May 1981 that had been attributed to Williams. Police Chief Graham believed that Williams may have been innocent of these and other murders. The remaining cases are under the jurisdiction of Fulton County, Georgia, and those authorities consider their related murder cases closed with the arrest and trial of Williams.
Musicians performed concerts to honor the victims, and to provide benefits to the victim's families. Performers included Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.. The Jacksons performed on July 22, 1981 at the Atlanta Omni Coliseum during their Triumph Tour raising 0,000 for the Atlanta Children's Foundation in response to the kidnappings and murders.
Wayne Williams's father, who was a media photographer in Atlanta at the time, could be seen on stage with Frank Sinatra.
Now 52 years old, Wayne Williams continues to maintain his innocence.
About six months after becoming the DeKalb County Police Chief, Graham reopened the investigations into the deaths of the five DeKalb County victims: Aaron Wyche, 10; Curtis Walker, 13; Joseph Bell, 15; William Barrett, 17; and Patrick Baltazar, 11. Graham, one of the original investigators in these cases, said he never believed Wayne Williams, the man convicted of two of the killings and blamed for 22 others, was guilty of any of them.
On August 6, 2005, journalists reported that Charles T. Sanders, a white supremacist affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), once praised the crimes in secretly recorded conversations. Although Sanders did not claim responsibility for any of the deaths, lawyers for Williams believed that the evidence will help their bid for a new trial for Williams. The police had investigated Sanders in relation to the murders, but dropped the probe into his and the KKK's possible involvement after seven weeks, when Sanders and two of his brothers passed lie detector tests.
The criminal profiler John E. Douglas stated that, while he believes that Williams committed many of the murders, he does not think that he committed them all. Douglas added that he believes that law enforcement authorities have some idea of who the other killers are, cryptically adding, "It isn't a single offender and the truth isn't pleasant."
On June 21, 2006, the DeKalb County Police dropped its reinvestigation of the Atlanta child murders. After resigning, Graham was replaced by the Acting Chief, Nick Marinelli, who said, "We dredged up what we had, and nothing has panned out, so until something does or additional evidence comes our way, or there's forensic feedback from existing evidence, we will continue to pursue the [other] cold cases that are [with]in our reach."
On January 29, 2007, attorneys for the State of Georgia agreed to allow DNA testing of the dog hair that was used to help convict Williams. This decision was a response to a legal filing as a part of Williams' efforts to appeal his conviction and life sentences. Williams's lawyer, Jack Martin, asked a Fulton County Superior Court judge to allow DNA tests on canine and human hair and blood, stating the results might help Williams win a new trial.
On June 26, 2007, the DNA test results were published, but they failed to exonerate Williams. While some prosecutors asserted that the results "linked" Williams to the killings, defense lawyers called the test results inconclusive. Dr. Elizabeth Wictum, director of the UC Davis laboratory that carried out the testing, told The Associated Press that while the results were “fairly significant,” they "don't conclusively point to Williams' dog as the source of the hair", because the lab was able to test only for mitochondrial DNA which, unlike nuclear DNA, cannot be shown to be unique to one dog.
Known child victims
|Name||Age||Date of disappearance|
|Edward Smith||14||July 21, 1979|
|Alfred Evans||13||July 25, 1979|
|Milton Harvey||14||September 4, 1979|
|Yusef Bell||9||October 21, 1979|
|Angel Lenair||12||March 4, 1980|
|Jeffery Mathis||10||March 11, 1980|
|Eric Middlebrooks||14||May 18, 1980|
|Chris Richardson||12||June 9, 1980|
|Latonya Wilson||7||June 22, 1980|
|Aaron Wyche||10||June 23, 1980|
|Anthony Carter||9||July 6, 1980|
|Earl Terell||11||July 30, 1980|
|Clifford Jones||13||August 20, 1980|
|Darren Glass||10||September 14, 1980|
|Charles Stephens||12||October 9, 1980|
|Aaron Jackson||9||November 1, 1980|
|Patrick Rogers||16||November 10, 1980|
|Lubie Geter||14||January 3, 1981|
|Terry Pue||15||January 22, 1981|
|Patrick Baltazar||11||February 6, 1981|
|Curtis Walker||15||February 19, 1981|
|Joseph Bell||15||March 2, 1981|
|Timothy Hill||13||March 13, 1981|
The first national media coverage of the missing and murdered children was in 1980, when a team from ABC News 20/20, Stanhope Gould and Bill Lichtenstein, and a producer, Steve Tello and correspondent Bob Sirkin, from the ABC Atlanta bureau looked in the case. They were assigned to the story after ABC News president Roone Arledge read a tiny news story in the newspaper that said police had ruled out any connection between a day care explosion, which turned out to be a faulty furnace, and the cases of lost and missing children, which had been previously unreported on in the national media. In a week, the team reported on the cases of the dead and missing kids, and they broke the story that the Atlanta Police Task Force was not writing down or following up every lead they received through the police hotline that had been set up.
In 1985, a film was released titled The Atlanta Child Murders. The film was centered around the murders that took place and the arrest of the suspect. Like JFK, the film revolved mainly around the aftermath of the killings and the trials. The film starred Calvin Lewis, Morgan Freeman, James Earl Jones, Rip Torn, Jason Robards, Martin Sheen, and Bill Paxton. Atlanta officials criticized The Atlanta Child Murders film, claiming that it distorted the facts of the case. After a series of negotiations, CBS executives agreed to insert a disclaimer alerting viewers that the film is based on fact but contains fictional elements, however the film is based on a true story.
In 2000, Showtime released a drama film titled Who Killed Atlanta's Children? Like JFK and Frost/Nixon, the film centered mainly around the intensity of a conspiracy.
On June 10, 2010, CNN broadcasted a documentary, The Atlanta Child Murders involving the case, with real interviews by Soledad O'Brien of the people involved including Wayne Williams. The two-hour CNN documentary invited CNN viewers to weigh the evidence presented and then go to CNN.com to cast votes on whether Williams is "guilty," "innocent" -- or the case is "not proven." According to poll results, 68.6 percent of respondents said Williams was guilty. Only 4.3 percent said he was innocent. The remaining 27.1 percent chose a third option, "not proven," which was added to the CNN poll to offer a middle ground.
The curious and controversial string of deaths that sparked a two -year reign of terror in Atlanta, Georgia, have been labeled "children's" murders even though a suspect, ultimately blamed for 23 of 30 homicides, was finally convicted only in the deaths of two adult ex-convicts. Today, nearly a decade after that suspect's arrest, the case remains, in many minds, an unsolved mystery.
Investigation of the case began, officially, on July 28, 1979. That afternoon, a woman hunting empty cans and bottles in Atlanta stumbled on a pair of corpses, carelessly concealed in roadside undergrowth. One victim, shot with a .22-caliber weapon, was identified as Edward Smith, 14, reported missing on July 21. The other was 13-year-old Alfred Evans, last seen alive on July 25. The coroner ascribed his death to "probable" asphyxiation. Both dead boys, like all of those to come, were black.
On September 4, Milton Harvey, age 14, vanished during a neighborhood bike ride. His body was recovered three weeks later, but the cause of death remains officially "unknown." Yusef Bell, a 9-year-old, was last seen alive when his mother sent him to the store on October 21. Found dead in an abandoned school November 8, he had been strangled manually by a powerful assailant.
Angel Lenair, age 12, was the first recognized victim of 1980. Reported missing on March 4, she was found six days later, tied to a tree with her hands bound behind her. The first female victim, she had been sexually abused and strangled with an electric cord; someone else's panties were extracted from her throat. On March 11, Jeffrey Mathis vanished on an errand to the store. Eleven months would pass before recovery of his skeletal remains, advanced decomposition ruling out a declaration on the cause of death.
On May 18, 14-year-old Eric Middlebrooks left home after receiving a telephone call from persons unknown. Found the next day, his death was ascribed to head injuries, inflicted with a blunt instrument.
The terror escalated into summer. On June 9, Christopher Richardson, 12, vanished en route to a neighborhood swimming pool. Latonya Wilson was abducted from her home on June 22, the night before her seventh birthday, bringing federal agents into the case.
The following day, 10-year-old Aaron Wyche was reported missing by his family. Searchers found his body on June 24, Iying beneath a railroad trestle, his neck broken. Originally dubbed an accident, Aaron's death was subsequently added to the growing list of dead and missing blacks.
Anthony Carter, age 9, disappeared while playing near his home on July 6, 1980; recovered the following day, he was dead from multiple stab wounds. Earl Terrell joined the list on July 30, when he vanished from a public swimming pool. Skeletal remains discovered on January 9, 1981, would yield no clues about the cause of death.
Next up on the list was 12-year-old Clifford Jones, snatched off the street and strangled on August 20. With the recovery of his body in October, homicide detectives interviewed five witnesses who named his killer as a white man, jailed in 1981 on charges of attempted rape and aggravated sodomy. These witnesses provided details of the crime consistent with the placement and condition of the victim's body, but detectives chose to file their affidavits, listing Jones with other victims of an "unknown" murderer.
Darron Glass, an 11-year-old, vanished near his home on September 14, 1980. Never found, he joins the list because authorities don't know what else to do about his case. October's victim was Charles Stephens, reported missing on the ninth and recovered next day, his life extinguished by asphyxiation. Capping off the month, authorities discovered skeletal remains of Latonya Wilson on October 18, but they could not determine how she died.
On November 1, 9-year-old Aaron Jackson's disappearance was reported to police by frantic parents. The boy was found on November 2, another victim of asphyxiation. Patrick Rogers, 15, followed on November 10. His pitiful remains, skull crushed by heavy blows, were not unearthed until February 1981.
Two days after New Year's, the elusive slayer picked off Lubie Geter, strangling the 14-year-old and dumping his body where it would not be found until February 5. Terry Pue, 15, was missing on January 22 and was found the next day, strangled with a cord or piece of rope. This time, detectives said that special chemicals enabled them to lift a suspect's fingerprints from Terry's corpse. Unfortunately, they were not on file with any law enforcement agency.
Patrick Baltazar, age 12, disappeared on February 6. His body was found a week later, marked by ligature strangulation, and the skeletal remains of Jeffrey Mathis, were found nearby. A 13-year-old, Curtis Walker, was strangled on February 19 and found the same day. Joseph Bell, 16, was asphyxiated on March 2; Timothy Hill, on March 11, was recorded as a drowning victim.
On March 30, police added their first adult victim to the list of murdered children. He was Larry Rogers, 20, linked with younger victims by the fact that he had been asphyxiated. No cause of death was determined for a second adult victim, 21-year-old Eddie Duncan, when his body was found on March 31. On April 1, ex-convict Michael McIntosh, age 23, was added to the roster on the grounds that he had also been asphyxiated.
By April 1981, it seemed apparent that the "children's murder" case was getting out of hand. Community critics denounced the official victims list as incomplete and arbitrary, citing cases like the January 1981 murder of Faye Yearby to prove their point.
Like "official" victim Angel Lenair, Yearby was bound to a tree by her killer, hands tied behind her back; she had been stabbed to death, like four acknowledged victims on the list. Despite these similarities, police rejected Yearby's case on grounds that (a) she was a female -- as were Wilson and Lenair -- and (b) at 22, she was "too old" -- although the last acknowledged victim had been 23. (Dave Dettlinger, examining police malfeasance in The List, suggests that 63 "pattern" victims were capriciously omitted from the "official" roster, twenty-five of them after a suspect's arrest supposedly "ended" the murders.)
During April, spokesmen for the FBI declared that several of the crimes were "substantially solved," outraging blacks with suggestions that some of the dead had been slain by their own parents. While that storm was raging, Roy Innis, leader of the Congress of Racial Equality, went public with the story of a female witness who described the murders as the actions of a cult involved with drugs, pornography and Satanism. Innis led searchers to an apparent ritual site, complete with large inverted crosses, and his witness passed two polygraph examinations, but by that time the police had focused their attention on another suspect, narrowing their scrutiny to the exclusion of all other possibilities.
On April 22, Jimmy Payne, a 21-year-old ex-convict, was reported missing in Atlanta. Six days later, when his body was recovered, death was publicly ascribed to suffocation and his name was added to the list of murdered "children." William Barrett, 17, went missing May 11; he was found the next day, another victim of asphyxiation.
Several bodies had, by now, been pulled from local rivers, and police were staking out the waterways by night. In the pre-dawn hours of May 22, a rookie officer stationed under a bridge on the Chattahoochee River reported hearing "a splash" in the water nearby. Above him, a car rumbled past and officers manning the bridge were alerted. Police and FBI agents halted a vehicle driven by Wayne Bertram Williams, a black man, and spent two hours grilling him, poking through the car, before they let him go.
On May 24, the corpse of Nathaniel Cater, a 27-year-old convicted felon, was fished out of the river downstream, the authorities putting two and two together as they focused their probe on Wayne Williams. From the start, he made a most unlikely suspect. The only child of two Atlanta schoolteachers Williams still lived with his parents at age twenty-three. A college dropout, he cherished ambitions of earning fame and fortune as a music promoter. In younger days, he had constructed a working radio station in the basement of the family home.
On June 21, Williams was arrested and charged with the murder of Nathaniel Cater, despite testimony from four witnesses who reported seeing the victim alive on May 22 and 23, after the infamous "splash." On July 17, Williams was indicted for killing two adults -- Cater and Payne -- while newspapers trumpeted the capture of Atlanta's "child killer."
At his trial, beginning in December 1981, the prosecution painted Williams as a violent homosexual and bigot, so disgusted with his race that he hoped to wipe out future generations by killing black children before they could breed. One witness testified that he saw Williams holding hands with Nathaniel Cater on the night of May 21, a few hours before "the splash." Another, 15 years old, told the court that Williams had paid him two dollars for the privilege of fondling his genitals. Along the way, authorities announced the late addition of a final victim, 28-year-old John Porter, to The List.
Defense attorneys tried to balance out the scales with testimony from a woman who admitted having "normal" sex with Williams, but the prosecution won a crucial point when the presiding judge admitted testimony on ten other deaths from The List, designed to prove a pattern in the murders. One of those admitted was the case of Terry Pue, but neither side had anything to say about the fingerprints allegedly recovered from his corpse in January 1981.
The most impressive evidence of guilt was offered by a team of scientific experts, dealing with assorted hairs and fibers found on certain victims. Testimony indicated that some fibers from a brand of carpet found inside the Williams home had been identified on several bodies. Further, victims Middlebrooks, Wyche, Cater, Terrell, Jones and Stephens all bore fibers from the trunk liner of a 1979 Ford automobile owned by the Williams family. The clothes of victim Stephens also yielded fibers from a second car -- a 1970 Chevrolet -- owned by the family. Jurors were not informed of eyewitness testimony naming a different suspect in the Jones case, nor were they advised of a critical gap in the prosecution's evidence.
Specifically, Wayne Williams had no access to the vehicles in question at the times when three of the six "fiber" victims were killed. Wayne's father took the Ford in for repairs at 9 a.m. on July 30, 1980, nearly five hours before Earl Terrell vanished that afternoon. Terrell was long dead before Williams got the car back on August 7, and it was returned to the shop next morning, still refusing to start. A new estimate on repair costs was so expensive that William's father refused to pay, and the family never again had access to the car. Meanwhile, Clifford Jones was abducted on August 20 and Charles Stephens on October 9, 1980. The defendant's family did not purchase the 1970 Chevrolet until October 21, twelve days after Stephens's death.
On February 27, 1982, Wayne Williams was convicted on two counts of murder and sentenced to a double term of life imprisonment. On March 1, 1982, the Atlanta "child murders" task force officially disbanded, announcing that 23 of 30 "List" cases were considered solved with his conviction. The other seven cases, still open, reverted to the normal homicide detail.
In November 1985, a new team of lawyers uncovered formerly-classified FBI documents from 1980 and '81, describing surveillance of a militant Ku Klux Klansman suspected of murdering several victims on The List. Despite that evidence and glaring flaws throughout the prosecution's case, all appeals filed on behalf of Wayne Williams have been rejected by the courts.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
The Atlanta Child Murders
by Rachael Bell
Setting the Stage
In the late1970's and early 1980's, the city of Atlanta, Georgia, had grown into an economic powerhouse in the South. Long developing as a major regional transportation center, the city had also boasted a number of major corporations, such as Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, and Cox Communications.
The increasingly black population in the city voted into the mayor's office one of their own race, a young lawyer named Maynard Jackson. For Jackson, keeping a power-balancing act between his black constituency and the existing white power structure was critical. Otherwise, the white power structure would flee to the suburbs, leaving the city with a much diminished tax base. Bernard Headley in his book The Atlanta Youth Murders and the Politics of Race says, "Inevitably, many of the balancing acts that Maynard Jackson was forced to perform with Atlanta's white power structure were seen by blacks as betrayal...So throughout much of Jackson's second term, a context of racial strain persisted."
Despite the strong economic growth, the black population of the city remained very poor. Not surprisingly, a serious crime problem developed that made Atlanta one of the most dangerous cities in the country. Atlanta's business community was alarmed at the spiraling crime rate, fearful that businesses would flee the city and conventions would find safer cities for their meetings.
In a four-month period, two very high profile street murders of whites by blacks would crystallize their fears: On June 28, 1979, a young white doctor attending one of the city's conventions, was murdered by two black robbers. Then on October 17, 1979, a mentally unstable black man gunned down a white legal secretary on her birthday. Everyone was outraged and the media demanded a crackdown on crime.
In 1978, Mayor Jackson had replaced his controversial black public safety commissioner Reginald Eaves with Dr. Lee Brown, who was an intelligent, capable manager but had very limited street experience and was perceived as socially distant from the poor black community.
Little did the city understand that these two highly publicized crimes would be dwarfed by two other crimes which, when they happened, received almost no publicity at all. Two black boys were found murdered at the end of July 1979, officially starting one of the most highly publicized murder series in history. A couple of years later, twenty-nine black youths would be dead and a black man, who many people believe was railroaded by the government, would be imprisoned for life.
Fourteen-year-old Edward Hope Smith lived in one of Atlanta's lower income housing projects on Cape Street in southwest Atlanta. It was a destitute place that many had the misfortune of living and few had the means to escape, even though Edward had tried. It isn't difficult to understand why anyone would want to run away from such a disheartening place where more garbage filled the streets than people. Just after midnight in the early morning of July 21, 1979, Edward left a skating rink where he had spent the evening with his girlfriend and began the long walk home.
Several days later, his friend fourteen-year-old Alfred Evans, who lived on the other side of town off Memorial Drive in the East Lake Meadows housing projects, left home to see a karate movie in downtown Atlanta.
Both boys were very athletic. Smith was a football fanatic and Evans was equally exuberant about basketball, professional wrestling, boxing and karate. Smith was training to play on the high school football team in the fall and Evans played basketball and boxed. These boys had promise, despite their disadvantaged status. They had dreams that they were enthusiastically pursuing.
Dreams became nightmares when Edward never got home from the skating rink that morning and Alfred didn't make it to the karate movie. Instead, both of them were found July 28 in a wooded area off Niskey Lake Road in the southwestern part of the city. Edward had been killed with a.22-caliber gun and Alfred by an undetermined means -- the medical examiner guessed at asphyxia, possibly resulting from strangulation. Both boys were dressed in black, but Edward's socks and distinctive football shirt were missing; Alfred was wearing a belt that wasn't his. Edward was easily identified with dental records, but Alfred's identification is still debated.
What happened? Police determined that both boys had at least some involvement with drugs and were possibly together at a pot party. One caller claimed that Alfred shot Edward and a third boy strangled Alfred in a fit of rage. These stories did not work well with the difference of days between their disappearances, nor did the caller ever show up to make a formal statement. Well, that's all the police needed to hear: black boys involved with drugs (no matter how tangentially) -- sad, but it happens all the time. Further investigation was very limited.
While the police may have been able to get away with dismissing the deaths of Smith and Evans as "drug-related," it was certainly not the case with fourteen-year-old Milton Harvey. His parents had extricated Milton from the high-risk projects years ago and moved him to a pleasant middle-class neighborhood in northwest Atlanta. He didn't go to school on the first day of the session because his mother had inadvertently bought him the "wrong" kind of sneakers and he couldn't face the embarrassment. That day, September 4, 1979, Milton borrowed a bike and took a check to the bank to pay a credit card bill for his mother. He disappeared along with the bicycle, which was found a week later on a deserted dirt lane named Sandy Creek Road.
Milton's badly decomposed remains were found in mid-November in a rubbish dump off Redwine Road in the suburb of East Point, a jurisdiction outside of Atlanta's city limits, and many miles from the bicycle and Milton's home. His death was not at first considered a homicide since there were no marks of violence on the skeletal remains.
A few weeks before Milton's remains were found, Yusef Bell, an extremely gifted nine-year-old disappeared on his way to the store to buy snuff for a neighbor. After buying the snuff, a woman thought she saw him get into a blue car with a man she believed was the former husband of Yusef's mother Camille. The police later discounted this sighting.
Unlike the earlier three cases, Yusef's disappearance received some media attention as Camille begged the abductor to release her well-loved boy. Her community was rallying around her for emotional support.
Camille's hopes vanished when a school custodian in the abandoned E.P. Johnson Elementary School discovered Yusef on November 8th. His body had been wedged into a concrete hole in the floor. He had been strangled to death, either by hand or ligature. The boy had been barefoot when he disappeared and was still barefoot when he was found, but the bottoms of his feet had been washed clean.
This case had finally captured the attention of the community at large. Yusef's funeral was a major event. City officials, black leaders and politicians of every color fell all over themselves to give their condolences to Camille and mourn the tragic death of this promising young man. Mayor Jackson promised a full investigation but none of the four murders were considered connected -- just random acts of violence that "happen" in poor black neighborhoods.
Camille Bell and her friends didn't buy that story and realized that these murders were not typical. They continued to articulate their displeasure at the efforts of the police and the city administration, which they considered too distant from its black constituency. Along with this vocal displeasure crept in the fear that the murders were racially motivated and that the Klan was behind it.
The police got some breathing room between the last half of November and early March. In March of 1980, the killing of black children and youths began in earnest.
Killing in Earnest
The lull came to a nasty end on March 4, 1980 when twelve-year-old Angel Lenair finished her homework and left her apartment in southwest Atlanta. When she didn't come home for her favorite television show, her mother Venus Taylor called the police. As Angel was approaching puberty, her mother worried more and more. Their home was near Fort McPherson and men were starting to take an interest in Angel.
Venus Taylor's worst fears were confirmed on March 10, 1980 when the police found Angel's body tied to a tree with an electrical cord around her neck and a pair of panties that did not belong to Angel stuffed into her mouth. Cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation with the electrical cord. Although Angel's hymen had been broken and there were some minor abrasions in the genital area, the medical examiner did not interpret those facts to mean evidence of sexual assault. Those findings became controversial and did not mean that Angel was not the victim of some sexual abuse.
This particular case was quite different than the previous cases, in that the victim was female and her body was found under different circumstances than the previous male victims. There were two suspects, who were eventually cleared of the murder.
The very next day after Angel's body was found, Jefferey Mathis, aged ten, had left his home to buy cigarettes for his mother in the early evening. Like Yusef Bell, Jefferey would never return from his errand, which was only a few blocks away from his home. His mother Willie Mae Mathis became worried when he was gone over an hour and sent her other sons to look for him. Later that night, a patrolman told Mrs. Mathis to call the missing person's department if he did not come home by morning.
What she did not immediately understand when she contacted that department the next day is that the missing person's department at that time in the Atlanta Police Department -- and in many major cities -- did very little to investigate the disappearance of young people. It was assumed that children and teenagers were runaways and not the victims of foul play.
Jefferey had last been seen by a friend getting into the backseat of a blue car, possibly a Buick. Thirteen days after Mathis had gone missing, Willie Turner, who had recognized Mathis' picture from the newspaper, claimed that he saw Jefferey in a blue NOVA car, driven by a white adult man. Willie Turner also told police that the man he had seen with Mathis had later in the week pulled a gun on him before taking off in his car. Police did little in response to the information given by Turner. The report was filed away and forgotten. The blue car that was earlier seen by Mathis' friend in connection with Jefferey's disappearance was very similar to the description of a car seen by an eyewitness in a later disappearance case of a boy named Aaron Wyche. Jefferey Mathis' two brothers had also reported seeing a blue Buick in the driveway of a house that Jefferey frequented. Interestingly, shortly after Mathis' disappearance, boys from his school had complained to their principle that two black men in a blue car had attempted to lure them away from the schoolyard. The youngsters had memorized the license plate and reported it to police. Once again, police did little to investigate.
Eric Middlebrooks, 14, got a phone call around 10:30 P.M Sunday night, May 18, 1980. He immediately grabbed his tools and told his foster mother he was going out to repair his bike. Early the next morning, his body was found a few blocks away. His bicycle was nearby. Eric had been bludgeoned to death.
As police looked into this murder, it was suspected that Eric had been eyewitness to a robbery and that the robbery suspects were also the murder suspects. However, there was insufficient proof.
Just outside the city limits of Atlanta in the Decatur, twelve-year-old Christopher Richardson lived in a nice middle class neighborhood with his grandparents and mother. In the early afternoon of June 9, 1980, Christopher went to a local recreation center to swim. He never got there.
A few weeks later in the early morning of June 22, 1980, an amazing crime occurred. Seven-year-old LaTonya Wilson was abducted from her home. A neighbor claimed that she saw a black man remove the windowpane in the Wilson apartment, climb into the apartment and leave with the little girl in his arms. Chet Dettlinger in his book The List describes how difficult it would have been to do what the neighbor claimed she saw:
"If , as the neighbor said, the kidnapper climbed through that window, he stepped squarely onto a bed where two other Wilson children were asleep. Neither woke up. Once inside, he stole LaTonya from her bed, carrying her past the door of her parents' room. He walked out the back door, leaving it ajar. Outside, he is said to have paused in the parking lot to speak to another black male, all the while holding the limp figure of LaTonya Wilson under his right arm."
Whoever was responsible for these murders and disappearances was approaching a record in the history of crime. What the citizens of Atlanta, the city government and eventually the FBI didn't realize was that it was just the beginning. What Bernard Headley aptly named "A Summer of Death" was just beginning.
The cumulative ineffectiveness of the Atlanta police to solve the growing number of missing and murdered children galvanized three of the victims' mothers -- Camille Bell, Willie Mae Mathis and Venus Taylor -- to join with Reverend Earl Carroll to form the Committee to Stop Children's Murders (STOP). The group pressured both the Atlanta city government and sought support from the white corporate power structure.
The group was formed none too soon because the day after La Tonya Wilson's shocking abduction, ten-year-old Aaron Wyche disappeared. The next day his body was found beneath a six-lane highway bridge that passed over railroad tracks in DeKalb County. His death was caused by asphyxia, said the medical examiner, because he landed in a way that prevented him from breathing. This death was not initially considered a homicide even though Aaron was deathly afraid of heights and would not have voluntarily climbed that trestle unless he was running away from someone. The assumption was that Aaron fell off the bridge, despite the fact that the guardrails on the bridge were almost as high as Aaron was. Dettlinger says, "There is no way Aaron Wyche could have fallen off that bridge. Jumped or been thrown, maybe; but fall off, no way."
July 6, 1980, nine-year-old Anthony Carter was out playing hide and seek with his cousin after 1 A.M. in the morning when he vanished. He was found stabbed to death the next day behind a warehouse less than a mile from his home.
Throughout this epidemic of murder and missing children, the Atlanta police maintained that the cases were separate and not connected. The general attitude was that Atlanta in recent history had a high rate of murdered children. However, after the publicity that the mothers' group STOP was getting, the city government bowed to the political pressure and announced the formation of a task force in mid-July to focus their investigative efforts.
Two weeks later on July 30, 1980, eleven-year-old Earl Terrell went with some friends to the South Bend Park swimming pool. Earl began to misbehave and the lifeguard threw him out of the pool. After that, Earl disappeared.
Earl's aunt, who lived next door, got a phone call. "I've got Earl. Don't' call the police," he told her. Shortly afterwards, the man -- who sounded like a white southerner -- called back, saying, "I've got Earl. He's in Alabama. It will cost you 0 to get him back. I will call back on Friday." (Detlinger and Prugh).
According to Detlinger, police learned of a child pornography ring that was operating right across the street from the South Bend Park pool. John David Wilcoxen was convicted when police found thousands of photos of children pornographically displayed. Police dismissed the connection between Wilcoxen and Terrell because the photos were of white boys, but a witness claimed that Earl Terrell had been to Wilcoxen's house several times. Also, there was some disagreement as to whether the photos were actually all white boys or not.
At this point, LaTonya Wilson had been abducted and Earl Terrell potentially abducted and transported across state lines. Kidnapping and transporting a person across state lines was the jurisdiction of the FBI. Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson had been trying to get the FBI into this case and now he had the proper rationale.
The summer ended up with the death of one more child. Thirteen-year-old Clifford Jones had come to visit his grandmother in Atlanta and was found strangled by some unknown ligature on August 20. His body had been put in a dumpster wearing shorts and underwear that were not his.
Police were presented with a strong suspect in a manager of a laundromat that, according to Chet Detlinger, "was widely known for homosexual gatherings." Bernard Headley sums up the case against this suspect: "Three youthful witnesses saw the manager go into the rear room with a black boy. One of them said he saw the manager 'strangle and beat' the boy, then carry his body out to the trash container...Two polygraph tests were administered to the Laundromat manager. He 'failed' both, according to FBI records -- even though he admitted that he knew Clifford and that Clifford was in his Laundromat on the evening of August 20, 1980. Medical experts had determined that the time of Clifford's death was between four and six hours before the discovery of his body, which would have placed the Laundromat manager with the boy around the time he was killed. The authorities had not charged the man with anything, however, because they determined that the youth who said he actually saw Clifford Jones being murdered was 'retarded.'"
Another witness said he had seen the man, whom he knew, carry a large object wrapped in plastic and place it by the dumpsters the night before Jones' body was discovered. The large object wrapped in plastic turned out to be the body of Clifford Jones. Two other witnesses claimed to see the same man, who they had also known, carrying an object wrapped in plastic to the dumpsters.
Once the official task force was formed, the police had to decide which cases to include in their investigation. Those specially assigned cases, which represented murders that fit particular parameters, were compiled into a list. The "List" took on a life of its own during the media hype and investigation into the murders and is still the source of controversy. Unfortunately, The List led to more people misunderstanding the facts about the cases than to their understanding of them. This was largely due to the inaccurate and incomplete information gathered about each of the victims, which were often times caused by negligence, ignorance and mismanagement by authorities. In many instances reports conflicted with one another; bodies were misidentified; reports were sometimes changed or lost; and crime scenes destroyed. Moreover, according to author and investigator Chet Detlinger, many that should have made the List never did. Of the many hundreds of murders that occurred during the late 1970's and early 1980's, at least ninety of those shared a similar geographic and/or social connection with one another. Connections that would later be ignored by officials in more than sixty of the ninety cases, during the course of the investigation into the murders. The Task Force Unit ignored the more than sixty cases mostly because they failed to meet the parameters that police were continuously changing and because they failed to notice the geographic and social connection between the victims, both on and off The List.
More than sixty names never made the List, which could have been because they fit similar social and geographical patterns of those cases that had qualified for the List. Unfortunately, the Task Force disregarded many as "special cases" because they failed to meet their parameters, which were continually modified. Some, who had failed to make the List at one point, could have qualified for it at another, after the List was changed. This allowed many victims cases to slip through the cracks that should have received the attention they deserved. After Wayne Williams arrest, more than twenty people were murdered, some of which could have also made The List. They never did because police had stopped adding names to the List after they had Williams in custody. Some of those who had fit the social and geographic parameters recognized by Dettlinger were Cynthia Montgomery, Angela Bacon, Joseph Lee, Faye Yearby and Stanley Murray. They are just a few of the many who had not made the List.
For example, Faye Yearby, twenty-two years old, was considered too old to have made the List at the time of her death in January of 1981. She was found almost nine months after Angel Lenair 's body had been found, stabbed to death and tied to a tree. Yearby had also been found bound to a tree in almost the exact same position Angel had been found. Even though her death, in many ways, resembled that of Angel Lenair, Task Force Agents refused to acknowledge any link between the cases. Furthermore, she was never added to the List because of her age and her sex.
On September 14, 1980, ten-year-old Darron Glass vanished. Shortly afterwards, his foster mother received an emergency phone call from someone claiming to be Darron, but when she answered the phone, the line was dead. The police ignored the case however, because Darron had run away several times before.
The black leadership, churches and community at large were mobilizing along a number of fronts to deal with this crisis. Activities ranged from prayer vigils, safety education programs, and even regular searches for the missing children. The Atlanta government had even gone so far as to bring in psychic Dorothy Allison, who had assisted in some high-profile cases.
Chet Detlinger was the first to understand that there was a geographic connection to the victims. A number of the victims knew each other and either lived, were last seen or their bodies were found in several key areas of the city. Detlinger tried valiantly to explain the unfolding pattern that he saw emerging, so that police could concentrate their efforts in these critical areas, but police did not warm to his theories.
What the police were still wrestling with was a case in which there were many different causes of deaths, modus operandi, and signatures, only a few of which seemed to fit a pattern. Usually a serial killer selects a particular type of target that is either male or female, rarely both. While the MO can change based upon the killer's experience or opportunity, the signature, according to Robert D. Keppel (Signature Killers), is the killer's "psychological 'calling card' that he leaves at each crime scene across a spectrum of several murders...For example, when the killer in one murder intentionally leaves the victim in a position so the victim will be found open and displayed, posed physically spread-eagled and vulnerable; or when he savagely beats that victim to a point of overkill and violently rapes her with an iron rod..." Part of the problem was the List itself. It was very unlikely that one individual or group of individuals was responsible for all of the murders and disappearances. Comparing the abduction of LaTonya Wilson with the stabbing death of Clifford Jones suggests very different perpetrators. However, at least in some of the cases, it appeared that at least one or possibly several unconnected serial killers were at work. As the murders and disappearances continued relentlessly, various patterns did emerge.
No End in Sight
Late in the evening of October 9, 1980, twelve-year-old Charles Stephens had gone missing. He was found murdered the next morning on a hillside. Stephens had died from suffocation from an unknown object. At the crime scene, the evidence had been contaminated by a police officer when he threw a blanket over the corpse of the boy. The fibers from the blanket were mixed with the fibers already at the scene. The fibers found were thought to have come from the red interior of a Ford LTD.
A drug dealer went to police a day after Stephen's body was discovered. He told police that on the same day Charles Stephens disappeared, he had gotten into the car of a client of his to sell drugs. When the drug dealer looked into the back seat of the car he saw a young boy lying lifeless with his head turned towards the trunk and wrapped in a sheet. When the drug dealer asked about the boy, the driver of the car became angry and told him the boy was merely doped up and passed out. The drug dealer stated to police that he was concerned about the boy because he didn't look doped up but worse off, possibly dead. The driver of the car told the dealer to forget what he saw. He later threatened the dealer with his life if he had said anything about the boy in the backseat. It was then that the dealer went to police and told them the story. He added that he knew the man to be a pedophile and had on occasions been offered money to find the driver young boys with whom he could have sex.
In mid-October, the skeletal remains of LaTonya Wilson were found in northwest Atlanta, not too far from her home. It was impossible to determine cause of death or whether she had been sexually abused given the state of her body's decomposition.
During the fall of 1980, the mayor of Atlanta issued a citywide curfew. It was feared that the killer(s) would strike during Halloween, possibly targeting trick-or-treaters as they walked the city streets. The city patrols were stepped up in an effort to prevent another murder. Unfortunately, all attempts failed when yet another body had been discovered in the first week of November.
Nine-year-old Aaron Jackson, a friend of earlier victim Aaron Wyche, was found dead beneath a bridge in the South River in November 1980, close to where Wyche's body had been discovered. Jackson's cause of death was documented as, "probable asphyxia." Like Charles Stephens, it was believed that Aaron Jackson had been smothered.
At about the time Jackson was thought to have been killed, a woman had witnessed a man at the scene where the body was later discovered. The woman reported what she had been to the Task Force who, in turn, failed to respond to the report. However, that was not the only error made by police concerning this case. Throughout the investigation, details would be consistently confused with the details concerning Jackson's friend's case, Aaron Wyche. It seemed that the cause of the confusion stemmed from the fact that the boys were very good friends and shared the same first names.
Aaron Jackson was later connected with "Pat Man" Rogers, with whom he and Wyche were friends and neighbors. At one time, "Pat Man" had a crush on Jackson's sister. Patrick "Pat Man" Rogers was the next to go missing.
Sixteen-year-old Patrick "Pat Man" Rogers was a karate fanatic and singer. He was often spotted at Bruce Lee movies or singing with his friend Junior Harper. He had known many people within his neighborhood. He was also connected to at least seventeen murdered victims, both on and off the List.
Rogers had disappeared on November 10, 1980. He, like other victims including Darron Glass, was thought to have run away. Therefore he was not added to the List for quite some time. A week before his disappearance, he had told his mother that he had feared that the killer was close. His friend's mother told police that Rogers was looking for her son to tell him that he had found someone to manage their singing careers - a man named Wayne Williams. Rogers was found on December 21, 1980, face down in the Chattahoochee River. He died from a blow to his head.
Dettlinger and Prugh stated in The List, that after the death of Jackson, "no more preteen 'little boys' were added to the List. The geography changed, too." Furthermore, the murders seemed to move away from the center of the city to the outlying suburbs.
Lubie Geter disappeared in January of 1981. He was fourteen-years-old. Even though he fit all the parameters required by the authorities at the time to make the List, it took two days before the police began their investigation of the crime scene after Geter's body had been found in February of 1981. The body of Geter was extremely decomposed when happened upon by a man walking his dog through the woods. When he was found, he was only wearing his underwear. The medical examiner believed that Lubie died from asphyxiation from manual strangulation.
Geter had been connected with two white male pedophiles -- the child molester connected with earlier victim, Earl Lee Terrell and another unidentified man, who would be later connected to List victim William Barrett. An acquaintance of Geter had seen him with the molester linked with Terrell on several occasions. The convicted child molester that had been linked with Terrell was also never a suspect in the murder case of Geter.
Terry Pue was fifteen when he had disappeared in January of 1981. He had been last seen at a hamburger restaurant on Memorial Drive and was a friend of List victim Lubie Geter who had gone missing the same month. An anonymous white caller had phoned the police and informed them where they could find the boy's body. Pue was found near interstate 20 on Sigman Road, in Atlanta. He had been strangled by some sort of ligature. The same caller had also indicated that the remains of another victim could be found on the same road. Years later, those remains were finally located but never identified. Some suggested they were the remains of still missing Darron Glass. The unidentified remains were never added to the List, even though Pue's were.
Patrick Baltazar was eleven when he had disappeared on February 6, 1981. A man cleaning up the grounds one week after he had gone missing found Baltazar's body in an office park. The boy had been strangled to death and the rope thought to have been the murder weapon, lay close to the body. Before his death, the Task Force had received a call from the boy; saying that he believed the killer was coming after him. Unfortunately, the Task Force failed to respond. One wonders if Baltazar would still be alive today if they had responded. After Baltazar had gone missing, his teacher had claimed she had received a phone call from a boy she thought to be Baltazar. The boy never said who he was, he merely cried into the receiver of the phone.
That same month, thirteen-year-old Curtis Walker disappeared and was immediately added to the List. Curtis had lived with his mother and uncle at the Bowen Homes housing project in Atlanta. Both he and his uncle, Stanley Murray, would be murdered. Curtis would make the now infamous List, but his uncle would not. His body was found on March 6, 1981 in the South River. His death, like many of the other List victims, would be documented as caused by asphyxia, probably strangulation with a cord or narrow rope.
That same day, FBI agents found the remains of Jefferey Mathis, missing almost a year. His funeral was captured on national news.
Joseph (Jo-Jo) Bell was fifteen when he disappeared on March 2, 1981. Two days after he had gone missing a co-worker of his, who worked at a popular seafood restaurant named Cap'n Peg's, told his manager that Jo-Jo had called him and told him he was, "almost dead." The boy said Jo-Jo had pleaded for his co-worker to help him, before hanging up the phone. The manager reported the call to police. Several days later, Jo-Jo's mother received a call from a woman who said she had Jo-Jo. The same woman had called back and spoke with Mrs. Bell's two other children. Mrs. Bell immediately called the Task Force, who never contacted her back. Frustrated, she contacted the F.B.I., but it was too late. Jo-Jo was found on April 19, 1981 in the South River. His cause of death was "probable asphyxia."
Jo-Jo was linked to several victims on and off the List. His mother had befriended a fellow inmate while serving time for murdering her husband. That woman happened to be the sister of Alfred Evans. Jo-Jo had gone to summer camp with Cynthia Montgomery, a murdered victim who had not made the List, but could be connected to many victims who had made the List. Jo-Jo was also good friends with Timothy Hill, a very troubled young man with violent tendencies, who disappeared eleven days after Jo-Jo. He and Timothy Hill were known to frequent a house on Gray Street known as Uncle Tom's. A sixty-three year-old homosexual man named Thomas Terrell, who was known to have a particular interest in young boys, owned the house.
Timothy Hill, Jo-Jo's friend, disappeared that same month. Tom Terrell's next-door neighbor saw Timothy the day before he disappeared on March 12, 1981. A young man who had also known Timothy and Tom told police that the two frequently engaged in sex together. Tom would usually pay thirteen-year-old Timothy for sexual favors. Terrell himself admitted to police that he had engaged in sexual acts with the boy. Another witness reported to police that Timothy spent the night at Terrell's after missing his bus the day before he was reported missing. That same witness was the last to see Timothy. He claimed that the night before he disappeared, he saw from his window Timothy talking with a teenage girl.
Timothy was found on March 30, 1981 in the Chattahoochee River. He was the last child victim to be added to the List. His cause of death was also listed as asphyxia. Terrell was never suspected in the disappearance or murder of Timothy or Jo-Jo. Timothy was later linked with Alfred Evans, Jefferey Mathis, Patrick Baltazar and Anthony Carter.
Throughout the horrible series of murders, the children began to get older. Also, rivers fast became the favored dumping ground for victims. Suddenly, there were no more child victims. Were the safety education programs and curfew finally working? Or had the murderer's taste simply matured?
No More Children
That same year, residents of a housing project named Techwood Homes took to the streets in protest that the police were not doing their jobs in protecting the public. The group of residents decided to take matters into their own hands and they formed a "bat patrol." The patrol was made up of residents armed with baseball bats, hoping to prevent murders from happening in their community. Sadly, the resident's attempts, like the authorities, had also failed to prevent the murders from occurring. On the exact day that the residents had taken up "bat patrol" and in the very housing project in which it was formed, another person named Eddie (Bubba) Duncan disappeared.
The first adult to make the List was twenty-one-year old Eddie (Bubba) Duncan. He disappeared on March 20, 1981 and was found dead on April 8, 1981. He, like Timothy Hill, had been dumped in the Chattahoochee River. Eddie had several physical and intellectual handicaps. With Duncan's death, the parameters of the List changed to encompass older victims. Before this period, other victims who were young adults were left off the List because they were considered "too old." Those earlier young adult victims were never added, even after the parameters changed. Once again the medical examiner guessed; "probable asphyxia" was documented. And, Eddie Duncan was also connected with another list victim, "Pat Man" Rogers.
Immense sums of money were offered as rewards to help find the killer(s) at large. Much of the money was donated or raised by corporations and famous figures, such as Muhammad Ali, Burt Reynolds and Gladys Knight and the Pips. In 1981, President Reagan issued more than two million dollars to the city of Atlanta and the Task Force to use towards the investigation and for citizens who needed help in dealing with the stress of the murders. Other monies that were donated and raised were mostly used to help in the investigation, as well as to help the families of the List victims. Unfortunately, only a few of the victim's families ever received the money that was raised or donated. The city and nonprofit organizations poorly controlled the money. Much of the money fell through the cracks of the system, misplaced or lost all together. However, despite the massive flow of money into the city to help put an end to the murders, the still continued.
The second adult to make the infamous List was twenty-year-old Larry Rogers (no relation to Patrick Rogers). He turned up dead after missing for more than two weeks in April 1981. He was not found in a river, like the three victims before him, but in an abandoned apartment. His cause of death was documented as "probable asphyxia, by strangulation." Rogers was mentally retarded.
Rogers was one of the few victims to be connected to Wayne Williams. Supposedly, Williams had hidden the younger brother of Larry Rogers, from police. The younger Rogers had been involved in a violent fight in which he suffered a head injury. It was Wayne Williams, in fact that had taken him to the hospital. Williams overheard on his police scanner news of the fight and had beaten the police to the scene. Williams had picked up the mother of the boys and took her to his apartment where young Rogers was. Mrs. Rogers would later testify against Williams at his trial. The apartment that Williams had taken her to was close by to the place where her older son was later found dead.
Twenty-three year old ex-convict, Michael McIntosh was last seen on March 25, 1981, by a shop owner who said that the young man had been beaten up. The storeowner had said McIntosh told him two black men had roughed him up. He was never seen alive again. McIntosh had lived across the street from Cap'n Peg's Seafood Restaurant, where Jo-Jo had worked. He had, in fact, known Jo-Jo Bell. Like Jo-Jo, McIntosh had been known to hang around with homosexuals and it was believed he was one himself. He had been seen several times at Tom Terrell's house, a house that both Jo-Jo Bell and Timothy Hill had often frequented.
McIntosh was pulled from the Chattahoochee River, in April 1981. He too had died from "probable asphyxia," according to the medical examiner. McIntosh had known another List victim named Nathaniel Cater, who would disappear a month later.
John Porter, like McIntosh, was an ex-convict. He spent much of his time with his grandmother whom he lived with on and off. She had kicked him out of the house on several occasions because of his strange behavior. He had been suffering from severe mental problems and had spent a length of time in a mental hospital. He was kicked out shortly before he had disappeared because his grandmother had found him fondling a 2-year-old-boy she was caring for, in her home. He was twenty-eight when he was found dead in April 1981. He had been stabbed six times and left on a sidewalk in an empty lot. Porter originally did not make the List, until the Wayne Williams trial when he and Williams were linked through fiber matches.
Twenty-one-year-old Jimmy Ray Payne had also disappeared the same month as Porter. Police reports stated that his sister last saw Payne the day before his disappearance. He had shared an apartment with his sister and mother. His sister told police that he was on his way to sell old coins at a coin shop. However, Payne's girlfriend had claimed to see him the very day he had supposedly disappeared. She told to jurors that he had walked her to the bus stop the morning of April 22. She had become worried when he did not pick her up from the bus stop, as they had planned to meet there. Payne had been known to suffer bouts of depression, especially during his incarceration while serving a sentence for burglary. Payne, at one time, had attempted to hang himself with his bed sheets, yet failed to succeed when a social worker found him. He had survived that one brush of death, but would not live for long afterwards. Payne was found a week after his disappearance floating in the Chattahoochee River. His cause of death was reported as "undetermined," according to the county medical examiner. It was believed that he had been in the water almost the entire length of time he had been missing.
William Barrett (Billy Star) was a seventeen-year-old juvenile delinquent when he had vanished in May of 1981. He vanished on his way to pay a bill for his mother. The following day, his body was found close to his home. He had been both strangled and stabbed. The medical examiner reported that the stabbing occurred after Billy died from strangulation.
Earlier police reports stated that threats by a "hit man" had been made against Barrett. Barrett had also been connected to a white man previously convicted of pedophilia. The same man was also said to have known List victim Lubie (Chuck) Geter. A witness had seen Geter on several occasions at the suspect's apartment. The same man had also been witnessed at Barrett's funeral.
Ex-convict Nathaniel Cater was twenty-seven years old when he became the last victim to make the List. He had lived in the same apartment building as LaTonya Wilson. It is unknown as to exactly when Cater had disappeared. What authorities did know was that he was an admitted homosexual prostitute, drug dealer and alcoholic. A witness, who had known the suspect in the death of Clifford Jones, said Cater had admitted to selling himself, his blood at the blood bank and dope, in exchange for money.
Dettlinger and His Map
Dettlinger, an ex-police officer, public safety commissioner and consultant for the U.S. Justice Department, led a voluntary investigation into the Atlanta murders beginning from 1980 and continuing until Wayne Williams's incarceration. Dettlinger volunteered his services first to the police who refused him and later to the mothers who accepted his help to try and put an end to the murders. Dettlinger teamed up with Dick Arena, an ex-crime analyst, and private investigators Bill Taylor and Mike Edwards, along with the help of other volunteers, to assist in the investigation. Dettlinger and his group of volunteers completed much of the "leg work" the police didn't do, including going door-to-door in the neighborhoods where victims lived and disappeared, asking questions and seeking leads and connections into the murders. What Dettlinger discovered was a definite pattern including all of the victims on the List and many victims who never made the List.
Dettlinger's findings were significant in that they recognized a social and geographic pattern between the victims. During the peak of the Atlanta murders, he was able to predict with a degree of accuracy where victims would disappear and be found. Task Force Agents and police, who refused to acknowledge any connections among the cases, either geographic or social, at one point suspected Dettlinger in the murders. However, he was quickly released when authorities realized the information and knowledge Dettlinger had and which they lacked came from their own incompetence, misassimilation of information and mismanagement with the handling of the investigation. The FBI later used Dettlinger as an expert consultant, realizing that he knew more vital facts concerning the investigation than the police department.
Dettlinger first began his map of murder victims in the summer of 1980 who had initially made the List. However, he quickly discovered that there were many that police had left off that were worth examination. Dettlinger's list of victims had well outnumbered the Task Force's list. Several of those victims who had been first ignored by Task Force Agents, such as Aaron Wyche and Patrick Rogers had made Dettlinger's list soon after their disappearance. Some of those names were later added by Task Force Agents due to increasing pressure by Dettlinger, who was able to provide them with information they lacked that allowed them to later connect the cases.
Dettlinger mapped out the precise location of where the victims had lived, where they had disappeared and where they had been found. By doing this he discovered that the victims were connected to Memorial Drive and eleven other major streets centered in that immediate area. Dettlinger had also recognized that the murders moved in an eastwardly direction.
After Patrick Rogers' death, the victims that were found were older and their bodies were disposed of further outside the city limits. However, Dettlinger and Prugh are quoted in their book, The List as saying, "The streets didn't change...but it was necessary only to extend the streets on the map, not add new ones. Even those Chattahoochee and South River findings would occur at bridges carrying one of the streets on the map..." Therefore, the parameters basically remained the same despite the ages of the victims.
The Splash from the Bridge
"It" happened in the early morning hours of Friday, May 22, 1981 at the James Jackson Parkway Bridge that crossed over the Chattahoochee River where previous bodies had been found. Two police officers were staked out at the bridge in an effort to monitor suspicious activities. Officer Freddie Jacobs was stationed on the Fulton County side or southern part of the bridge. Officer Bob Campbell was stationed beneath the bridge at the northerly Cobb County side of the bridge. Officer Jacobs saw the headlights of a car approaching southbound over the bridge. At about that same time, Officer Campbell heard a car driving over the bridge. Campbell heard a splash in the water. It was the splash that had sent ripples around the world and would mark the beginning of one of the most famous trials in recent times.
According to Officer Jacobs, he had seen a car's headlights as it was driving over the bridge and was soon after radioed by his colleague Campbell, who had told him that he had heard a loud splash in the water. Jacobs recognized the slow moving vehicle as a white 1970 Chevrolet station wagon. He watched as the vehicle drove over the bridge into Fulton County, where there stood in view a liquor store. He watched as the car turned around and re-crossed the bridge. At the liquor store a veteran Atlanta police officer named Carl Holden was on watch for suspicious activity when he spotted the station wagon. He had followed it as it crossed the bridge into Cobb County.
According to Campbell, he heard a loud splash, unlike the sound that some of the river animals made when they dove in the water, and noticing ripples in the water made from whatever had landed in the river. He saw a car standing on the bridge. Then the car turned its headlights on above the area where he had heard the splash and had seen the ripples. He then radioed FBI Agent Greg Gilliland, who pulled the car over almost a half mile from the bridge. Holden had still been following the car from behind when it was pulled over. The driver of the station wagon was Wayne Williams.
Williams, almost twenty-three-years-old, was a freelance photographer and music promoter who said he was traveling across the bridge to find the home of a potential client with whom he had an appointment several hours later. He told the police the woman's name was Cheryl Johnson and that he intended to audition her with the possibility of promoting her as a singer. However, agents did not believe his story, particularly when the phone number was incorrect and the address didn't exist. Williams allowed the authorities to search the car. For over an hour, Williams was questioned about what he was doing on the bridge and his reason for being in the area.
Several hours later, officers dragged the Chattahoochee River around the bridge, but they found no evidence of a body. The next day, police again questioned Williams and began to realize that they were dealing with a most unusual man
Wayne Bertram Williams
Wayne Williams, born on May 27, 1958, was the only child of schoolteachers Homer and Faye Williams. The Williams family lived in Dixie Hills, a neighborhood where many of Atlanta's murder victims had once lived or from where they had disappeared.
His parents doted on him and spent every cent they had supporting his entrepreneurial ventures. From a young age, Williams dreamed of making it big in the broadcasting and entertainment industry. A talented and motivated young man, Williams began his own radio station at the age of sixteen from his parent's home. He graduated from Fredrick Douglas High School with an honors degree and attended Georgia State University for one year before dropping out. In his late teens he worked for a popular radio station and appeared in [Jet] magazine along with his employer, Benjamin Hooks, an influential black leader at the time who eventually headed the NAACP. Williams spent much of his time marketing his own station and promoting local musical talent, performing odd jobs to fund his ideas and experimenting with electronics, which was his hobby.
Williams had also sold video footage and photographs of area accidents, such as fires, car accidents and even one plane crash, to local television stations to earn money. He would hear about many of the accidents from his police radio scanner, which allowed him to make it to scenes of accidents sometimes before the police had even arrived.
His dream was to find the next Jackson Five or Stevie Wonder and ride that talent to fame and wealth as their promoter and manager. He spent much of his time talent scouting among black youth and recording the works of the boys he believed had promise. Unfortunately, he did not have the ear to select musicians with enough talent to make it commercially. Nonetheless, he continued to spend his parents into bankruptcy creating expensive demo recordings of boys with mediocre abilities.
Wayne was known around town as a pathological liar and a bullshitter, suggesting that he had major record deals cooking and knew the right people to make it big.
Socially, Wayne lived with his parents and had few friends. Bernard Headley tells of an interesting aspect of Wayne's life that is typical behavior of serial killers: "He had acquired, for instance, an uncanny ability to impersonate a police officer. The practice got him into trouble back in 1976, when he was arrested in the city (but never convicted) for "impersonating a police officer and unauthorized use of a vehicle." The vehicle had been illegally equipped with red lights beneath the grille and flashing blue dashboard lights.
There were rumors that he was homosexual, but nothing to substantiate them.
Dettlinger says that in the days immediately following the event on the bridge, Wayne and his father "did a major cleanup job around their house. They carried out boxes and carted them off in the station wagon. They burned negatives and photographic prints in the outdoor grill."
Building the Case
On May 24, 1981, the nude body of Nathaniel Cater, who had disappeared a few days earlier, was discovered in the Chattahoochee River. The medical examiner had once again documented the cause of death as being "probable asphyxia." He was unable to establish the time frame in which Cater had expired. Therefore, it was not really known exactly how Cater had died or when, but only that he had stopped breathing for some unknown reason. The medical examiner obliged the police by stating that Cater had been dead just long enough for Wayne Williams to have thrown him off the bridge several days earlier.
Based on the discovery of the body and the "splash" from the bridge, police theorized that Williams had killed Nathaniel Cater and had thrown him off the bridge the night they had pulled him over. Interestingly, four witnesses would later come forward to the police saying that they saw Cater alive after Williams supposedly threw his body from the bridge. This critical information was not shared with Williams's lawyers.
The authorities monitored Williams' actions on a continuous basis while they got the necessary search warrants for his home and cars. Throughout the string of murders, a large number of fibers had been found on the various bodies of the victims. The FBI wanted to determine if any of the fibers from Wayne Williams' environment matched the fibers taken from the murder victims. Also, a few victims had dog hair on them. Samples of the hair from Williams' dog were taken for comparison.
When the FBI took Williams in for questioning, without a lawyer present, they grilled him about his activities on the night of the bridge incident. Williams told them he played basketball that afternoon at the Ben Hill Recreation Center and then went home. Later in the afternoon, Williams said he got a call from a woman who called herself Cheryl Johnson who wanted to audition for him. She supposedly gave him a phone number and address in Smyrna and arranged to meet Williams at her apartment at 7 A.M. the following morning. He said he stayed at home until he went to the Sans Souci Lounge after midnight to pick up his tape recorder from the manager. He said that he left the Sans Souci when the manager was too busy to see him. Then he told the FBI that he was going to look for Cheryl Johnson's apartment and drove around Smyrna looking for the Spanish Trace Apartments in which she said she lived. When he couldn't find the apartments, he said he stopped at a liquor store and called the phone number she gave him, but the number was busy. Later, he stopped again to call her, but that time the phone rang without answer.
Then Williams drove onto the Jackson Parkway bridge and went to a Starvin' Marvin to call Cheryl Johnson again. This time, Williams claimed, someone did answer but said that it was the wrong number. So then, Williams said he went back toward the bridge when the officers stopped him for questioning.
Some of the problems with Williams' story were that the Cheryl Johnson part was hard to believe and the claims to have been at the Ben Hill Recreation Center and the Sans Souci before the bridge incident were false. When the authorities checked, they could find no Cheryl Johnson and no Spanish Trace Apartments and the phone number for her was bogus.
The FBI gave Wayne Williams three separate polygraph tests, all of which indicated that Williams was being deceptive in his answers.
Williams surprised everybody when he suddenly called a news conference at his home and handed reporters a lengthy resume -- much of which was exaggerated and some of which was false. He told the media that he was innocent and that the authorities were just trying to find a scapegoat. This was the beginning of a huge, continuous media event outside the Williams' home, which went on for quite some time.
During that time, FBI laboratories claimed that they were coming up with a number of matches between the fibers found on the victims and the fibers from Williams' home and cars. Also, the labs claimed similarity between the dog hairs on the victims and hair from Williams' dog.
The FBI was very excited about the fiber and dog hair evidence, but the district attorney of Fulton County, Lewis Slaton, was not so impressed. He did not want to prosecute a case on fiber evidence alone. This was such a major case and fiber evidence could be very confusing and unsatisfying to a jury. He wanted more traditional evidence, such as eyewitnesses, fingerprints, etc. It's entirely possible that Slaton may not have been thrilled to have the FBI telling him what to do in his own county. It was, after all, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, who in desperation had brought in the Feds, not Slaton.
Several things helped persuade Slaton to finally go after Wayne Williams:
A number of witnesses materialized who swore they saw Williams with various victims. Hard to say why they had not come forward before, since none of the Task Force documents included a note on Wayne Williams. Williams had not been a suspect until the bridge incident.
A couple of recording studio people claimed to have seen serious-looking cuts and scratches on Williams' arms, suggesting the potential of a struggle with the boy victims
Pressure by Georgia Governor George Busbee to play ball with the Feds.
On June 21, William's lawyer, Mary Welcome and two county policemen went to Williams' home with the arrest warrant. Interestingly, Wayne Williams was indicted for the murder of two adults, Jimmy Payne and Nathaniel Cater. However, Georgia law allows that the prosecution can bring into court evidence from other cases if it could be proven that those other cases were part of a "pattern." That was how Slaton would tie in the murders of the children -- an activity that would create controversy for years to come
Popular black attorney Mary Welcome, a former city solicitor, was the first lawyer on Wayne Williams' defense team. Initially she chose Tony Axam, an experienced attorney on major cases, to complement her skills. However, Williams fired Axam and Mary replaced him with Alvin Binder, a capable, but abrasive white lawyer from Mississippi.
Judge Clarence Cooper, the first black judge elected to the Fulton County bench, had been an assistant district attorney for a number of years and was a protégé of District Attorney and prosecutor Lewis Slaton. Imaginatively, Fulton County announced that a computer program randomly selected a black judge who just happened to be pals with the prosecution to be the judge on the Wayne Williams trial. Jack Mallard was the most active member of Slaton's prosecution team.
One very controversial situation was that in the case of Jimmy Payne, the Fulton County medical examiner had written that the cause of death was "undetermined." That is, it was not determined that Payne was, in fact, murdered. Recognizing the difficulty in prosecuting Williams for a death that was not clearly a homicide, the medical examiner conveniently changed his document to indicate "homicide." Dettlinger points out that when confronted with the change in the death certificate -- which subsequently allowed for Wayne Williams to be indicted in the Jimmy Payne case -- the medical examiner said he "checked the wrong box" on the death certificate." However, there is no box to check on the death certificate, only a place to type in the word "undetermined" or "homicide."
The trial began on December 28, 1981. The jury was composed of nine women and three men; eight jurors were black and four were white. They were sequestered for the duration of the trial. Opening arguments began in the first week of January 1982.
The defense team was severely handicapped by lack of funds and woefully insufficient time to interview hundreds of prosecution witnesses. They did not have the money to employ the quality of expert witnesses to rebut the vast laboratory findings of the FBI and Georgia crime bureau. Furthermore, the body of forensic evidence on fibers was an order of magnitude greater than what the defense had expected. The cornerstone of the prosecution's case was the fiber evidence, which was highly technical and carried with it the prestige of the FBI laboratories. To successfully cast doubt on the fiber evidence, expensive, very high caliber expert testimony would have been required. Williams' defense team simply didn't have that kind of money.
Also, even though the defense team knew that the prosecution was going to bring in other cases besides the deaths of Cater and Payne, they didn't know how many and which cases would be introduced. For a defense team short on time and short on money, this was a real problem. Dettlinger, who was on the defense team, states: "During the trial, we didn't know who the next witness presented by the state would be -- or what he or she would be testifying about."
The "Brady" files is the body of information collected by the police and other forensic experts that points towards the innocence of the accused. By law, the prosecution must turn those Brady files over to the defense before the trial begins. The arbiter of what would be included in the Brady files and when it would be turned over was Judge Clarence Cooper, the D.A.'s former protégé. Not surprisingly, the Brady files were withheld until the last possible minute.
For example, thirty-nine-year-old Jimmy Anthony was a neighbor who had known Nathaniel Cater and claimed to have seen him on the morning of May 23 -- the day after Williams was pulled over for supposedly throwing Cater's body off the bridge. Anthony said Cater told him that he had found a new job. One might suspect that Anthony was mistaken about the time that he had last seen Cater. Yet, three other witnesses, one, who had known Cater well, had also seen him after the bridge incident. Not one of these witnesses would later have a chance to testify in the Williams case. The jury would not be informed of the four witnesses who had seen Nathaniel Cater, as well as many other important suspects and witnesses connected with the case that would have cast doubt on Williams' guilt.
Regarding the time of death of Nathaniel Cater, the defense brought in its own expert who lost credibility when he announced that Cater had been in the water for at least two weeks. Cater had not even been missing for two weeks. A similar thing happened when the defense's expert estimated Jimmy Payne's death.
Atlanta's Public Safety Commissioner Lee Brown had always maintained throughout the investigation that there was no pattern in the murders. Ironically, it was during Brown's testimony that Jack Mallard introduced the "pattern" that would allow evidence in ten other cases to be introduced in addition to evidence in the Cater and Payne deaths. The "pattern" became the key enabler for evidence to be used by the state against Williams, especially when linking similar fibers. Furthermore, the Cater and Payne cases standing alone were extremely weak and the introduction of evidence from each of the ten "pattern" cases strengthened their case by providing, among many things, eyewitnesses and most importantly, fiber connections amongst some of the victims.
The ten "pattern" cases were:
1. Alfred Evans
2. Eric Middlebrooks
3. Charles Stephens
4. William Barrett
5. Terry Pue
6. John Porter
7. Lubie Geter
8. Joseph Bell
9. Patrick Baltazar
10. Larry Rogers
The characteristics that formed the "pattern" amongst the victims were listed by the prosecution as being:
No evidence of forced abduction
No apparent motive for disappearance
Defendant claims no contact
Asphyxia by strangulation
Body found near expressway ramp or major artery
Body disposed of in unusual manner
Transported before or after death
There was a great deal of controversy concerning the prosecution's "pattern." Furthermore, if one looked closely into each of the cases, it would be noticeable that several of them did not fit the "pattern" invented by the prosecution. For example, not all of the victims were found near expressway ramps or major arteries, it is unknown whether all the victims were transported before of after they were killed based on lack of evidence and only six of the "pattern" cases showed evidence of strangulation. Therefore, the pattern the prosecution describes is inaccurate. But Judge Cooper, former prosecutor, accepted the "pattern" anyway.
The prosecution focused its efforts on four key areas:
the character and credibility of Wayne Williams,
what happened on the Jackson Parkway bridge,
eyewitnesses to Wayne Williams behavior and alleged interaction with the victims, and
the physical evidence, which was primarily based on fibers, hairs and bloodstains found on victims that matched elements in Wayne Williams environment.
While Wayne Williams did not have a criminal record, his character was not exactly unblemished in the eyes of those who knew him. Most people knew Wayne Williams as a person who either lied about or vastly exaggerated his accomplishments. As an example, Eustis Blakely, a successful black businessman and his wife were friends of Wayne. Wayne told Blakely that he flew fighter jets at Dobbins Air Force base. Blakely knew that was a lie because he had been in the Air Force and was not able to fly planes because he wore glasses. Wayne Williams eyes were much worse than Blakely's.
But the real showstopper during the trial was what his wife had to say about Wayne. She had asked Williams after he had become a suspect, "If they get enough evidence, will you confess before you get hurt? She said that he answered "yes." She then went on to say that Wayne told her "he could knock out black street kids in a few minutes by putting his hand on their necks."
On cross-examination, Binder asked her if she implied that Wayne had killed someone. She answered, "Yes, I do. I really feel that Wayne Williams did kill somebody, and I'm sorry."
Gino Jordon, who ran the San Souci club, was asked if Wayne Williams had been at his club before the bridge incident, as Williams had told authorities he had been. Jordon said it was not that night of the bridge incident, but the following night that Williams came by the club to pick up his tape recorder. The club cashier confirmed Jordon's statement.
When the man in charge of the Ben Hill Recreation Center was asked if Wayne Williams was playing basketball the evening of the bridge incident as Williams had claimed, the answer again was no.
These two testimonies reflected that Wayne Williams was lying about what he did before the incident on the bridge. This lack of an alibi played right into the prosecution's theory that Williams was with Cater that evening and dropped his body off the bridge.
What Williams was left with were a bunch of lies about what he did before the bridge incident and an explanation about what he was doing on the bridge that nobody believed. Attempts to find the mysterious Cheryl Johnson led most people to believe that she was nonexistent.
Then the prosecution presented a group of eyewitnesses who claimed they saw Wayne Williams with various victims or that the eyewitness verified that Cater was alive the afternoon of the bridge incident:
As examples of this eyewitness testimony, Lugene Laster saw Jo-Jo Bell get into a Chevrolet station wagon driven by a man he identified as Wayne Williams. Robert Henry, who knew Cater, saw Cater and Williams holding hands the evening of the bridge incident. A couple of youths claimed Williams made sexual advances to them.
One of the most significant and controversial moments of the trial occurred during arguments and testimony concerning the linkage of similar fibers amongst the ten "pattern" cases to Cater and Payne's murder. Investigators found on the bodies of the murdered victims fibers that were similar in appearance to carpet fibers found in Williams home and automobile. In total, there were twenty-eight fiber types linked to nineteen items from the house, bedroom and vehicles of Wayne Williams. Of interest to the prosecution were trilobal fibers, which the state contended, were of a rare variety. Fiber analysts speculated that the fibers found on the victims were most likely transferred to the victims from contact with Williams's environment, thus connecting him to the murders. The prosecution contended that there were so many fiber matches between the Williams' household and the victims that it was statistically impossible for the victims not to have been in Williams' home and cars.
Controversy arose when the state failed to tell the jury that most of the fibers found on the victims were not rare. In fact, such carpet fibers could be found in many apartment building complexes, businesses and residential homes throughout the Atlanta region. Therefore, it would not be that unusual for the victims to have come in contact with trilobal type fibers. There was more controversy over the transference of such fibers. The state argued that fibers were transferred directly from Williams's environment to the victims. Therefore, one must assume that if fibers could be transferred from Williams's environment to the victims, then fibers from the victims clothing or living environment would naturally be found on Williams or in his home or car, especially, if they had been killed in his house or transported in his car, which the state believed to have happened. Yet, absolutely no evidence of hair or fibers from the victims was found in Williams's house or car.
Later in the trial, the state informed jurors that five bloodstains had been found in the station wagon driven by Williams. Prosecutors claimed that the blood droplets matched in type and enzyme to the blood of victims William Barrett and John Porter. There was controversy among analysts as to the exact age of the droplets of blood found in the car. If the droplets occurred within an eight-week period, which one analyst believed, then it could have been likely that the blood came from Barrett and Porter who had died within that period. However, another analyst testified that it was virtually impossible to date the stains and if by any chance they had occurred outside of the eight-week frame then it was highly unlikely that the blood came from either victim.
When it came to the issue of motive, in the absence of any definitive evidence of sexual assault of the victims, the prosecution claimed that Wayne Williams hated black youths. Of course, this does not explain the murder of Nathaniel Cater who was 27-years-old -- not really a youth -- and several years older than Williams. Various people testified to remarks that Williams allegedly made over the years that criticized the behavior of black people and black youngsters in particular.
The defense called quite a number of witnesses. For example, they put the hydrologist on the stand that determined that it was "highly unlikely" that the body of Nathaniel Cater had been thrown off the Parkway bridge, considering where Cater's body was found. The hydrologist was incensed that the county had pressured his colleague into changing his report to reflect just the opposite.
Also, the defense presented an expert witness who testified that there was no indication that either Cater or Payne had been murdered. One of the two victims had an enlarged heart and could have died of natural causes. Both or either men could have simply drowned. Cater was a known alcoholic and drug taker.
The defense also put on the stand a number of witnesses that either rebutted what prosecution witnesses had said about where Williams was at a particular time or testified that Williams behavior was strictly kosher with the boys who he tried to develop into musicians. Another witness was the police sketch artist who testified that none of the dozens of suspects that she was asked to sketch looked anything like Williams. A college student recruited by Williams for a singing job testified that Williams disliked homosexuals and expected that his client had a high standard of morals.
Williams was put on the stand to defend himself against the charges and some of the eyewitness accounts. Also, he wanted to point out to the jury that he couldn't have quickly stopped the car on the bridge, opened up the back of the car and hoisted Cater, who was much larger and heavier than Williams, over the shoulder-high guard railings on the side of the bridge.
The goal of William's testimony was to demonstrate to the jury that he did not have the temperament to commit the murders. However, Jack Mallard repeatedly succeeded in making Williams visibly angry and provoking Williams into verbally insulting the government agents on the case. His show of temper had a big negative impact on the jury.
Williams' defense team was unable to undo the damage that had been done, both by the state's case and the poor preparation of their own case. The prosecution had provided the jury with a mountain of evidence compared to what the defense team had. Even though the quality of the evidence presented by the prosecution was doubtful, the sheer quantity of it seemed to overwhelm the jurors. Furthermore, jurors never heard most of the exculpatory evidence from the Brady files that could have changed the outcome of the trial. Prosecutors withheld the files for as long as they legally could, which hardly allowed any time for the defense to prepare a strong case.
In January of 1982, Wayne Bertram Williams was found guilty for the murder of Jimmy Ray Payne and Nathaniel Cater. He is currently serving two life sentences. Consequent to the verdict, the Atlanta police announced that twenty-two of the twenty-nine murders were solved with the presumption that Wayne Williams was responsible.
But that was not the end of the case by any means.
From the time that Wayne Williams was convicted, doubts arose about his guilt. Many black Atlantans felt that the government had manufactured the evidence just to get the case closed. While there are a number of issues in the government's case that are controversial, the fact is that the prosecutors, especially the FBI, believed that Williams was guilty. Did the government play fair and square during the trial? No, but that does not seem to be unusual, because prosecution is about winning, not about justice or fairness in the abstract.
The facts are that no one ever witnessed Wayne Williams killing or abducting anyone. The most important evidence against him was highly technical fiber evidence that only experts could judge. Any jury presented with the huge amount of fiber evidence in the Williams case and the government's experts testifying to its veracity would be likely to give it credence.
Unfortunately, Wayne Williams was his own worst enemy. He never came up with a credible reason for being on the Jackson Parkway bridge in the early hours of the morning and his alibis were easily destroyed, but it didn't mean that he was guilty of murder.
During the appeals process, the Georgia Supreme Court assigned Justice Richard Bell to draft the opinion in the Williams case. Justice Bell, a former prosecutor, wrote that Wayne Williams did not get a fair trial and his murder conviction should have been reversed. When the full court reviewed Bell's opinion, it was voted down; Bell's draft was rewritten; Bell was pressured to change his vote, and the majority opinion -- to uphold the conviction -- came out under Bell's name in December of 1983.
Justice Bell's unpublished draft criticized Judge Clarence Cooper for allowing prosecutors to link Williams to the murders of Eric Middlebrooks, John Porter, Alfred Evans, Charles Stephens and Patrick Baltazar. The standards for linking those crimes to the two for which Williams was charged were not met, according to Bell.
Specifically, Justice Bell said, according to Benjamin Weiser, Washington Post writer (Feb. 3, 1985) that "there was no evidence placing Williams with those five victims before their murders, and as in all the murders linked to Williams, there were no eyewitnesses, no confession, no murder weapons and no established motive. Also, the five deaths, while somewhat similar to each other in technique, were unlike the two for which Williams was tried."
The linking of the other crimes with the deaths of Cater and Payne had the effect of eroding the presumption of innocence. Bell pointed out that "because the evidence of guilt as to the two charged offenses was wholly circumstantial, and because of the prejudicial impact of the five erroneously admitted (uncharged) homicides must have been substantial, we cannot say that it is highly probable that the error did not contribute to the jury's verdict..."
The other dissenter was Justice George Smith, who did not change his vote as Bell did. Justice Smith stated that admitting the other crimes "illustrates the basic unfairness of this trial and Williams' unenviable position as a defendant who, charged with two murders, was forced to defend himself as to 12 separate killings."
In 1985, a five-hour CBS docudrama severely ruffled the feathers of the Atlanta city government. The producer made it clear in the movie that he believes that there were "tremendous breaches of legal ethics" during the investigation and trial and that Williams' guilt was not proven.
Over the years, an increasing number of people connected with the case do not believe that Wayne Williams is guilty, including some of the relatives of the victims. DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who as an Atlanta homicide detective first searched Williams home, says, " Most people who are aware of the child murders believe as I do that Wayne Williams did not commit these crimes."
In July of 1999, the Augusta Chronicle reported:
"A divided Georgia Supreme Court ruled that a state judge wrongly dismissed two claims raised by Wayne Williams in his bid for a new trial in the slayings of two Atlanta blacks 18 years ago. The 4-3 ruling sends the case back to Judge Hal Craig to rule on Mr. Williams' claims that prosecutors were guilty of misconduct and that his own attorneys did not effectively represent him at his 1982 trial."
Williams and his lawyers are seeking DNA tests on the bloodstains found in his cars, which prosecutors claimed were consistent with the blood types of two victims who were stabbed.
Throughout the murder investigation there was a fear in the black community that the Ku Klux Klan was responsible for the murders of the children and young adults. There was also credence given to the theory that the CIA and/or FBI were responsible.
A police informant allegedly claimed that Klan member Charles Sanders tried to recruit him into the racist organization. Sanders allegedly told the man that the Klan was trying to begin a race war by killing black children.
Any group that can blow up churches can and does murder children. Explosives are a very efficient way of harming lots of people quickly with limited risk of exposure. We have learned this from Timothy McVeigh in the Oklahoma City bombing. However, individual murders are not a very effective way to eradicate a large number of people, especially considering the risks of being caught by a black community that was in a heightened state of alarm. It seems unlikely that any white person(s) could pull off all or most of these murders. He (or they) would have been too obvious to have escaped attention during a two-year period.
What seems more likely as the body of knowledge about serial killers has vastly expanded in the twenty years since the murder series began, is that all the murders were not done by one or even two people, but that multiple criminals were at work during that 2-year period. However, there does seem to be at least one prolific serial killer at work amongst young and teenage boys.
While there was little or no evidence of sexual assault, many of the victims were involved in homosexual activities, either to earn money or because it was their sexual preference. Just because there was no evidence of mutilation or sexual violence, it doesn't mean that the murders were not sexually motivated. In fact, they probably were sexually motivated.
The killer must have been very expert in gaining the confidence of these young victims. Successful serial killers become very expert at defusing any concerns that a potential victim may have. Pedophiles have made the control of young people into an art form. Whoever it was that was responsible for the deaths of these young people had to move and live and earn a living among them. And almost certainly this killer was a black man, so as not to have attracted undue attention or raised suspicions.
Is this person still operating today? Probably not. He may be dead. These crimes began at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic and the killer may have been a victim of that dread disease. In fact, AIDS killed several of the suspects that were known pedophiles.
There are three full-length books on this case:
Baldwin, James, The Evidence of Things Not Seen. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1985.
Dettlinger, Chet, and Prugh, Jeff, The List. Atlanta: Philmay Enterprises, 1983. Unfortunately, the book is out of print and not easy to find.
Headley, Bernard, The Atlanta Youth Murders and the Politics of Race. Southern Illinois University Press, 1998.
The FBI has put its thousands of pages of files on this case on the Internet through the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act: http://foia.fbi.gov/atlanta.htm
Extensive coverage during the murders can be found in the Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal.
Washington Post writer Art Harris wrote a number of articles on the case throughout 1981 and 1982
Question remains: Who killed Atlanta's children?
After 20 Years, Debate Rages Despite Conviction
June 20, 1999
ATLANTA (AP) -- The once-secluded ravine where two black boys were found dead 20 years ago this summer is now surrounded by upscale homes. And playmates of those boys now have young children of their own.
The boys -- 14-year-old Edward Hope Smith and 13-year-old Alfred Evans -- were the first of 29 slain young blacks who collectively became known across the nation as Atlanta's missing and murdered children.
The 1982 conviction of Wayne B. Williams in the slayings of two adults, and authorities' decision to blame him for 22 of the other murders without trials, ended the official investigation.
And for many people, the memory of the murders has faded.
Support from many sides
But nagging questions about how the investigation was handled, the release of voluminous police files and interminable court appeals have kept alive debate over Williams' guilt.
Williams, now 41, continues to proclaim his innocence while serving life in prison. And with his latest appeal filed with the Georgia Supreme Court -- no hearing date is set -- his supporters now include relatives of some of the slain children, former investigators in the case and a retired state Supreme Court justice.
"Most people who are aware of the child murders believe as I do that Wayne Williams did not commit these crimes," said DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who, as an Atlanta homicide detective, supervised the first search of Williams' home in 1981.
Dorsey first voiced public doubt about Williams' guilt more than a decade ago, citing the 1980 case of 13-year-old Clifford Jones.
Police files list five witnesses, including one who claimed to have seen Clifford strangled by a man who was not Williams.
That man, now deceased, appeared at the time to be a prime suspect in the slayings, said Joe Drolet, who helped prosecute Williams. But Drolet said the eyewitness proved unreliable and key parts of his story were contradicted by physical evidence.
Willie Mae Mathis, whose 11-year-old son, Jefferey, was killed in 1980, said she changed her mind about Williams after Jefferey's brother met the convicted killer in prison and became convinced of his innocence.
"Wayne is guilty of being nothing but stupid," said Mathis, who is organizing other victims' relatives to push for a reopening of the investigation of the child murders.
The pending appeal is based on a judge's rejection of Williams' latest effort to gain a new trial. Williams claims that prosecutors withheld key evidence.
Prosecutors say that the judge's rejection, and the record of Williams' trial, clearly establish his guilt.
"Wayne's trying to outlast all of us and he probably will," said Jack Mallard, another prosecutor.
No witnesses saw Williams kill or abduct anyone.
Pressing for DNA tests
The main prosecution evidence was tiny fibers found on the bodies and matched to rugs and other fabrics in the home and cars of Williams' parents.
Prosecution witnesses also testified that two blood stains found in cars Williams used were consistent with the blood types of the only two victims who were stabbed. Williams and his lawyers are pressing for DNA tests to determine if the blood really came from the victims.
"If you want to prove that Wayne Williams did this conclusively, let's get the DNA tests," Williams said in a recent interview at Valdosta State Prison. "But if the DNA tests say that this is not their blood, we need to go back into court."
Williams' supporters contend that he was merely a convenient scapegoat for authorities who were under intense pressure to solve the child murders.
A splash, a car, a body
Police staking out a bridge over the Chattahoochee River, where some of the victims' bodies had been found, heard a splash early on the morning of May 21, 1981, and stopped Williams as he drove away. Two days later, the body of Nathaniel Cater, 27, was found downstream.
"Wayne Williams never did explain his presence on that bridge in the middle of the night," Drolet said.
Williams was put under surveillance, his house was searched, and a month later he was arrested and charged with Cater's murder. He later also was indicted in the death of Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, whose body was one of those found in the river earlier.
Killings may have continued
The debate over Williams also turns on the question of whether the killings really stopped with his arrest, or if similar killings continued largely unnoticed by police and the media.
"There are about 42 cases that, had I not been arrested, would have been part of this list," Williams insists.
Lewis Slaton, who retired as district attorney three years ago, acknowledged that other young blacks were killed in the area after Williams' arrest. But he said investigators never found fibers on any of those bodies that were similar to the ones used to link Williams to the 24 slayings.
"That was a powerful argument to me," he said.
It began in the summer of 1979 when Atlanta, Georgia, police discovered the decomposing bodies of two boys, aged thirteen and fourteen, less than fifty feet from one another in a small wodded area of the dity. Nobody could predict that by the time the killings had stopped and a suspect was in custody, the "Atlanta Child Murders" would snowball into a political and investigative nightmare that still persists to this day.
The killings of young black children, mostly males, almost immediately became a nationwide media frenzy as Atlanta police struggled to keep up with an ever-mounting number of victims. Adding to the confusion were doubts about the links between many of the killings. The children had not all been killed in the same manner, though police felt certain that the ones slain by strangulation were definitely related. Also, a small minority of people would not let go of their certainly that a white man or the KKK might be responsible, a rather flimsy premise that nonetheless gathered steam as the investigation faltered.
With over twenty-five children dead or missing by May of 1981, police finally caught a break. On the 22nd of that month, a patrolman staking out a section of the Chattahoochie River, where many recent victims had turned up, heard a splash directly underneath a nearby bridge. A man named Wayne Williams, a local 23 year-old black musician, was driving the only car on the bridge at the time and was pulled over and questioned, but released. When the body of Nathaniel Cater was pulled from the Chattahoochie near the same bridge two days later, Williams was put under surveillance and eventually arrested for Cater's slaying on June 21. Forensic evidence had linked Williams with a dozen of the child murders.
Though suspected in most or all of the child murders, Williams was tried in only Cater's killing and the homocide of 21-year-old Jimmy Ray Payne, who's body was found in the Chattahoochie not far from the site where Cater was later discovered. The evidence was mostly circumstantial in both cases, but forensically compelling and when Williams, confronted on the stand by a prosecutor, slipped up and answered "No" when asked if he panicked while killing his victims, the case was essentially over. He was convicted of both killings on February 27, 1982, and sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Controversy continues to rage in the Atlanta Child Murders case, however. A group, featuring some victims' parents, refuse to believe the mild-mannered Williams is responsible for any of the killings, and some still cling to their suspicionsof KKK involvement in the string of murders. FBI profiler John Douglas, who worked the series almost from the beginning, doubts Williams committed all, or perhaps even most, of the slayings, but believes evidence points to Williams in at least eleven child killings. He also claims that authorities have a good idea who committed many of the remaining homocides, though it is very unlikely that mysterious suspect will ever be identified.
Regardless, Wayne Williams' arrest brought an sudden halt to the string of sad killings in Atlanta, and coubtlessly jailed a dangerous murderer no matter how many the exact numer of his victims may be. Williams continues to deny his guilt to this day and will likely never confess to the gruesome Atlanta Child Murders.
Georgia Child Killings Linked To White Supremacist
August 06, 2005
A white supremacist investigated for a child-killing spree that terrorized Atlanta's black community once praised the crimes in secretly recorded conversations obtained by The Associated Press.
Although Charles T. Sanders did not claim responsibility for any of the deaths, lawyers for Wayne Williams, the black man convicted in two of the murders and blamed for 22 others between 1979 and 1981, believe the evidence will help their bid for a new trial.
Sanders - whose older brother, Don, was a reputed officer of the Ku Klux Klan - told an informant for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the 1981 recording that the killer had "wiped out a thousand future generations of niggers.''
His only complaint was that the killings were prompting police road blocks.
Police dropped the probe into the Klan's possible involvement after seven weeks, when Sanders and two of his brothers passed lie-detector tests, according to documents released this week to the AP following an open-records request.
The 315 pages of documents show the investigation started after a source told police that Sanders said the KKK "was creating an uprising among the blacks, that they were killing the children, that they are going to do one each month until things blow up.''
The source also told police that Sanders had threatened to strangle one of the children, Lubie Geter, because Geter ran into Sanders' car with a go-cart. Geter was later strangled, and Williams was blamed for his death though never charged.
Williams has long contended that he was framed and that Atlanta officials covered up evidence that the Klan was involved in the killings to avoid a race war in the city.
His lawyers believe the materials released to the AP and other evidence they are seeking will help him get a new trial. They say the investigation into the Klan was withheld from Williams' defense.
"There is no doubt that evidence in the hands of the defense and the jury would have at the very least created reasonable doubt at Wayne's trial,'' said Williams lawyer Michael Lee Jackson.
Transcripts of multiple wiretapped conversations involving the Sanders family were not released, and authorities won't say if there were any admissions in those talks.
In May, the police chief in neighboring DeKalb County, who assisted with the original investigations, said he was reopening the investigation of five of the deaths.
Sanders, brothers Jerry and Don, and their father, Carlton Sanders, are dead, according to relatives. Reached by telephone Friday, another brother, Ricky Sanders, declined to comment.
"They had nothing to do what that stuff,'' said his fiance, Michelle Eno.
Former GBI Director Robbie Hamrick, who worked on the case, said he believes Williams is guilty, though he wouldn't say Williams committed all the killings.
"I'm convinced he was responsible for the two cases he was convicted on,'' Hamrick said. "The others, that's something the courts would have to decide.''
Judge rejects appeal by Wayne Williams
February 11, 2006
A federal judge on Wednesday rejected the appeal of Wayne Williams, the suspected Atlanta serial killer who was convicted of killing two men in 1981.
In a 251-page order, U.S. District Judge Beverly Martin of Atlanta turned away all of Williams' claims in his petition for habeas corpus, a critical round of his appeals that attacks the constitutionality of his convictions. Williams, blamed for killing two dozen men and children, was found guilty in 1982 in Fulton County. The string of slayings terrorized the city.
"This is very shocking," Michael Lee Jackson, one of Williams' lawyers, said Wednesday when told of the ruling. "We believed and still believe we have a crystal clear case of violations of his constitutional rights by the massive withholding of critical evidence."
But Martin wrote that none the allegedly withheld evidence "would have had more than a minimal impact upon the outcome of Mr. Williams' trial had it been presented to the jury."
Martin also turned aside other claims raised by Williams' new lawyers, including those of innocence, prosecutorial misconduct, admission of improper evidence and ineffective work by his trial lawyers.
Last May, DeKalb County police Chief Louis Graham revived the "missing and murdered" investigation of five DeKalb killings — long ago blamed on Williams. Williams is now serving life in prison for killing Nathaniel Cater, 27, and Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, in Fulton County.
Atlanta Child Murders
May 27, 1958
Wayne Williams is born in Atlanta
July 21, 1979
Edward Hope Smith is seen for the last time. Unknown at the time, he would become the first of what today is known as the Atlanta Child Murders
July 28, 1979
Police find the remains of two bodies, Edward Hope Smith and a friend, 14-year old Alfred Evans
September 4, 1979
14-year old Milton Harvey disappears while on an errand for his mother. His bike is found a week later in a remote area of Atlanta. His body won't be found until November
October 21, 1979
9-year Yusef Bell disappears. His body will be found on November 8
March 4, 1980
12-year old Angel Lenair doesn't come home as expected. Her body is discovered on March 10. She may have been assaulted.
March 11, 1980
10-year old Jeffrey Mathis disappears. By the time his body is found 11 months later it is impossible to determine the cause of death
May 18, 1980
Eric Middlebrooks vanishes. His body is found the next day.
June 9, 1980
Chris Richardson, 12, is missing, never returning after a trip to a nearby swimming pool.
June 22, 1980
Latonya Wilson is taken from her home. She is the second girl missing.
June 23, 1980
Aaron Wyche, 10, is added to the list of Atlanta Child Murders
July 6, 1980
Anthony Carter, 9, vanishes while playing near his home. His body is recovered the next day, dead from multiple knife wounds.
August 14, 1980
Atlanta Police form a task force to investigate and analyze the evidence in the string of child murders that has occurred in the city
August 20, 1980
Clifford Jones, 13, strangled.
September 14, 1980
Darren Glass, 11, is missing. His body is never found.
October 9, 1980
Charles Stephens, 12, strangled.
November 1, 1980
Aaron Jackson, 9, reported missing. His body is found the following day, dead from asphyxiation
November 6, 1980
The Attorney General directs the FBI to join the investigation of missing and murdered children in the Atlanta, Georgia area.
January 3, 1981
Lubie Geter, 14, strangled
January 22, 1981
Terry Pue, 15, strangled
February 6, 1981
Patrick Baltazar, 12, strangled.
February 19, 1981
Curtis Walker, 13, strangled
March 2, 1981
Jo-Jo Bell, 16, strangled.
March 11, 1981
Timothy Hill is missing. His body will be found on March 30, strangled
March 13, 1981
President Reagan announces additional federal aid for the murdered and missing youth in Atlanta
April 21, 1981
CORE Director Ray Innis claims to have a photo of the Atlanta child killer
April 23, 1981
Atlanta Public Safety Commissioner Lee Brown clears the man identified by CORE Director Ray Innis as a suspect in the Atlanta Child Murders
May 22, 1981
Hearing a splash on the James Jackson Parkway (Cobb Drive) bridge, police stop a car driven by Wayne Williams and question the susect.
May 24, 1981
The body of Nathaniel Cater, 27, is discovered on the banks of the Chattahoochee, downstream from the James Jackson bridge
June 21, 1981
Wayne William is arrested, charged with the murders of Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Payne, the last of the Atlanta Child Murders
December 28, 1981
Trial begins for Wayne Williams, accused murderer who is charged with committing the Atlanta Child Murders
December 28, 1981
Trial begins for Wayne Williams, accused murderer who is charged with committing the Atlanta Child Murders
January 4, 1982
Jury selection completed in the trial of Wayne Williams
January 6, 1982
District Attorney Lewis Slayton begins opening arguments in the trial of Wayne Williams
January 8, 1982
First witnesses are called in the Wayne Williams trial
January 19, 1982
Controversial fiber evidence introduced by Lewis Slayton in the Wayne Williams Atlanta Child Murders Trial is ruled admissible by Judge Clarence Cooper. Today this type of evidence is normally admitted.
January 25, 1982
Judge Clarence Cooper allows testimony linking Wayne Williams to murders other than the two he is charged with.
February 4, 1982
Fulton County District Attorney Lewis Slayton rests in the case against Wayne Williams.
Fulton County, Georgia
February 24, 1982
Following almost two months of trial, the defense rests in the Wayne Williams case.
February 27, 1982
Wayne Williams found guilty in Atlanta Child murders
May 6, 2005
Dekalb County Police Chief Louis Graham re-opens the case against Wayne Williams.