The Atlanta Child Murders
Characteristics: The case remains, in many minds, an unsolved mystery
Number of victims: 2 - 24 +
Date of murders: 1979 - 1981
Date of birth:
Victims profile: Nathaniel Cater,
28 / Jimmy Ray Payne, 21 /
Police attributed these deaths to Williams (closed
Alfred Evans, 13 / Yusef Bell, 9 / Eric
Middlebrooks, 14 / Christopher Richardson, 12 / Aaron Wyche, 10 /
Anthony Carter, 9 / Earl Terrell, 11 / Clifford Jones, 13 /
Charles Stephens, 12 / Aaron Jackson, 9 / Patrick Rogers, 16 /
Lubie Geter, 14 / Terry Pue, 15 / Patrick Baltazar, 11 / Curtis
Walker, 13 / Jo Jo Bell, 15 / Timothy Hill, 13 / Eddie Duncan, 21
/ Larry Rogers, 20 / Michael McIntosh, 23 / John Porter, 28 /
William Barrett, 17
Method of murder: Strangulation - Suffocation
Location: Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, USA
Sentenced to two consecutive terms of life
imprisonment on February 27,
The FBI's Wayne Williams files
On November 5, 1980, United
States Attorney General Benjamin R. Civiletti directed the FBI
to participate in the investigation of several missing and
murdered children in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to working an
independent investigation, the FBI collaborated with the local
law enforcement Task Force to provide additional manpower,
guidance and technical assistance. Ultimately, on February 27,
1982, Wayne Bertram Williams was found guilty on two counts of
murder in the Fulton County Superior Court, Atlanta, Georgia. He
was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Atlanta Child Murders
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
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
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
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
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
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
$100,000 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
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
Date of disappearance
July 21, 1979
July 25, 1979
September 4, 1979
October 21, 1979
March 4, 1980
March 11, 1980
May 18, 1980
June 9, 1980
June 22, 1980
June 23, 1980
July 6, 1980
July 30, 1980
August 20, 1980
September 14, 1980
October 9, 1980
November 1, 1980
November 10, 1980
January 3, 1981
January 22, 1981
February 6, 1981
February 19, 1981
March 2, 1981
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
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.
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.
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"
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
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
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
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
The Atlanta Child Murders
Setting the Stage
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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."
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
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.
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 $200
to get him back. I will call back on Friday." (Detlinger and
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
End in Sight
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
same day, FBI agents found the remains of Jefferey Mathis,
missing almost a year. His funeral was captured on national
(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."
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Splash from the Bridge
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, 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
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.
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.
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
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.
were rumors that he was homosexual, but nothing to substantiate
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
FBI gave Wayne Williams three separate polygraph tests, all of
which indicated that Williams was being deceptive in his
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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
"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.
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.
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
characteristics that formed the "pattern" amongst the victims
were listed by the prosecution as being:
evidence of forced abduction
apparent motive for disappearance
Defendant claims no contact
Asphyxia by strangulation
found near expressway ramp or major artery
disposed of in unusual manner
Transported before or after death
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.
prosecution focused its efforts on four key areas:
character and credibility of Wayne Williams,
happened on the Jackson Parkway bridge,
eyewitnesses to Wayne Williams behavior and alleged interaction
with the victims, and
physical evidence, which was primarily based on fibers, hairs
and bloodstains found on victims that matched elements in Wayne
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
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
that was not the end of the case by any means.
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.
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
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."
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
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
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.
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
July of 1999, the Augusta Chronicle reported:
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
FBI has put its thousands of pages of files on this case on the
Internet through the auspices of the Freedom of Information Act:
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
Question remains: Who killed Atlanta's
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.''
rejects appeal by Wayne Williams
February 11, 2006
federal judge on Wednesday rejected the appeal of Wayne Williams, the
suspected Atlanta serial killer who was convicted of killing two men in
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.
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
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
September 14, 1980
Darren Glass, 11, is missing. His body is
October 9, 1980
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,
January 22, 1981
Terry Pue, 15,
February 6, 1981
February 19, 1981
Curtis Walker, 13,
March 2, 1981
Jo-Jo Bell, 16,
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
December 28, 1981
Trial begins for Wayne Williams, accused
murderer who is charged with committing the Atlanta Child
January 4, 1982
Jury selection completed in the trial of
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
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
February 4, 1982
Fulton County District Attorney Lewis Slayton
rests in the case against Wayne Williams.
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
May 6, 2005
Dekalb County Police Chief Louis Graham
re-opens the case against Wayne Williams.