"You shouldn't cry over spilled milk." - former mayor Andrew Young on unanswered questions in the case
"Wayne was just a scapegoat. They had to get somebody to put in jail because the city was like a keg of dynamite." - Willie Mae Mathis, mother of Jefferey Mathis
I grew up in Atlanta in the era of booming economic change, African Americans coming into power with the city's first black mayor and the most horrible and horrifying serial killer to strike the so-called city "Too Busy to Hate."
The city and its residents lived in terror of the unknown boogeyman, who would snatch at least thirty children and adults over a two year period. Those that turned up were dead. Some had been gone for so many months, it wasn't possible to determine how they had died. So prevalent was the media coverage by the end of 1981 and beginning of 1982, that even those of us who did not fit the demographic or live in the areas targeted were fearful.
When Wayne Williams was arrested in 1981 and convicted in 1982, most of the city appeared to breathe a sigh of relief. Although Williams was convicted for the last two murders, the city officially connected him to 22 more and closed those investigations. Nearly from the start, however, there was belief that Williams had not killed all the victims, if any at all. Rumors abounded from political corruption and cover-ups to child prostitution rings to the Ku Klux Klan murdering the children to prevent African Americans from rising up in the city. If some of these theories are to be believed, Williams was either only one of several killers operating in the city at the time or a patsy taking the fall.
The Missing and the Murdered
Edward Hope Smith. Fourteen year old "Teddy," a football enthusiast who was hoping to join the high school football team in the fall of 1979, lived in a housing project on Cape Street in southwest Atlanta. One of the more rundown projects in the city, it wasn't unusual to see more garbage on the street than actual people. Teddy had tried to find a means to escape such destitute living but by July 21, 1979, he hadn't yet been able to. It was just after midnight on that day when he left a skating rink, after spending the evening with his girlfriend. He was headed home, alone and on foot. He never arrived.
Alfred Evans. Fourteen year old Alfred was friends with Teddy Smith and his cousin dated future victim Patrick Rogers. Like Teddy, he was athletic with special interests in basketball, wrestling, boxing, and karate. He too lived in a housing project but on the other side of town, off Memorial Drive. Teddy had been missing for a few days when Alfred left home to see a karate movie at the Coronet Theater on Peachtree Street in downtown Atlanta. A friend gave him a ride to the Glenwood bus stop, where he was last seen. He never made it to the theater.
On July 28, 1979, the remains of the two friends were found in the woods off Niskey Lake Road by an elderly woman looking for cans. Teddy had been shot in the back with a .22 caliber gun; the medical examiner guessed that Alfred had died due to asphyxia or strangulation. Both bodies were clothed entirely in black. Teddy's football jersey and socks were missing; Alfred was wearing a belt that wasn't his.
It was hotly debated back in that summer of 1979, and remains so today, that the body found with Teddy Smith was indeed that of Alfred Evans, given that it took over a year to make the identification.
Law enforcement had no idea -- couldn't know -- these two deaths were the start of a nightmare that Atlanta would be immersed in for years to come. They concluded that both young men had involvement with drugs and therefore the killings were likely drug related. The investigations into their deaths were spotty at best.
Milton Harvey. Before his murder, fourteen year old Milton had been taken away from the higher risk environments by his concerned parents, who relocated him to a middle-class neighborhood in northwest Atlanta. He had absolutely no connection to drugs nor seemingly any of the other victims. September 4, 1979 was to be the first day of school but Milton did not go because his mother bought him the "wrong" shoes and he didn't want to be embarrassed. Instead, he borrowed a yellow ten speed bike and took a check to the bank for his mother. After leaving the bank, he disappeared. A week later, the yellow bike was found on Sandy Creek Road, a dirt lane.
Milton wouldn't be found until mid-November of 1979, by which time his body was badly decomposed. He had been left in a rubbish dump in the city of East Point, many miles from where the bike was located and from where he had lived. With no obvious marks or violence on his skeleton, Milton's death was not initially considered a homicide. As East Point was outside of Atlanta's city limits, the East Point PD worked on the Harvey case as an isolated incident, with no relation to Smith or Evans.
Yusuf Bell. Yusuf was only 9 years old but was considered very gifted. He lived in the McDaniel Glenn Housing Authority with his mother, sisters, and brother. On October 21, 1979, Yusuf's neighbor, Eula Birdsong, had asked the little boy if he would run to the store for her to buy some snuff. He did, making the purchase at Reese Grocery. A witness claimed to have seen Yusuf, wearing no shirt or shoes, get into a blue car with a man she identified as the boy's biological father.
Yusuf's case was the first to get media attention -- certainly more than the earlier cases -- as his mother, Camille, went to the media to beg his abductor to release him.
On November 8, 1979, his body was found by a janitor at the abandoned E.P. Johnson Elementary School. Yusuf, still wearing the brown cut-off shorts he had last been seen in, had been struck over the head twice and then strangled. The bottoms of his feet, interestingly, had been washed clean.
Yusuf's funeral was a major event due to Camille Bell's interaction with the local media. Mayor Maynard Jackson promised a full investigation but at this point, none of the deaths were connected by the authorities. They were considered four isolated murders, the type that just "happen" in poor communities.
Angel Lenair. After a lull of several months the murders started up again, this time with the first female victim. Angel was a pretty 12 year old who had begun receiving male attention, especially from the enlisted men at nearby Fort McPherson -- something that caused great concern to her mother.
On March 4, 1980, Angel finished her homework and left her apartment in southwest Atlanta around 4 p.m., clad in a denim outfit, to watch television at a friend's home. She arrived there and watched Sanford and Son but never returned home. Six days later, Angel's body was found tied to a tree, with electrical cord wrapped around her neck and white underwear -- not hers -- stuffed in her mouth. The coroner determined she died from ligature strangulation and said that while Angel's hymen was broken and there was genital bruising, no sexual assault had occurred. That particular finding would be one of controversy and debate.
Two men were questioned as to Angel's murder; one had been arrested for grabbing a child and currently wore a belt fashioned out of electrical cord. He lived only half a mile from Angel's home.
No arrests were made and the case is still unsolved.
Jefferey Mathis. On March 11, 1980, the day after Angel Lenair was found, 11 year old Jefferey, who lived in the West End neighborhood with his mother, brothers and sisters, left home to walk several blocks to the nearby Star Service Station to buy cigarettes for his mother. Jefferey's father, who had been employed as a night watchman at a cemetery, had been murdered in a robbery while on the job at the cemetery in 1974.
Jefferey was an enterprising young man, who made pocket money by carrying groceries for customers at the neighborhood Kroger. Wearing a white and green shirt, gray jogging pants and brown shoes, he was spotted by a barber, on whose window he knocked. Like Yusuf Bell before him, Jefferey never returned home. A friend reported he had seen the boy getting into the backseat of a blue car. His mother worried after an hour passed and her son didn't return home. When his brothers were unable to locate him, she called the police. The responding officer instructed her to call the Missing Persons Department if Jefferey did not return home by morning. The general attitude at the time was that missing young people and children were playing hooky or had chosen to run away but were certainly not victims of foul play. Two of Jefferey's brothers reported seeing a blue car -- a Buick -- in the driveway of a house that Jefferey frequented. Boys from the school Jefferey attended reported to their principal, shortly after the Mathis disappearance, that two black men in a blue car had attempted to lure them out of the schoolyard. The children memorized the license plate and provided it to the police. That lead apparently was not followed up on.
Jefferey's body was discovered in February of 1981 in a patch of woods. It was impossible to determine the cause of death.
Eric Middlebrooks. Eric was 14 years old and small for his age, standing at only 4'10" and weighing a slight 88 pounds. He lived with his foster mother and father on Howell Drive as his birth mother had given him up at four months of age. Eric had an older half-brother who was an officer and he enjoyed swimming at the neighborhood boys' club. In the spring of 1980, he had been the eyewitness to a robbery and had testified against three juveniles.
On the evening of May 18, 1980, Eric answered the phone at his home around 10:30, grabbed his tools and told his foster mother he was going outside to fix his bike. He was found early the next morning, next to his bike, in the rear garage of the Hope U Like It Bar on Flat Shoals Road. Perhaps coincidentally, the Georgia Department of Offender Rehab was located next door. His pockets were turned inside out and he had suffered slight stab wounds to his chest and arms but the cause of death was blunt trauma to his head.
Eric's funeral was held on May 24, 1980. He was buried in an unmarked grave at the Kennedy Memorial Gardens in Ellenwood. His biological mother, who was living in North Carolina, did not attend her son's funeral.
Christopher Richardson. Twelve year old Christopher lived with his grandparents and mother just outside of the Atlanta city limits in Decatur. On June 9, 1980, he was spotted outside a Krystal fast food restaurant near the Belvedere Plaza Shopping Center. Dressed in blue shorts, a light blue shirt and blue shoes, he was headed toward the Midway Recreation Center to swim. He never arrived.
Chris wouldn't be found until January of 1981, when his body was discovered in some woods by a resident who was alerted to the find by his dog. Police searchers, who were looking for another missing boy nearby, were quickly notified. Chris' body was clothed in swim trunks that did not belong to him and was laying alongside that of another victim, Earl Terrell, who would go missing the month after Chris. Shotgun shells, Gallery and Penthouse magazines, a cigarette butt and magnetic recording tape were found by the bodies. Fingerprints were lifted from the magazines but according to police, they were matched to someone who "was not a strong suspect" in the case. The cause of death could not be determined. In fact, the medical examiner said at first the teeth on the body did not match Chris' dental records.
Like Eric Middlebrooks, Chris was buried at the Kennedy Memorial Gardens in Ellenwood.
Latonya Wilson. Perhaps the most brazen and amazing crime in the series happened in the early morning hours of June 22, 1980 when 7 year old Latonya was abducted from her home in the Hillcrest Heights apartment complex in Dixie Hills. Wearing a slip nightie and underwear, she had been sleeping next to her sister in a room in which her brother also slept. Her abductor had to have climbed over her brother's bed in order to snatch Latonya, then carry the child past her parents' bedroom before exiting out the back door, which was left ajar. A witness claims to have seen a man enter through a window four times before carrying Latonya out in his arms and stopping to talk to another man in the parking lot. Nathaniel Cater, who would become a future victim, was suspected to be one of the men in the parking lot. Cater had once lived upstairs from the Wilson apartment.
A witness recounted that the day before Latonya was taken, he had seen an old model van with two males and a female in it, casing the area behind the Wilsons' apartment. Several days before the abduction, a maintenance man had replaced the glass in the window of the Wilson apartment. He later confessed to another murder and reportedly had pictures of the Atlanta victims on his wall.
On October 18, 1980, Latonya's body was found in a fenced in area at the end of her own street. Her remains were skeletal and cause of death could not be determined.
Despite the confession of the maintenance man to another murder, and his proximity to Latonya, no arrests were made and her case is still considered unsolved by the state.
Aaron Wyche. Only a day after Latonya Wilson was abducted, Aaron Wyche, 10 years old, vanished outside Tanner's Corner Grocery after getting into a blue and white late 1970s model Chevy with two black men inside. A female witness would recall seeing Aaron being led from the grocery store to the car by a 6 foot tall black male with a goatee. The witness said hello to Aaron and he returned the greeting, giving no indication that he was scared or concerned. She watched him get into the car and sit close to the man in the front seat. According to police, Aaron was spotted that same day around 6 p.m. at the Moreland Avenue Shopping Center.
His body was discovered the next day, June 24, 1980, under a six-lane bridge going over train tracks on Moreland Avenue. He had suffered a broken neck and landed in such a way that he was prevented from breathing, leading him to asphyxiate. It was assumed that Aaron had accidentally fallen off the bridge, although the guardrails were nearly the same height as the boy. According to his family, Aaron was deathly afraid of heights and would never have climbed the trestle willingly unless he was running away from someone.
Anthony Carter. Anthony Carter was a 9 year old who lived with his mother and took odd jobs around the West End Mall. He was last seen around 1 a.m. on the morning of July 6, 1980, playing hide and seek with his cousin around his home. He then vanished. His body was found either later the same day or the following day, less than a mile from his home and behind a warehouse. Anthony had been stabbed to death.
His case is still officially unsolved.
Earl Terrell. Ten year old Earl went with some friends to the South Bend Park swimming pool on July 30, 1980. After acting up, a lifeguard kicked him out and he was more or less said to be last seen sitting outside the pool area. After his disappearance, he was reported to have been spotted looking for a friend outside a house, buying freeze pops at a grocery store a block from his home and/or crying on a corner in the city of Jonesboro.
The following day, July 31, Earl's aunt, who lived next door to Earl and his family, received a phone call from "a middle aged white man with a southern drawl" who said he had Earl and not to call the police. He called again, repeating that he had Earl but adding the child was in Alabama and the man wanted $200 for his return. The man stated he would call again the following day but he did not.
The investigation into Earl's disappearance possibly led police into a child pornography ring operating across the street from the South Bend Park pool. A man by the name of John David Wilcoxen was arrested and convicted when a massive cache of pornographic photos featuring children was discovered prominently displayed in his home. Although witnesses claimed that Earl had been to Wilcoxen's home several times, police did not believe there to be a connection between the missing child and Wilcoxen, stating that the photos were of white children only.
Because Earl's aunt had received a call that Earl had been taken to Alabama, and therefore across state lines, the FBI finally entered the investigation.
Earl's body would be found in January of 1981, alongside a body that was identified as Christopher Richardson (although that identification remains questionable to this day.) Earl's cause of death could not be determined. After a funeral service, Earl, like Chris Richardson and Eric Middlebrooks, was laid to rest at the Kennedy Memorial Gardens in Ellenwood.
Clifford Jones. Twelve year old Clifford was not even an Atlanta resident but had traveled from Cleveland to visit his grandmother. He was tiny - - not much over four feet -- and he and his brother had taken up collecting cans for extra money. During one of their collection trips, they had rather ominously stumbled across the body of a murdered man. Clifford was last seen on August 19, 1980 at the intersections of St. James and Lookout Avenue, looking for cans to sell. The next day, August 20, 1980, his body was found in the Hollywood Plaza Shopping Center, next to a dumpster and by a laundromat. His body was clad in red and blue jogging shorts that were not his, as well as white tennis shoes. He wore no underwear. He also had cuts and bruises around his mouth and had died as a result of ligature strangulation. Found on Clifford's body were green, trilobal fibers.
Three individuals would report witnessing the manager of the Hollywood Plaza Shopping Center laundromat, as well as another man, fondle and rape Clifford before strangling him to death with a yellow rope. The child's body was then washed with soap and a rag and reclothed.
Two other witnesses reported seeing a black man in a hooded robe place a large item wrapped in plastic next to the dumpster where Clifford was found. The hooded robe was corroborated by another witness who claims to not only have seen it in the manager's home but heard that Clifford was taken there. This witness claimed to have met the manager at the Silver Dollar Saloon and spent the night with him. He also said that he met future victim Nathaniel Cater at the Silver Dollar.
The manager was given two polygraph tests, both of which he failed. He admitted to having seen Clifford Jones the night he died and put himself in the child's company at the time of his death. However, he was not charged because police determined that the one youth who claimed to have seen the man rape and kill Clifford was "retarded."
The manager would be charged in connection with aggravated assault with attempt to rape in another case unrelated to the Atlanta child murders but would be released by the time Wayne Williams was taken to trial. He would later die of AIDS.
Darron Glass. Darron was 11 years old and lived on Memorial Drive with his foster mother. On September 14, 1980, he was last seen getting off a church bus after an Atlanta Braves game, wearing a yellow shirt, brown khaki pants and white tennis shoes. That evening, his foster mother received an emergency phone call from someone purporting to be Darron but when she picked up the phone, the line was dead.
The police chose to give Darron's disappearance very little attention. Since Darron had run away in the past, authorities assumed he had done it again. Darron's foster brother claimed to know where Darron was and said he received phone calls from him as late as November of 1980.
Darron is still missing and his current whereabouts are unknown.
Charles Stephens. Charles was a 12 year old who lived with his father, mother and sister when he went missing on the evening of October 9, 1980. Prior to his disappearance, he had been accused of theft and dealing drugs. He was known to hang out at the Zayre Department Store at the Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center as well as with a man who drove a red Ford LTD with a red interior. The LTD driver was reportedly a client of Wayne Williams' attorney.
The night Charles vanished, he had been watching tv and drawing at home. He then left to go see a friend in Carver Homes and was spotted by a neighbor playing on his skateboard.
The next morning, Charles' body was found on a hillside on Norman Berry Drive near the entrance to Longview Trailer Park. He was missing his t-shirt and one shoe and rub marks were found on his nose and mouth. Charles' cause of death was suffocation with an unknown object.
The crime scene was contaminated when a police officer covered his body with a blanket, mixing fibers on the boy's body. Dog hairs and two Caucasian head hairs were found on the body. Charles' boxer shorts, with two pubic hairs on them, were found 950 feet from his body. The hairs did not match Charles or Wayne Williams.
On October 11, 1980, a drug dealer went to police to say that he had gotten in the car of a client to sell drugs. He noticed that a lifeless boy was laying on the backseat, wrapped in a sheet. Inquiring about the boy, the client became angry and said the boy was merely doped up. The client then threatened the dealer with his life should he say anything. The dealer informed the police that this client was a pedophile and, in the past, had offered money if the dealer could find him young boys to have sex with.
It appears this lead was not followed up.
Aaron Jackson. Nine year old Aaron lived with his father and siblings, while his mother resided in Washington, D.C. with two other siblings. He had been friends with Aaron Wyche, who disappeared in June. He enjoyed swimming at the Thomasville Heights Recreation Center. On November 1, 1980, Aaron went missing from the Moreland Avenue Shopping Center, wearing a printed shirt, dark pants and sneakers.
His body would be found beneath a bridge in the South River, not far from where Aaron Wyche had been discovered. The medical examiner believed that Aaron had been smothered.
A witness came forward to say she saw a man at the scene around the time Aaron had been killed. She went to the newly formed Task Force to report her finding but they failed to respond to her report. The Force also got details between the Jackson and Wyche cases confused, leading to further issues with the investigations.
Patrick Rogers. Sixteen year old Patrick loved to sing and practice karate (he was a big Bruce Lee fan) and lived in the Thomasville Heights housing projects, close by where Aaron Jackson liked to swim. Patrick not only knew Aaron Jackson and Aaron Wyche but had a connection to at least fifteen other victims (some of whom were not on the "official" list.) He carried groceries at the Moreland Avenue Shopping Center, where Aaron Jackson had vanished.
On November 10, 1980, Patrick was seen with his younger brother at a bus stop before visiting a friend's home, where he informed that friend's mother that a man wanted to record his songs. A week earlier, a black man thought to be Wayne Williams was seen distributing flyers in this housing project. That same week, Patrick had told his mother that he feared the unknown Atlanta killer was close.
Like many of the other victims, authorities initially assumed that Patrick had run away. Two days after he was reported missing, a burglary warrant was issued on him. It would become moot on December 21, 1980 when his body was discovered facedown in the Chattahoochee River, near the Paces Ferry Road bridge in Cobb County. He died from a blow to his head.
Lubie Geter. Fourteen year old Lubie, like many previous victims, carried groceries for extra money and worked at the National Pride Car Wash on Memorial, where he would get air fresheners to sell. He was last seen at the Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center on January 3, 1981, where he was selling car deodorizers outside of the Big Star grocery store. Witnesses would later report Lubie getting into a red pickup, a white pickup, and a white and black Cutlass. Another witness would later testify that she saw Lubie with Wayne Williams outside the Sears at the mall.
A man identifying himself as the killer made calls to police; the calls were traced to payphones on Stewart Avenue, not far from the Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center. The shopping center was also where Charles Stephens had gone missing in October of 1980.
Lubie was found on February 5, 1981 but the police did not begin their investigation until two days after the discovery of his body. When he had last been seen, Lubie had been wearing a purple coat, green shirt, blue jeans and brown loafers. When he was found, his body was clad only in underpants. His blue jeans and belt were found in a bag nearly a mile away; his shirt and shoes were 300 yards away. His body had been subjected to animal predation but the medical examiner determined he died as a result of manual strangulation.
Lubie was found to have a connection to John David Wilcoxen, the pedophile who also had a link with earlier victim Earl Terrell. An acquaintance stated he had seen Lubie in the company of Wilcoxen several times. Although a convicted child molester with connections to at least two murder victims, Wilcoxen was never considered a suspect in the Geter murder.
Terry Pue. Fifteen year old Terry was last seen on January 7, 1981, when his brother had seen him board a bus on Hollywood Road around 3 p.m. Terry had asked a neighbor to play basketball with him but, due to the rain, the neighbor declined. Instead, Terry had traded bottles for money at an A&P grocery store near Memorial Drive and then taken his money to a Krystal fast food restaurant to spend. Perhaps coincidentally, Terry had known Lubie Geter.
A day later, an anonymous caller, suspected to be a white male, had phoned the police and told them where to find the boy's body. A search was undertaken but nothing was found. The man called again, claiming to have placed another body in the area before Terry's was left there.
On January 22, 1981, Terry's body was found near Interstate 20 on Sigman Road in Rockdale County -- not by police but by a passerby. Dog hairs were found on the body, as well as abrasions on an elbow and bruises on the head. He had died from ligature strangulation.
A few years later, skeletal remains would be found in the same area. The second body remains unidentified.
Patrick Baltazar. Prior to his disappearance, 11 year old Patrick sold newspapers, washed dishes at Papa's Country Buffet, cleaned at the Fisherman's Cove restaurant, and sold cotton candy at the Omni -- the last two locations where his father also worked. In the days before his disappearance, Patrick had called the Task Force directly, reporting that the killer was after him. The Task Force never responded to the child.
On the night of February 5-6, 1981, he received some money from his father at the Fisherman's Cove before heading to the Omni, where he was said to have played games at the Galaxy Three Arcade until midnight. He then vanished.
One of Patrick's teachers claimed to have gotten a phone call she believed came from Patrick after his disappearance. The boy on the other end of the phone never said his name but cried into the receiver.
Only hours after Patrick was last seen, on February 6, 1981, his body was discovered in the Corporate Square business office complex between Interstate 85 and Buford Highway. There were scrapes, bruises and dog hair found on the body. Patrick had died from ligature strangulation. A rope, possibly the murder weapon, lay next to his body.
Patsy Jackson, a dental assistant who worked in one of the office buildings, reported seeing a light green Chevy Impala parked in the lot around 7:15 that morning. She said the car's occupant was a white man in his late 20s with shoulder length brown hair, a small mustache and close-set eyes. He was wearing a flannel plaid shirt and stared at her as she exited her car and entered the building. When she looked out her office window, the car had gone. A few hours later, a maintenance man discovered Patrick's body.
Curtis Walker. Thirteen year old Curtis had formerly resided at Thomasville Heights, where earlier victim Patrick Rogers lived, before moving closer to Bankhead Highway with his mother, uncle and siblings. He was last seen looking for work on February 19, 1981 at a gun shop on Bankhead Highway, where he and his younger brother often picked up trash for money. From there, he headed toward a shopping center near the intersection of Hightower Road and disappeared. Tracking dogs picked up his scent behind Center Hill School on Bankhead Highway and then lost it.
After Curtis' disappearance, the Reverend Earl Paulk of the Chapel Hill Harvester Church received phone calls from someone claiming to be Curtis' killer.
Curtis was found on March 6, 1981in the South River by Flat Shoals Parkway. A fireman crossing the river had discovered the body snagged on a log. The location was less than a mile from the Chapel Hill Harvester Church.
All of Curtis' clothing, sans his underwear, were missing. Latent prints were found on the body. His cause of death was reported as strangulation, manner unknown, but possibly with a cord or narrow rope.
A witness would claim to have seen an old green Chevy parked near the body site the Tuesday or Wednesday prior to the discovery.
In a sad coincidence, Curtis' uncle, Stanley Murray, was shot and killed later that year. He was 21 years old.
Joseph Bell. Joseph, or Jo-Jo as he was known, had already endured a tough life before 1981. His mother was in prison for killing his father and Jo-Jo lived with his grandmother. The 15 year old went to the John Harland Boys Club and worked at Cap'n Peg's Seafood when he wasn't attending school. He disappeared on March 2, 1981 after playing basketball with a friend at Agnes Jones School, where earlier victim Latonya Wilson had attended. That friend, a 21 year old, said he saw Jo-Jo get into a station wagon with Wayne Williams on Westview Drive. That same day, Wayne Williams was reported to have been seen at the South River.
Two days later, a co-worker of Jo-Jo's at Cap'n Peg's said Jo-Jo had called him and said he was "almost dead," and then pleaded with the co-worker to help him before the line was disconnected. The co-worker informed his manager who, in turn, called the police.
On March 7, 1981, Jo-Jo's grandmother received a call from a woman who claimed to have Jo-Jo. The woman also called several of Jo-Jo's siblings. The Task Force was contacted but never responded. In frustration, Jo-Jo's family contacted the FBI.
On April 19, 1981, Jo-Jo was found by two bikers testing a new trail for horseback riders in Rockdale County, in or near the South River. Like Curtis Walker, Jo-Jo was clad only in his underpants. The cause of death was asphyxia by an undetermined manner.
A witness came forward and signed an affidavit stating he had seen someone other than Wayne Williams murder Jo-Jo at a house on Gray Street. A schoolmate of Jo-Jo's said that he had seen Jo-Jo at the house on Gray Street. The house was known as Uncle Tom's and was owned by Tom Terrell, a 63 year old man who was known to have interest in young boys.
Jo-Jo's mother had befriended a fellow inmate; that woman turned out to be victim Alfred Evans' sister. Jo-Jo had been friends with Timothy Hill, who would become the next victim.
Timothy Hill. Thirteen year old Timothy knew many of the previous victims. Besides Jo-Jo Bell, he also knew Patrick Baltazar, Patrick Rogers, Anthony Carter and possibly Alfred Evans and Jefferey Mathis. He had relatives that lived across the street from where Eric Middlebrooks had lived.
On March 11, 1981, after playing with his niece, Timmy left his backyard. The niece later said he departed in a taxi and a man put "mud" on his face.
Tom Terrell's next door neighbor reported seeing Timmy on Gray Street on March 10, the day before he disappeared. He also told police that Terrell and Timmy frequently had sex together at Terrell's house on Gray Street. Terrell himself admitted that he engaged in sexual acts with the boy that resulted in Terrell paying Timmy. Timmy was also reported to have spent the night at Terrell's the day before his disappearance and was spotted speaking to a teenage girl right before he vanished. A witness claimed he was told by someone, not Wayne Williams, that Timmy, who was still missing, and others would be found in the Chattahoochee River.
Timmy was found on March 30, 1981 in the Chattahoochee River by canoeists who were fishing. The property the body was found on had also been a dumping site for victims employed in homosexual entertainment venues who had been killed in the 1970s.
Timmy's body had no clothing but his underwear. The cause of death was undetermined asphyxiation.
Eddie Duncan. Eddie would have the unfortunate distinction of being the first adult added to the victim list. At 21, he lived with his mother in Techwood. He worked in a small grocery at the edge of Techwood and did odd jobs at a local barbershop and a retail store next door. Eddie had some physical and intellectual handicaps and had a small record for carrying stolen items, for which he had served a year in prison. He had also been friends with Patrick Rogers and, reportedly, Timmy Hill.
On March 20, 1981 at around 2 p.m., he boarded a MARTA bus to drop off some dry cleaning for a friend and then meet the same friend afterward at Courtney's Games and Things, where Eddie did some odd jobs. Records indicated that Eddie did not drop off the dry cleaning until almost 6 p.m. and then never showed up at Courtney's. He didn't show up to meet his girlfriend later that day either. A friend reported seeing Eddie around 7 p.m. heading toward his apartment mentioning that he had $20 and was going to play pool. Eddie's brother stated that Eddie told him he was going to make $200 by helping someone move to South Carolina. That seemed credible as a 15 year old neighbor told police that Eddie had told him he was getting $200 for helping someone paint.
Eddie was last seen either around Courtney's or getting into a car with a light skinned male at the corner of Techwood Drive and North Avenue, near the Varsity restaurant.
On March 31, 1981, Eddie was found in the Chattahoochee, a few feet from where Timmy Hill was found 24 hours earlier. His body was clad only in his boxer shorts. The cause of death was undetermined.
Larry Rogers. The second adult to make the victim list was 20 year old Larry, who lived with his foster father on Ezra Church Drive. Larry had known Wayne Williams. It was Williams who, after hearing on a police scanner that Larry's younger brother had been struck with a 2x4, drove to the scene and took the boy to the hospital. In another case, it was Williams who hid that same boy and another foster brother in an apartment and then brought their mother to them.
Larry was last seen either on the afternoon of March 30, 1981, getting into a faded green Chevy station wagon with a light skinned man, or on April 1, 1981 at the intersection of Simpson Road and W. Lake Avenue. A witness testified she was a member of the True Light Baptist Church, across the street from Wayne Williams' residence, and could identify the man in the green Chevy station wagon on March 30 as Wayne Williams. The pastor of the church denied having ever seen this woman at his church.
Two weeks after he disappeared, Larry was found in the kitchen of an apartment in an abandoned building on Temple Street. In front of the building was a green, four door Buick Skylark, missing all its tires, that had been stolen from a Northside apartment on March 28.
Larry had last been seen in jeans and a windbreaker. When found, he was wearing white swim trunks under blue jogging shorts and a blue shirt stuffed into the trunks. Dog hairs were also recovered from the body. He had died from strangulation.
The location of the abandoned building was close to the place where Williams had taken Larry's younger brother for safety. Larry's mother would later testify against Wayne Williams at trial.
Michael McIntosh. Mickey, at 23 years old, would be the oldest victim to date. He also had the most extensive criminal background, having served time from 1976 to 1979 for burglary, armed robbery, receipt of stolen property, marijuana possession and attempted rape. It was said he had boxed with Jo-Jo Bell and he had done odd jobs for Cap'n Peg's, whose back door was across the street from his home. Jo-Jo Bell had also worked at Cap'n Peg's.
Mickey was also reputed to be homosexual and had spent time at Tom Terrell's house on Gray Street. He allegedly knew Timmy Hill from Gray Street and was familiar with Nathaniel Cater, who would become the last official victim.
On March 24, 1981, Mickey left his job at the Milton Ave. Foundry and never returned. The following day, on March 25, he entered an import shop on Bankhead Highway crying and told the manager that he had been badly beaten by two black men. Those men allegedly gave him $12 and showed him where the nearest MARTA station was. Mickey was last seen leaving the store and headed toward the Chattahoochee.
On April 20, 1981, Mickey's body was pulled from the Chattahoochee after being spotted by a local farmer. The body was found naked and the cause of death was undetermined asphyxiation.
John Porter. Like Mickey McIntosh, John Porter was an ex-convict. The 27 year old, who suffered with mental problems and had spent time in a mental hospital, lived off and on with his grandmother. His grandmother had kicked him out of her home not long before his murder after she found him fondling a toddler she was caring for. John then moved in with his mother near the Atlanta Fulton County Stadium although he would have disagreements with her as well. When he was angry with his mother, he would stay with a man named James Gates in an empty apartment building.
John was found dead on April 12, 1981, in a vacant lot on NW Bender Street. He had been stabbed six times on the sidewalk and then his body was propped up on the steps.
Although he was not initially considered a victim of the killer preying on Atlanta's streets, John's case was used as a "pattern case" in Wayne Williams' trial when fibers found on his body were tied to Williams.
Jimmy Ray Payne. Twenty-one year old Jimmy, like John Porter and Eddie Duncan, had a record. He had served time until the end of 1980 for a burglary charge. He was a slight man, standing just above five feet tall, and suffered with depression. At the time of his disappearance, he was under the care of a doctor and had reportedly attempted suicide twice.
On April 22, 1981, Jimmy told his sister he was headed to the Omni to try and sell some old coins. He left their home in the Vine City Terrace Apartments clad in a red jogging suit and white tennis shoes. He was due to meet his girlfriend at the Vine City MARTA bus stop that afternoon. He had dropped her off there that morning but did not return as planned.
Police got tips that Jimmy had been spotted at a coin shop on Ponce de Leon, that he had been trying to assume a new identity in the days before he vanished, and that he was seen at a club on Peters Street. It's unknown what actions the authorities took on these tips, if any.
On April 27, 1981, less than a week after he was reported missing, Jimmy was found by a couple fishing in the Chattahoochee. His body wore only red shorts and in the pocket was a phone number that was traced to an address where first reported victim Teddy Smith lived. The cause of death was undetermined; the medical examiner felt Jimmy could have been in the water the entire length of his disappearance.
A man by the name of Fred Wyatt would be arrested at Cap'n Peg's in possession of Jimmy's prison ID. He would claim to have found the identification near Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
William Barrett. Seventeen year old "Billy Star" was already a juvenile delinquent when he vanished on May 11, 1981. He had a record that included aggravated assault, drug violations, theft and receiving stolen property. He had done a stint at a youth development center in Milledgeville in October of 1980 and had been admitted to the Georgia Department of Offender Rehab. Perhaps not coincidentally, Eric Middlebrooks' body was found next door to the Georgia Department of Offender Rehab.
Billy Star was tied to previous victim Lubie Geter by a store owner who said both boys frequented his shop.
Prior to his disappearance, police had been notified that an elementary school student had been approached by a man and offered $3,000 to kill Billy Star.
Billy Star was last seen at the McDaniel-Glenn Housing Community Center paying a bill for his mother. This was the same community center where Patrick Rogers, a friend of Billy Star's, would hang out. A witness later claimed to have seen the teen just blocks from his home on Memorial getting into a white car with a black man.
On May 12, 1981, one day after he vanished, Billy Star's body was found near a wooded area near Interstate 20 and Glenwood by FBI agents. The body was fully clothed minus a denim jacket. White undercoat animal hairs were found on the body, along with membership cards for the East Lake Meadows Boys Club and Willie Johnson Paint Company and a Boy Scout pocket knife. A phone number found in the pocket of his pants was traced to a white man seen at both the Omni and Five Points MARTA station, looking to pick up boys. Billy Star and Lubie Geter were both reported to have been at this man's home prior to their deaths.
Cause of death was strangulation but Billy Star had suffered a post-mortem stab wound as well.
The Barrett case would be another "pattern case" according to prosecutors during the Williams trial. An aunt and cousin of Billy Star's would claim that Wayne Williams had been to their home.
Nathaniel Cater. Twenty-seven year old Nathaniel would be the last official victim of the Atlanta serial killer. Until April 24, 1981, he had lived with his father in the same building that victim Latonya Wilson had been abducted from on Verbena Street; after that date, he moved into the Falcon Hotel on Luckie Street. An ex-convict, he worked at Add-A-Man, a labor pool business on Spring Street where Mickey McIntosh had also picked up work.
An admitted homosexual, he also solicited for sex at the Silver Dollar Saloon on Spring Street, the same place frequented by the manager of the laundromat where victim Clifford Jones was seen. Nathaniel was also known to be an alcoholic and drug dealer; according to a witness, he had admitted to selling his blood, his body and drugs for money.
He was last seen on May 21, 1981. The Falcon Hotel desk clerk last saw him around 3 p.m. Gardener Robert Henry reported seeing Nathaniel holding hands with Wayne Williams at the entrance to the Rialto Theater on Forsyth Street. Nathaniel was also supposedly spotted leaving the Cameo Lounge, headed for the bus station, near the-then Central City Park (it's now called Woodruff Park.)
However, friends reported seeing Nathaniel on May 23. One said he saw the man around 2:30 p.m. at the Cameo Lounge. Another said he saw him entering the Healey Building, not far from Five Points.
Nathaniel's body was discovered on May 24, 1981, floating in the Chattahoochee. The body was found nude; a safe, clothing and Thompson sub-machine gun was found as well. The police would never disclose what was found inside the safe. The medical examiner determined that Nathaniel had died as a result of asphyxia, manner unknown. The M.E. was also unable to say specifically how long the body had been in the water.
Nathaniel's mother and sister would initially claim to have seen him with Wayne Williams on May 25, 1981 -- a day after Nathaniel's body was found. They later retracted that statement and claimed May 18.
After Nathaniel's body was found, his roommate came to Add-A-Man, crying and terrified that he would be the next victim. He said that a week earlier, a white man in a suit and a black man in expensive sports clothes had repeatedly approached him, looking for Nathaniel.
Wayne Williams: Capture and Conviction
In the early morning hours of Friday, May 22, 1981, two police officers were staked out at the James Jackson Parkway Bridge, where it crossed over the Chattahoochee. The James Jackson Parkway Bridge was one of a dozen that the authorities were monitoring, since victims had begun turning up in the Chattahoochee. As media coverage was at a fever pitch, the stakeouts were public information.
Officer Freddie Jacobs, stationed on the Fulton County, or south, side of the bridge saw headlights approaching southbound. He was able to detect the car was a white 1970 Chevy station wagon; the car drove over the bridge into Fulton County toward a liquor store on the opposite side then turned around and re-crossed the bridge into Cobb County. Officer Bob Campbell, stationed beneath the bridge on the Cobb County, or northerly, side heard a car driving over the bridge and then a splash. Campbell stated he looked into the water and saw ripples from whatever went in. He radioed FBI agent Greg Gilliland, who pulled the car over about half a mile from the bridge.
The driver was a 22 year old freelance photographer and music promoter named Wayne Williams. Williams was grilled for over an hour with questions about why he had been on the bridge at that unusual hour. Williams said he had been at the Starvin' Marvin gas station up the road, had called a woman by the name of Cheryl Johnson, with whom he had an appointment later in the day to audition her and possibly promote her as a singer, and was driving to locate her residence. His car, he said, belonged to his uncle. Agents questioned his story when the phone number he provided for Ms. Johnson was incorrect and the address he was allegedly seeking did not exist.
He was an only child born to two schoolteachers and had been doted on from an early age. At sixteen, he had started his own radio station from his parents' home, something that brought him media coverage and community support. He graduated from high school with honors and moved on to Georgia State University but dropped out a year into his studies. He appeared with the future head of the NAACP, Benjamin Hooks, in Jet magazine, and spent the majority of his time marketing his own radio station and attempting to promote local talent. He performed odd jobs to support his station, and began experimenting with electronics. These experiments led him to sell footage of car accidents, fires and even a plane crash to local television stations for money. He had a police radio scanner that allowed him to get to the scenes of accidents, sometimes before the police arrived.
He had dreamt of finding the next Jackson Five and although his parents continued to fund the recordings he made with local boys, he did not have the ear necessary to become successful in that end of the business, resulting in his parents near-financial ruin. Despite this, he continued to assert that he had connections and major record deals in the pipeline -- all of which was untrue.
Williams had another hobby, one that got him into hot water in 1976. He had equipped a car with red lights beneath the grille and flashing blue lights on the dash. He was arrested in the city for impersonating a police officer and the unauthorized use of a vehicle.
Still living at home at 22, he had few friends and was rumored to be homosexual but closeted.
It was said that in the days following the bridge incident, Williams and his father did a major clean-up around the Williams home in Dixie Hills, including the burning of photographs and negatives in the outside grill.
Wayne Williams was given three separate polygraph exams by the FBI, all of which they reported he failed. Williams responded by calling a press conference at his home and handing out exaggerated, misleading and straight out false resumes of himself. He claimed he was innocent and being scapegoated into being the killer of the victims by the authorities.
The FBI, meanwhile, said they had gotten matches between fibers found on some of the victims and fibers found in Williams' home, as well as dog hairs on victims and the Williams family dog. When the Fulton County District Attorney grew cagey about prosecuting Williams on the basis of hair and fiber evidence alone, new witnesses appeared with reports of seeing Williams with various victims or Williams with serious looking scratches and cuts. These witnesses were not asked why they had not come forward with their information prior to Williams being named a suspect, especially with the media coverage.
The medical examiner who had autopsied Jimmy Payne had initially ruled his death "undetermined," which meant it could not be stated with authority that Jimmy had been murdered. Before the trial started, the examiner issued a new death certificate in which he revised his opinion to reflect that Payne was the victim of a homicide. The M.E. claimed he had made a mistake by checking the wrong box but there was no box on the certificate -- only a line in which to indicate the finding.
Jury selection began on December 28, 1981. Nine women and three men would make up the jury that would hear evidence in the trial; eight jurors were black and four were white.
From the start, the defense was severely hampered by lack of funds and stressed on time to prepare. The witnesses who claimed to have seen Nathaniel Cater on May 23, 1981 -- the day after Williams was stopped on the bridge and allegedly threw his body over the side -- were not disclosed to Williams' attorneys. The prosecution had hundreds of witnesses and the defense simply could not speak to them all before the first week of January, 1982, when opening arguments were heard. They didn't have the money to attempt to rebut the FBI laboratory's findings or that of the Georgia Crime Bureau. Worse, while they knew the prosecution was going to bring in other cases, they didn't know which ones.
The prosecution made it more difficult for the defense by turning over their Brady files - - the body of information collected by police and other experts that points toward the innocence of the accused -- at the last possible moment. It was noted that the judge in the case, who decided when the files should be turned over, was a former protegee of the Fulton County D.A.
Atlanta Safety Commissioner Lee Brown had publicly maintained during the series of murders that there was no connection between them. However, during the trial Brown would testify and prosecutor Jack Mallard was use his testimony to introduce evidence of a "pattern," thereby allowing the state to bring in other cases. The patterns according to Mallard included black males, poor households, broken homes, street "hustlers," death by asphyxia, and body found by expressway ramp or other major artery.
A clear problem with the prosecution's case would reveal itself in their pattern analysis. The victims they would eventually attribute to one killer -- Williams -- were not all male. They had not all come from broken homes. They were not all "street hustlers." They were not all asphyxiated. And not all were found by expressway ramps. The two murders for which Williams was being charged and tried had bodies found in water.
The prosecution also informed the jury that the fibers found on some victims' bodies matched the carpeting found in the Williams home and it was conclusively impossible for the victims not to have been there. What they neglected to mention was that the carpet in the home was not rare; the carpet could readily be found in many residences, apartment homes and business offices throughout the Atlanta area. Their suggestion also was that evidence transference happened when the fibers adhered to the victims and/or their clothing but they never did explain how fibers, hairs, etc., from the victims was never discovered in the Williams home or Wayne Williams' car.
The defense did their best to call into question whether Jimmy Payne and Nathaniel Cater had died as a result of foul play. Payne had attempted suicide twice and Cater was a known alcoholic and drug abuser. They were also adults, which did not correspond to the prosecution's theory on motive -- that Wayne Williams hated black youths.
Unfortunately for Williams, prosecutor Mallard succeeded in getting him angry and riled up, Williams insulted the government agents on the case. His flashes of hot temper did not sit well with the jury and his attorneys were unable to recover.
It probably would have made little difference if they had. The state had mountains of evidence and many, many witnesses to call to testify as to why Williams was the monster taking Atlanta's children and young adults. The quality of that evidence never seemed to be truly questioned and Wayne Williams was found guilty of murdering Jimmy Payne and Nathaniel Cater. He was sentenced to two life terms and the Atlanta PD announced that 22 of the 29 cases had conclusively been linked to Williams and, therefore, the cases were solved.
Not the End
Nearly from the moment Wayne Williams was convicted of murder, doubts arose as to his guilt. Many black Atlantans, including family members of victims, believed that there was a conspiracy and the government and local authorities simply wanted to close the case. The murders had been bad publicity for the growing city, which in 1981 had been crowned with the sad title of "Murder Capital of the United States," and closing the book on them was the best for all concerned.
In truth, while Williams was a terrible witness and a textbook example of his own worst enemy (losing his patience on the stand; not having a good reason for being on the bridge that night) there wasn't one person who could testify as to having seen him abuse, assault or kill a single victim. It was also a stretch, even a legal mistake, to link him to the Middlebrooks, Porter, Evans, Stephens, and Baltazar cases. The standard wasn't met and the evidence simply wasn't there. Even former DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who, as a homicide detective, searched the Williams home for evidence does not believe Wayne Williams committed the crimes.
In 2004, DeKalb County Police Chief Louis Graham reopened the investigations into the five DeKalb County victims -- Aaron Wyche, Patrick Baltazar, Curtis Walker, Yusuf Bell, and William Barrett. Graham had been one of the original investigators in the case and, like Sidney Dorsey, did not believe Williams was guilty of any of the murders for which he's been attributed.
In June of 2006, DeKalb County dropped its reinvestigation after Louis Graham had resigned.
In January of 2007, the state agreed to DNA testing of the dog hairs found on some of the victims. These hairs were used to tie Williams to the crimes and convict him. Williams' attorneys hoped that such testing might exclude German Shepherds, the breed of dog the Williams family had at the time of the murders. The results came back in five months but they did not exonerate Williams. Only mitochondrial DNA could be tested, which is not unique to each breed. The results didn't conclusively point to the Williams' dog as the source of the hair, which was significant, but they also couldn't eliminate the dog either.
Later that same year, DNA tests were run on two human hairs that were found on one victim. The mitochondrial sequence would eliminate 98% of African Americans; Williams was not one of them. His mitochondrial sequence was one of the 2%. It doesn't absolutely say he was guilty but it does not eliminate him either.
The distasteful issue of the KKK came up throughout the murders, investigation and Williams' trial. With the mayor being black, as well as the chief of police and a substantial number of police officers in the city now black, word on the street was that the KKK was anxious to start a race war and begin eliminating as much of the black population as possible.
A suspect by the name of Charles Sanders came to the authorities' attention. Sanders, along with his father and brothers, was a member of the KKK. According to a confidential informant, Sanders told him in December of 1980 that he was going to choke Lubie Geter to death for hitting Sanders' car with a go-cart. Another informant claimed that Sanders had admitted to "killing the little bastard [Geter]" and that "they" had killed about 20 black kids so far and would soon begin killing young black women. In a telephone call recorded by the GBI, Don Sanders said he might go out and ride around a bit, to which Terry Sanders replied, "Go find you another kid? Another little kid?" Don answered with, "Yeah. Scope out some places." GBI officials later destroyed the recording. Police would say that Sanders and his family had been thoroughly investigated and kept under close surveillance for some seven weeks, during which time four more victims were abducted and killed. Sanders and two of his brothers allegedly volunteered to take lie detector tests, which they passed.
There was also reportedly more victims than the "canon" twenty-eight, twenty-nine or thirty. Chet Dettlinger, once a private detective and someone the police eyed as a suspect due to his knowledge on the case, wrote a book called The List, a harrowing recounting of the murders. He believes they started in 1979 and continued into 1983.
John Douglas, an FBI profiler who has written a handful of books and was consulted on the case, profiling the killer as a young black man, believes that Williams is guilty of some of the murders but not all. He believes the Atlanta PD knew full well who was responsible and the truth was far worse than thought.
I don't believe there was one serial killer operating in Atlanta during the deadly years of 1979, 1980, and 1981.
For one, most killers stick to one type of victim gender-wise. If we take Angel Lenair and Latonya Wilson off the list, that would make at least two killers. However, Angel was 12, disappeared on foot after leaving a friend's home and was later found tied to a tree, most likely sexually assaulted and strangled with an electrical cord. She was taken nearly six miles away from her home, certainly by a vehicle. Latonya was only 7 and taken from her home while she and her family slept. She was found down the street from her residence, which could indicate that her abductor and killer was on foot. The person who took her almost certainly knew the pane of glass in the window had been replaced and had been inside the home, as he knew exactly how to get to Latonya.
Latonya's abduction was almost certainly planned and thought out. The maintenance man who replaced the pane of glass in the window reportedly had pictures of all the victims and confessed to another murder. If he had been responsible for Latonya's murder, that would make three separate killers so far.
Going back to just the male victims, again, killers normally have a preference. The male victims ranged in age from 9 to 27. While some of the teens were small for their age and possibly could have looked much younger than they were, a killer would normally stick to pre-pubescent boys, adolescents or adults. Not all three. That could mean another two or even three killers.
The victims were also killed in different manners -- some were shot, some stabbed, some strangled by a ligature, some smothered. Some victims were disposed of in bodies of water while others were left in woods, parking lots and abandoned buildings. Some victims were fully clothed, some partially clothed and some nude or nearly nude.
Serial killers tend to be creatures of habit. They have an M.O. they almost always stick to and that includes victim types, methods of killing and methods of disposal.
The first victim on the list, Teddy Smith, was shot; four days later, his friend Alfred Evans was grabbed and killed. Because the M.E. determined Evans had died due to strangulation, his murder was attributed to Williams. Smith's murder was not, even though the bodies were found together. The only logic to this was that the strangulation murders were credited to Williams; other manners of death were not.
In suggesting that Wayne Williams was responsible for nearly all the crimes, the investigators chose to ignore the obvious connections between many of the victims. To wit:
Moreland Avenue Shopping Center. Aaron Jackson went missing from the location; Patrick Rogers carried groceries there; Aaron Wyche was spotted at the center the day of his disappearance; and Wayne Williams claimed to have found a boy to distribute his flyers there.
Thomasville Heights. Aaron Jackson frequented the rec center; Curtis Walker had lived there; Patrick Rogers resided there at the time of his death.
Stewart-Lakewood Shopping Center. Charles Stephens hung out at a department store in the center; Lubie Geter was last seen at the center.
|Cap'n Peg's Seafood Restaurant|
John David Wilcoxen. Earl Terrell disappeared after last being seen across the street from Wilcoxen's house and witnesses placed him at the home prior to his disappearance and murder. Lubie Geter was seen in the company of Wilcoxen several times before his own disappearance and murder. Wilcoxen was the pedophile who was arrested with scores of child pornography and photographs in his home
|Gray Street house|
Their lives overlapped in ways that simply cannot be ignored. Many were friends. Many worked odd jobs to make extra money. Some were reported to have sold themselves for sexual favors; many of those that did were connected to the Gray Street house. Yet it appeared that the child prostitution ring was either downplayed or ignored entirely as a connection or potential motive.
While the KKK angle got more ink and investigation, it didn't appear to be considered as much as it could have. In theory, obliterating an entire race, or attempting to, by snatching children here and there doesn't make a lot of sense, but neither does the KKK. An accident at a local daycare, which kicked off the intense media interest in the killings, was officially caused by a faulty heater. To this day, there is still speculation that the KKK could have been behind the explosion.
Was there a conspiracy in this case? There certainly seems to have been. Police incompetence could explain one or two mistakes but the continual lack of response and flat out indifference to phone calls and requests for help goes beyond incompetence and into full-fledged intention. If the authorities were choosing not to act, why? Because the victims were black and poor? Or because someone in power was involved in the disappearances and murders?
It's an ugly and discouraging thought but it's there. In many of the cases, there was evidence that pointed to persons other than Wayne Williams and the authorities chose not to follow up on it or dismissed the witnesses as being confused, wrong or "retarded." Since Williams' trial, some witnesses have come forward to recant what they testified to, claiming they had received financial compensation to commit perjury.
So too did the police officers who had claimed to have heard the famous splash on the bridge that night in May of 1982 when Wayne Williams was pulled over. They eventually admitted they had heard nothing.
The dog hairs found on 15 of the victims were typed at the time as coming from a Siberian Husky. The Williams family owned a German Shepherd, as the authorities well knew. The Sanders family, however, allegedly bred Siberian Huskies and owned a green Chevy Impala - - the type of car witnesses recalled seeing at many of the abductions and body dump sites.
The media, then and now, chooses to ignore any facts or information that suggests there was more than one killer. During the crime time, they behaved deplorably. They camped out on lawns, accosting the children's parents and families as they attempted to come and go, or peer out of their windows. They attended the funerals of the victims, cruelly pointing their camera lenses in the grief-stricken faces of loved ones who had come to mourn. At one funeral, a cameraman actually leaned over the casket of a murder victim in order to get a good shot of the boy's mother. Another mother was approached by the press as she learned her son's body had been found; a camera was pushed in her face and she was asked how she felt.
Rather than help to solve the case or prevent anyone else from dying, the media seemed to feed on the fear and grief, glorying in the tragedy and doing their part to keep Atlanta's ugly legacy in the headlines. In this way, the media victimized the children and their parents.
I think it's possible that Wayne Williams killed some of the victims, just as I think it's possible he didn't kill anyone. I think a majority of the victims were killed by someone they knew, or thought they did. Especially those who were taken after the killings began. Once word got out in the community about children being taken, it seems unlikely that these kids would go with anyone they didn't trust. Most of these kids were street smart and savvy. Unfortunately they were also from poor environments, which not only led to lack of importance and attention, at least for a time, but also to the need of some of them to prostitute or involve themselves in the seedier, more dangerous cultural aspects in order to make money.
The greatest tragedy is the excessive loss of life, that so many were taken before they could begin to live and realize their potential. Also tragic is that, if my opinion is correct, at least one and possibly two to five more, killers got away with their crimes. If Wayne Williams wasn't one of them, a terrible miscarriage of justice has been perpetrated upon him, denying him freedom and the victims real justice.
Wayne Williams in 2017
Killer of all, killer of some or killer of none?