This happened back in March but as real life got busy and in the way, as well as travels taking me out of the country for nearly all of May and into June, I am only now posting about this.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields reportedly made the decision to reopen the 40 year old (and nearly 40 year old) cases in an effort to take advantage of scientific and technological advancements as well as provide "some peace" and a sense of closure to the families of the victims that were denied that closure and peace when the State elected not to bring charges for their loved one's murder against Wayne Williams, thought by many to be the individual responsible for Atlanta's Missing and Murdered. Williams was convicted in 1982 for the deaths of Jimmy Ray Payne and Nathaniel Cater, both adults, but the prosecution used some of the cases of the missing and murdered children as proof of a "pattern" in the killings. (For a more in depth look at the crimes, please see my earlier post.)
For his part, Williams has publicly stated to the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he is "ready and willing to cooperate with any renewed investigation to find the truth on what happened with the purpose of straightening up any lies and misconceptions of my unjust convictions." Is he sincere? Will evidence clear him of one murder, two murders, all the murders, or no murders? He has maintained his innocence since 1981, when he was stopped on the bridge overlooking the Chattahoochee -- but nearly everyone in prison maintains their innocence.
So back to the reopening of the investigation. First, it's about damn time. There are so many factors in these crimes that were either investigated poorly or not investigated at all. Too many of the victims were seen as runaways first and then just some kind of "by-product" of the street rather than children that were being snatched away. The fact that many of the victims knew each other was either ignored entirely or swept under the proverbial rug -- which is astounding to me. I remember being the in the age range of most of the victims and I remember how things were back in the early 1980s, before cable, before the internet and before cell phones. You pretty much had your own "bubble" of friends -- those you went to school with and/or who lived in your immediate neighborhood. Kids that lived a street or two over that went to private school, for example, I really didn't know. I knew those kids that I saw daily. So the Atlanta children knowing each other is a salient point because they didn't all live in the same neighborhood or attend the same school or were the same age. Some of them reportedly did, however, associate at the same house where it was rumored child prostitution and pornography went on. That lead should have been followed up and thoroughly exhausted.
Secondly, I hope that this reinvestigation is legitimate and that the so-called box or boxes of evidence that the State still has that's never been tested will be tested and provide conclusively whether the correct victims are on the official list and whether Wayne Williams was involved.
The victims deserve that and their families, who have been seeking justice, recognition and closure, deserve that.
To watch the press conference from March, go here.
What do you think? Will the cases truly be reopened and will the evidence support Wayne Williams as a killer of some or all or his own innocence?