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Unsolved Mysteries: Who killed Atlanta’s children?

Police arrested a monster on June 21, 1981.

If their evidence was correct, Wayne Williams was responsible for one of the most horrific reigns of terror in American history. Twenty-nine African-American children had been brutally murdered, along with at least two men in their late twenties.

From 1979 until 1981, Atlanta was a city under siege. Parents were afraid to let their children leave the house, even to go to school.

But that wasn’t enough to keep them safe. In one of the most terrifying cases, seven-year-old LaTonya Wilson was abducted from her own bedroom in the early morning hours of June 22, 1980. Her killer managed to carry her past her sleeping brother and sister without anyone noticing. LaTonya’s body was found four months later.

atlanta_child_killings

Some of Atlanta’s murdered children.

 

The arrest of Williams should have been cause for celebration. Certainly the police and FBI were happy. But many residents were skeptical.

Where was their monster?

At twenty-three, Williams was younger than his last alleged victim. He’d been something of a local celebrity who’d started a surprisingly successful ham radio station when he was still in high school. He was soft-spoken, gentle, and cooperative. FBI profiler John Douglas of the Behavioural Science Unit said he looked more like the Pillsbury Doughboy than a serial killer.

Atlanta’s African-American community responded to Williams’ arrest with outrage. White supremacist groups were to blame for the murders, some said. The Klan was determined to wipe out their entire race. And yet–

Williams, as calm and soft-spoken as he was, fit the FBI’s profile to a T.

  • He was African-American (most serial murders are committed by people of the same race. Besides, a white man could not have prowled the neighbourhoods where the children went missing without being noticed.)
  • He was single, and between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine.
  • He was a police buff, who drove a police-type vehicle, and who tried to involve himself in the investigation. (Williams had even been arrested for impersonating a police officer.)
  • He had a police-type dog–a German shepherd.

Scratches had been seen on his face and arms after some of the disappearances. Witnesses could place him with some of the victims, though he claimed he didn’t know any of the missing children. Williams, with his goal of finding and managing the next Jackson 5, had the perfect opportunity to approach young people and win their trust.

Although he had a book on how to beat polygraphs, he still managed to fail a polygraph exam twice. Fibers from nineteen sources, including his bedspread, carpeting, car, and dog, had been found on a number of the victims (this was long before DNA). The carpet fibres were considered highly significant since they were so rare.

Williams was charged with the murder of the two adult victims, Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Payne, and received two life sentences. He is still in prison. While he was never tried for the deaths of any of Atlanta’s missing children, the police declared the cases closed. Understandably, the parents of the murdered children were furious, but the state explained it would be too expensive to try Williams for the rest of the murders.

john douglas

John Douglas

To this day, a lot of people think Williams is innocent, and that there is a police cover-up involved. Douglas, now retired from the FBI, believes the forensic and behavioural evidence shows that Williams killed at least eleven of the children. He had this to say in his book Mindhunter:

Despite what his detractors and accusers maintain, I believe there is no strong evidence linking him to all or even most of the deaths and disappearances of children in that city between 1979 and 1981. Young black and white children continue to die mysteriously in Atlanta. We have an idea who did some of the others. It isn’t a single offender and the truth isn’t pleasant. So far, though, there’s been neither the evidence nor the public will to seek indictments.”

Montana police sergeant John Cameron suggested serial killer Edward Edwards was responsible for some of the murders that plagued Atlanta, but he also thinks Edwards was the Zodiac killer and the murderer of JonBenét Ramsey and Chandra Levy, among others, so that seems a tad far-fetched.

In 2007, DNA testing on two human hairs and several dog hairs found on some of the victims failed to exonerate Williams. While there wasn’t enough of a sample for conclusive proof, the DNA sequence matched one in one-hundred dogs, including Williams’ shepherd, and the DNA in the hair samples would eliminate ninety-nine point five percent of all African-Americans…but not Williams.

Williams continues to protest his innocence, and has never confessed to any of the murders, although when asked by the prosecutor at his trial if he “panicked when he killed those kids,” Williams answered “No,” before going ballistic and throwing a temper tantrum. That outburst on the stand may have led to Williams’ conviction. Previously, the jurors were having a hard time seeing the mild-mannered talent scout as a killer.

What do you think? Is Williams responsible for all of Atlanta’s murdered children during those three horrible years? Is he responsible for any of them?

What true crime case keeps you up at night? If there’s one you’d like me to profile, please let me know in a comment.

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89 Comments

  1. Wow!!! Crazy story again! My question would be, did the massive amounts of murders of young children abruptly stop? I would think if it did, they clearly had their man.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Shauna. It means the world to me, seriously. 🙂

      And to answer your question, some say that the murders did stop within a week after his arrest (there will still several bodies to be found). Some say it slowed down significantly (from a few bodies found every week to a body found every few months) and some say there was no change.

      Personally, I’m in Douglas’s camp. I think Williams was responsible for a lot of the murders, but not all of them.

      Reply
      • After watching many documentaries and reading about this case in depth. Nothing makes me feel more like he’s guilty than the personal interviews of his. He’s quite evasive in response to alot of the questions . I think he did it. And what was he dumping over the bridge that time of night?

        Reply
        • Indeed he was very evasive when it came to certain questions but I also think he just rode with the fame on a lot of them he knows he was dead bang and he likes the attention I think

          Reply
      • I have spent years doing research on this case and after everything I have read and studied I reached the conclusion that Williams is not a killer, but he is by no means innocent. I believe Wayne was a child pornographer who knew some of the victims. I have no doubts that he knew the killers (definitely several killers involved) and may even have helped dispose of some of the bodies. I also strongly believe that his father knew what he was involved in.

        Reply
        • JH

          Interesting theory, Cherie. Thanks for sharing it here.

          Reply
    • Not necessarily

      Reply
  2. Fascinating! When I was in high school I read a lot of the books in the true crime section from our local library but eventually had to stop because I started having too many nightmares! I’m still fascinated by true crime and mysteries, though. I think the evidence suggests that he was responsible for at least a few of the murders, especially when you factor in his DNA combined with the dog’s DNA.

    We saw a show within the past year about the West Mesa murders in Albuquerque where a woman walking her dog unknowingly stumbled upon a graveyard full of bones. This case caught my attention because my husband and I used to live in Albuquerque and my thought was that those bones might never have been found if it wasn’t for the housing boom in the area and lots of desert being cleared to build new developments. They still haven’t named a suspect.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for your comment, Kristen! Always happy to meet another true-crime lover. 🙂

      I know what you mean about nightmares. There were a few I couldn’t read as a kid. Anything about Dennis Nielsen, for instance. I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle it. The 1985 miniseries about the Atlanta murders really bothered me. I never forgot poor Latonya–the idea that someone could kidnap you from your own bed bothered me a lot.

      Thanks for the tip about the West Mesa murders! I hadn’t heard of that case, but I’ll definitely look into it.

      Reply
      • I’m a true crime lover as well*

        Reply
  3. Wow, this is so crazy! This is one of those cases where you wish there really was a CSI in every city so they could get these tragedies solved.

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, they definitely had everything in Atlanta, even the FBI. If it hadn’t been for the FBI profile and their help, they probably wouldn’t have caught Wayne Williams.

      Thanks for commenting, Kyla. It means a lot! xo

      Reply
      • I like the effort you have put into this very disturbing case and very much appreciate some of the insight and comments. However I am very cynical of the criminal justice system because there is very few who display integrity in it worst of whom are the organisation you seem to hold in very high regard whose lab was once termed a cesspool of contamination. An independent lab would help in this case.
        How does a body found inside a river after more than a week have carpet DNA from a house the victim was at and not living in?
        Why was Wayne not charged for the child murders if indeed he was the so called serial killer, and why is the community ready to swallow the excuse that “it will be very expensive to try the case”. Why should it be expensive if there is evidence that one is likely to be culpable? Unless of course there was a serial killer separate from the two murders Wayne was convicted of which then precludes him from the child murders and raises the question of why were the cases closed. If a body in a river for days had incriminating DNA how come the others did not have the DNA? Just not sure about all this but then I’m from the school of trust no-one but the case reports.

        Btw have you got any of your facts from the court reports and academic reports or is it newspapers and articles. I can assure you that even a former prosecutor is not authority enough as an alternative to the court report in criminal law because a court report is unbiased and has no agenda unlike any person reporting on the case.
        Also bear in mind that that the players in the criminal justice system seem hard pushed not to face certain facts such as “we dont know who did it”, “..we are not sure but we believe…” all in the name of restoring public confidence especially in a case like this where it is important to avoid panic in the community.

        I am more in tune with the notion expressed that the truth about the Atlanta child killings is known by some but hard to accept by the rest or as I may cautiously add, the authorities do not actually know who the suspect was because there has been no conclusive evidence submitted to incriminate anyone. Circumstancial evidence is only as good as handlers with intergrity and that is a big ask for the criminal justice system.

        Reply
        • JH

          Thanks for commenting, Chris, and sorry it took me so long to reply. I’ve been out of the country.

          I did read the court reports for this post, and I’ve pretty much read or watched everything I could get my hands on about this case since I was a child. It’s always interested me. From what I understand, there were carpet fibres and dog hairs that matched those at Wayne’s home on some of the child victims as well.

          It’s pretty common for serial killers to only be tried for a small amount of their crimes, because any trial is ridiculously expensive, whether the defendant is found guilty or not. Do I personally believe Wayne Williams killed all of the victims? No, I do not. But I believe he’s responsible for some of them.

          Reply
          • I grew up in Georgia. I remember when all of this happened. Something just doesn’t add up in this case. Wayne may have been responsible for Carter’s murder. However, I do not believe that he was responsible for the children. Also, most of family lives in Atlanta. My aunt says another group of kids and adults were mysteriously murdered in 1982 and 1983. In fact, there was a report about this in Spin Magazine in 1986. I think this case should be reopened.

  4. Wow–I was about to say that most serial killers are white males but it looks like that has changed in recent decades. Around 1990, statistics showed the scales tipped and African-American males have been the highest # of serial killers. It’s interesting, though, that Hispanic, Native American, and Asian male serial killers are almost nonexistent. I believe I saw somewhere that they’d isolated part of the brain in serial killers that doesn’t exist in the rest of the population? If so…seems it’s something only caucasian and African-American men have…

    http://maamodt.asp.radford.edu/Serial%20Killer%20Information%20Center/Serial%20Killer%20Statistics.pdf

    Reply
    • JH

      I had no idea Stephanie! I thought serial killers were still predominantly white males. I’ve never heard of an African-American serial killer other than Williams. This really surprises me.

      There have been some pretty nasty Hispanic serial killers. Richard Rameriz immediately comes to mind, but there’s quite a few more. http://www.ranker.com/list/famous-mexican-serial-killers/web-infoguy?format=SLIDESHOW&page=5

      I’ve been surprised about how many horrible murderers they’ve been in Europe that we never hear about over in the west.

      Reply
  5. When I was in college I took a class called Homicide & Serial Killers (yup, it’s a class – a fascinating one at that) and we learned about the Williams case. I had forgotten all about it until I read your post! I’m not fully convinced that he committed all of the murders, but I think he is definitely guilty of some of them.
    There was a time in my life (until fairly recently, actually) that I wanted to become a profiler/behavior analyst, so these topics really interest me.
    Casey Anthony’s case definitely fits into the “keeps me up at night” category. I’m no jury, nor do I know all the facts of the case, but from what I gather, she is definitely guilty.

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome to my blog, Tiffany, and thanks so much for commenting! I would have loved to have taken that class. I really wanted to be a profiler too, until I learned that to be in the FBI you have to be American (as a Canadian, that put me out of the game).

      Did you read the post I linked to? It talks about the Anthony case. That one bothers me too, but they didn’t have enough evidence to prove she killed her daughter. No matter what, Casey is not destined to have a happy life. If she did kill her daughter, she has to live with that guilt for the rest of her life, and if she didn’t, she still has to live with the world treating her like a murderer.

      Reply
  6. I have nothing of value to add, just wanted to say hi and let you know I enjoyed this post.

    Reply
    • JH

      I would say that’s of value in itself, Frank. Thank you! 🙂

      Reply
      • Casey Anthony may have a personality disorder that doesnt allow for guilt or a conscience. 1 in a hundred of us are psychopathic. She is probably happy as a clam and if it would serve her needs, she may become pregnant again. People make the mistake of using common sense/ relating to the accused in order to try to figure out the truth. That is why what happens in the court room is very important.

        Reply
  7. Wow, this story is enough to keep me up at night. I enjoy crime thrillers, not sure I’ve read true crime thrillers. I can imagine that they have a tantalising appeal. Fact is often stranger than fiction.

    Reply
    • JH

      Is it ever, Susan! Thanks for commenting. It’s good to see you back here. 🙂

      Reply
  8. I’m an Atlanta native, and was a teen during these killings and it was a true nightmare, in fact still is.
    These killings were wrapped in child prostitution and child porn.
    Every since then, Atlanta has become a hot bed of child prostitution.
    Wayne Williams I feel was involved in this prostitution ring, and with he and his dad both being photographer, involved in child porn as well.
    If you dig deeper, you’ll start seeing that there were high ranking men in Atlanta having sex with kids and to keep their secrets under cover, they allowed the investigation to go no where.
    As you cantell, I can goon and on about this.

    Great Blog

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Jarvis. I did read a few things about that, and it’s sad to hear these issues are still going on. Do you believe Wayne was a serial killer, or just one killer among many?

      I really appreciate your insightful comment. I can’t even imagine how scary it was to grow up in Atlanta around that time. I was a child when the mini-series came out, and I’ve never, ever forgotten it or the children of Atlanta.

      Reply
  9. Great read thanks so much! How do we get them to reopen this case we should take advantage of the fact that we have a President n an Attorney General that may listen at least. Not knowing who did this and why should be enough, we all know it’s not that easy. I can do what I can in NY but we need to start making noise about this. What if this were your family? Thanks so much

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for commenting, La-Chanda, and welcome to my blog! I agree that the case should be reopened, but I also think Williams is responsible for a lot of the murders. Not all–but a lot.

      I’m not sure what would convince the powers that be to take another look at this case, but it would probably have to be a significant grass roots movement that involves the families.

      Reply
  10. We Need To Talk. I’m working with a group that includes several family members,Williams attorneys and other concerned persons involved with new developments in this case. There’s also Ann up coming documentary being done that we need talk about. Also contact Ginny Bulloch @gmail.com. she odds coordinating developments. We have a facebook page. Please check it out. The committee to free Wayne
    Williams

    Reply
    • JH

      Sounds interesting, James. What’s the best way to get in touch? The Facebook page?

      Reply
      • How long had Carter’s body been in the river before it was discovered? According to the miniseries, the body was badly decomposed. So, the body had to have been in there more than two days after the police saw Williams on the bridge. I believe most of the evidence such as the dog hairs or carpet fibers would have been destroyed by the water.

        Reply
  11. I just happened to stumble upon your blog & I am enjoying it very much! Since becoming a mother, I think I read/watch true crime because I (stupidly) think if I know what to look for, my children will be safer. I know it’s not true, but it makes me feel a little better!

    I too think Williams is guilty of at least some of the murders, but what would keep me from believing that he’s guilty of all of them is that there was no trial for the children. No evidence was heard specifically referring to them. 12 people didn’t get to make a determination. Don’t we have jury trials for just that purpose? The police shouldn’t be able to make a statement like, it’s too expensive to try so-and-so, but he/she did it. Case closed. Those parents deserved that.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hello Rebecca,

      Thanks for the kind words, Rebecca, and welcome to my blog. I hope you return!

      It’s pretty common for serial killers to only be tried for a small portion of their crimes, as trials are expensive, and not every murder will have strong evidence. While I feel for the parents of the children, who have gone without closure or any type of resolution, what happened in the trial of Wayne Williams was fairly typical. That said, I don’t believe he was responsible for all the murderers. Not even the FBI agent who profiled the case thinks that.

      But I do think he’s responsible for some.

      Reply
  12. I think in all fairness it’s safe that Wayne Williams is innocent of this crime there is no real proof that Wayne Williams killed anybody and he was convicted on very flimsy evidence. If you look at all of the documentaries and read the book about this case you will discover that some of the victims were not killed in the same way and some of the victims were seen with other possible suspects before they died. Wayne Williams was a sacrificial lamb for the state of Georgia and the killings did not stop once Wayne Williams was arrested.

    Reply
    • Thank you my belief also

      Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for sharing, Sensui. I appreciate the comment!

      Reply
  13. I don’t think Wayne killed anyone I think he was a scapegoat in this case and really think that this case should be reopened and investigated more for one how in the hell can a man who lives at home with his family kill someone and it goes unnoticed it was a child pornography ring going on which I think put a lot of the victims in harms way and why weren’t the pedophiles arrested who admitted to having sex with the kids on camera it just doesn’t add up

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks for your comment, Mel.

      Unfortunately, lots of people have managed to kill while living with family. Look at Jeffrey Dahmer, who murdered while living with his grandmother, or John Wayne Gacy, who was married at least part of the time he was killing.

      When Connie Leung murdered her parents, the bodies stayed in the house with her 19-year-old brother for several days, and he didn’t have a clue. http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=94980&page=1

      Reply
    • I would like to thank this person because the first thing the police said that there would be no white person coming and going in the black neigborhoods back then that is a lie there have always been some poor white men, women, and children living in black neighborhoods and don’t forget about the police. This is the time when the government was telling everyone to trust the police and in the early 80’s black people bought that hook line and sinker. I had just moved to atlanta when they caught this guy and trust me as a 12 yr old boy living in Hartford, CT moving down to the A I was like there is no way that dude could kill some one I could have beaten him up. And the killing didn’t stop but yes it slowed down so how could it slow down if he was locked up wouldn’t it have stopped completely. LMAO WHITE FOLKS you never lived in the projects don’t know what is really going on you just read if you guys always read what you believed that would be a crime. You half to look at yes this person lived where these boys lived, yes he was active in some of the police seens but that was how he got paid. FREE Lanancing photos that was part of his job. yes he had a police scanner hell I know a old friend of my grandmothers who has a police scanner does that make her a killer… NO… You half to have hard facts to convict a person unless your black and can not efford an attorny. and to me not saying he is innocent or guilty it just fishy to me.. Just alot of stuff didn’t add up but keep believing maybe he did maybe he didn’t Don’t really know. And for every one saying that he knew some of the victims Atlanta is big but not that big almost every one there know someone from another county because there all close… As a Mix Black American not to be mean but just had to vent off the comments to hear and remember when I moved down to atlanta that same year my ass was scared but then I remember where I came from no man white, black or what ever race can deffeat my mind or body and I was a very fast runner. So to I feel that is was someone of real authority who did it… That is my take. I appoligive if I affended any one but that is my truth he was a good scape goat…

      Reply
      • JH

        It wasn’t just that he knew some of the victims. There was fiber evidence linking his home to a few of the bodies, including hairs from his dogs and a highly unusual carpet fiber, and he was the last person seen with at least two of the dead boys.

        I’m sure they felt invincible too, but if it’s someone you know and trust, you’re not always on your guard. One of the FBI agents involved said that although Wayne seemed weak and soft, he was surprisingly strong.

        I don’t think he’s responsible for all of the murders, but I’m positive he’s responsible for some. Even the police and the FBI didn’t think he was responsible for all of them, which is why the killing slowed but didn’t stop.

        Reply
    • Exactly, I never read anything about the child rapists being charged with crimes. Why weren’t any those guys arrested?

      Reply
  14. This is a great write-up. However, Wayne’s conviction has always bothered me. I truly believe the only thing he is is the fall guy. I’m doing some more reading on this case, and I found the miniseries on youtube after 30 years. I am contemplating doing my own investigating, and trying to to get in touch with Williams himself.

    Reply
    • JH

      The mini-series came out when I was a little girl, and I’ve never forgotten it. It had a profound impact on me.

      If you do get in touch with him, I’d love to hear how it goes. I’d be happy to have you on the blog to discuss your investigation.

      Reply
  15. One of the main GBI agents directly involved with investigating these murders 1979-1981 is my neighbor and he has even done a program at our civic club. He is as honest as they come, incorruptible, and one of the most widely respected GBI agents ever. He knows this case as well as anyone alive. He says Williams is guilty without a doubt. He knows many facts to this case that were never brought out in public.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thank you, WDW, and welcome to the discussion! Do you think there’s any chance your neighbour would be willing to talk to me, even off the record?

      Reply
      • I will ask him one day. He has a memory like an elephant and can still remember every detail like it was yesterday. And he can talk for hours, a treasure trove of knowledge and facts about this case. He knows John Douglas and worked with him on the case. Rest assured Wayne Williams was no scapegoat or fall guy, he is guilty.

        Reply
        • JH

          Thank you so much! I would LOVE to talk to him.

          Reply
        • So, why was the investigation about possible KKK involvement kept secret at that time?

          Reply
  16. Humanity is a very pathetic act, commured by the universe to destroy something beauitful as this planet.

    Having said that, i can congratulate you for the blog, i also wish that you post about the worst serial unknown killer of them all. The original night stalker.

    My very personal thoughts on this case. Profiling is strictly a Art. Its not a science. Human mind and behavior can never be studied accurately. Eg: the common myth that most serial killers are white, middle class, above average iq’s is absolutely wrong, in USA most serial killers found guilty of horrific crimes are black or of asian, hispanic heritage. For eg: timothy spencer or grim sleeper or long island killer.

    Or the second myth that serial killers cannot stop or target high risk victims.
    Eg: killers like ted bundy, original night stalker, robert kraft, timothy spencer targetted low risk victims.

    There are many more myths like these but what i believe is, profiling should now evolve like acting has over the decades to include more dimensions such as a specific race, religious, income group. Also include groups like gang rapists, multi cultarlism, drug addicts, evangelical preachers, computer criminals such as Trolls, Spammers, Rush Limbaugh, Jon stewart etc. What makes them tick? How do they sleep? How do they compartmentalize?

    Profiling so far in its present form is nothing more than cold reading, atleast even a good psychic can be right 6 out of 10 times. Yup..

    So if improvements are not done to this art, it will eventually loose its Hollywood Charm and loose its value to people like me who really care for it.

    Reply
  17. Sorry this auto correct made my spellings look bad..

    Reply
  18. A reasonable doubt.It exists in this case yet so many here and everywhere repeat maybe not all but he did some blah blah.An innocent man is behind bars for over 34years and you’re here playing cop.No nuclear dna match exist in this case.still he’s behind bars.I cried when i read this case and i stayed up at night.You underestimate the power and evil of hate.the hate in certain people.like the kkk.visit stormfront and other hate sites and you’ll get a good intro.The Sanders family orchestrated the killings.they had the same dog type with similar hair and likely the blankets and rugs which are now conveniently lost in the WW case.The officer who heard the splash is suspect.Perhaps a kkk sympathiser.he alone heard this splash.who notified then to stick around bridges?a kkk sympathisers.the killers never try to conceal evidence so why suggest they were about to start and it’s river next?
    In the force and fbi and even governors etc there are kkk sympathisers who will aid the cause against blacks.even kill for it and cover it up.There was no splash that night.WW never got out of his car.find the officer who “heard” this splash.and is he also the one who saw the cord in WW car?Where is the Blanket?They all are missing.A cord and a loud splash in the night are reason enough to arrest anyone in a state on edge over serial killings.yet he wasn’t arrested.
    Then a decomposed body thats been in water for close on two weeks is now ground to convict…it was found 2 days after he was on the bridge but He never got out of his car and the body was already in the river for almost 2weeks!!
    The dates and the number of death.yes people can live at home and still be killers but to dispose of bodies?you are not killers but try a little imagination,then you’ll see how difficult it is to get rid of bodies in as many days and weeks…so he had one time scratches?sure that made him a killer…who did the polygraph on him?and who did it for the sanders?Had police and fbi had enough balls they’ll have stormed the Sanders fortress and all the evidence with positive nuclear dna would be there.but they were wimps who took the easy way out.
    Robert Henry is a convict in the pay of the Kkk.in 1981 no young man black or white will hold hands in public in such neighborhood.Henry try to imply whats not there.And remember some of these kids were hacked.hacked with hate.of the kkk.the unreasonable hate of certain people who try to compensate for personal inadequacies.like the Sanders and their network.
    But what was WW doing on the bridge that night,when no cheryl existed?was he called there under some ruse?Or perhaps doing what normal 22 year old do,trying to get laid.trying to find a whorehouse and ashamed to say it.he lived with his parents afterall…or he was asked to go around there by a fake contractor so he’ll get framed…Unless you have more cumulative circum.evidence thats not gone “missing” and you rule out the Sanders dog as less than WW dog for match,let that reasonable doubt remain.and you can’t convict a man on these grounds.34+ years is enough for a conviction that has such holes.Lets investigate the Officer who heard the splash.hes key to unravelling this.police officer shot a fleeing unarmed man and planted evidence caught on camera…its raw hate.and he is an officer too.this man is not a serial killer.WW is no killer.The Sanders and their network did this.the truth is not pleasant.join Ginny Bulloch and her team.

    Reply
  19. The MO is this:The Sanders live close to the Shopping mall in the neighborhood where these kids lived and disappeared.They have Dogs.They have like 6-7 men in the family.They have access to cars and used a blue car for their evil.kids go often to shopping mall and some may steal…so the Sanders as fake security guards whisk the kids away to their waiting car.one is disguised to look black or maybe it was Cater or payne etc working for them to get the kids..then hes killed along with the kid abducted.and they keep repeating the same process.they likely still operate with the same MO in other areas.its just weird that people believe that a short, slight 22 year old is so clever and superhuman enough to strangle and sometimes hack people and theres no body fluid or tiny trace of blood on him or his car…yet a blanket or rug under his bed find its way to stick to the victims?when serial killers are caught there are so many things linking them to the crimes that nobody loses any sleep over it.we are glad when they are locked up.But with WW keep turning in our sleep.

    In the Casey Anthony case so much evidence exist to convict her but the tiniest reasonable dkubt that existed stayed the jurors hand.so shes walking free.yet a man with considerable less evidence to convict him is behind bars.and people are wringing hands.that sites like this one felt the need to write about WW case is because in your heart at the core you know his conviction is unjust.Nobody call grim sleeper or dahmer or rader etc anything but monsters.no one doubt their guilt.but in this case our heart is not easy,we eagerly and hungrily search for more clues on the case.Why?Because somehow within us we feel hes innocent but can’t face that unpleasant truth.that the motive here is hate.a network of hate with some public workers as its member who framed a young black man of 23.that man is now 58 and some whose kids were killed in that case are among his biggest supporters seeking to free him.that says a lot.

    Reply
  20. I grew up in Atlanta during this time. It was a very scary time. I agree Wayne a Williams did kill some of the children but not all.

    Reply
  21. Wayne Williams is INNOCENT!!! All those poor black children murdered in Atlanta, it’s an indictment against America the great!!!

    Reply
  22. As the commenter above noted

    “Unless of course there was a serial killer separate from the two murders Wayne was convicted of which then precludes him from the child murders and raises the question of why were the cases closed.”

    This is correct. There were several killers active during the so called Atlanta Child Murders. These murders started before the official start date of July ’79 and continue until this day. First the official “List” of children is meaningless in that there is no rhyme or reason as to who made the list, who didn’t and why–adults on the list were decribed as being “child like”? There is no logic to that. There is no single killer of these people, if you look at the methods in which they were murdered stabbed, shot, strangled, kidnapped, etc….only a few, if any are connected…The others are random such as the murder of Milton Harvey who had no connection whatsoever to anyone else on the list. This suggests there were other killers active at the time. Some of whom were known pedophiles and sex offenders.

    Some of the children were killed by family members. Others were killed to silence a porn ring that had people possibly from the then Mayor’s administration involved. Others were killed as part of the drug and gang turf wars. If you look up these individuals some are currently incarcerated for sex crimes and or listed on the sex offender registry.

    The fiber evidence is a sham and flimsy evidence to convict someone. There is nothing unique about fibers or how they are transmitted from person to person. A strong potential suspect was the manager of a laundromat where im sure one would come into contact with many different fibers. Williams, in my opinion didnt kill anyone but he was involved–to what extent I’m not sure maybe as a go between and possibly photographer. A talent scout business is a clever cover for what you are actually doing. He made a perfect scapegoat because he was intelligent. The inefficient task force and APD could save face because Williams was so intelligent and unlike the typical criminal he was able to elude them for months.

    He is his own worse enemy and should never of taken the stand at his trial. A known sex offender and a juvenile delinquent–both who lied about their connection to Williams were allowed to give testimony at his trial. Anyone who thinks Williams is responsible for any or all 28 murders is ill informed and doesn’t know the facts.

    Those who have researched the cases, spoken to those who were involved at the time, including law enforcement officers, family, witnesses, journalists etc.. conclude Williams did not kill anyone. The CNN DNA revelation is meaningless in that the data indicated you could not 100% determine whether the hairs found on the victim or dog belonged to Williams.
    The best hope Williams had for a new trial came and went in 2005 when the then, now deceased Police chief Louis Graham opened up an investigation into the Dekalb County cases. The passage of time, most people associated with the case have moved on or are dead means that Williams, unless there is a miracle will die in prison.

    Reply
  23. I must also add to the commenter above who mentioned her neighbor was a GBI agent who says Williams is guilty. I wouldn’t expect any less of a response from a GBI or FBI agent.

    Reply
    • JH

      From your previous comment: “Those who have researched the cases, spoken to those who were involved at the time, including law enforcement officers, family, witnesses, journalists etc.. conclude Williams did not kill anyone.”

      But the GBI and FBI agents don’t count? Including the main FBI profiler involved who advised the prosecutors on how to bring out the “real” Wayne Williams during the trial? John Douglas doesn’t believe Williams killed all the children, but stands by his conviction that he did kill some. If Williams is indeed innocent, that is a huge travesty of justice in so many ways…for those poor kids and their families as well.

      Reply
  24. One thing I noticed from the Payne murder ( from a website devoted to the Atlanta child murders) is that at least three of victim Payne’s acquaintances insisted that they had spotted him alive the day AFTER Williams was spotted on the bridge, presumably dumping his body…….that, according to the site, cast doubt on Williams’ conviction, at least for Payne’s murder. A bizarre similarity to the later Green River case also, where ( as with victims one and two from Atlanta) two of the first five female victims were friends, were found together, yet, vanished days apart…….one would think this might rule out a random, unknown killer committing the crimes. Also, a white police officer/other official in a black neighborhood would not attract attention.

    Reply
  25. I lived in atlanta at the time and i know the real truth and who did it. I knew Wayne i will not say how. But i was at the age of the boys that were missing. if Wayne a pedophile and a killer, why didn’t he come after me? what was going on at the same time was contracts to build the airport. I know more but i won’t say here.

    Reply
  26. Wow Cherie, I’ve drawn the same conclusions as you. In my research I’ve concluded
    that Wayne Williams and his father were both involved on child pornography. I think his talent agency was the perfect cover to meet young men.
    I also think Williams was involved in a child prostitution ring.

    Reply
  27. i don’t think wayne Williams is completely responsible for all the dissappearances and murders from 1979- 1981 but i don’t think he’s completely innocent. Politics,Race& stress definitely affected this case. Many of the kids were black boys from low income families. I think if it was white kids being killed they would have got the FBI,GBI, etc . involved right away! The Atlanta child murders 1979-81 was hurting the city’s reputation since Atlanta hosts conventions, meetings, and has tourists. There was also pressure on the Atlanta police from the parents and citizens to find the killer ASAP!
    especially as more kids went missing and ended up dead. Wayne Williams in my Opinion- was the perfect Scapegoat. Also on my researching of this case im not surprised is child porn or prostitution was happening. I’m sure many people argree me with me too! : the stress&panic from the Atlanta community, parents& victims families, the child murders & intense media coverage local & nationwide& this situation tarnishing Atlanta possibly affecting conventions & tourism income; forced law enforcement officials to seal Wayne Williams fate. However i feel & always feel that Wayne Williams is not the only Atlanta Child Murderer. In my opinion more than one killer was involved. but all the police wanted was for the killings to stop& the city of Atlanta to move on.

    Reply
  28. I’m not too familiar with this case but I do have two good friends , one was my best friend , that were murdered by the serial killer Gary Evans . I lived in Los Angelos in 1984 and did some work for Ted Gunderson and honestly I KNOW , Dr. Jeffery Mc Donald is innocent of killing his pregnant wife and two beautiful daughters . It was Helena Stockely and 3 men that went there that and did that heinous crime . The book Fatal Vision is a lie and maybe you could get him out of Jail , that that man had his precious family brutally murdered in front of him and got stabbed himself , then the military police went in his home and polluted the crime scene moving things around , picking up the coffee table , I would love for Justice to do Dr. Jeffery McDonald justice and let him out , HE IS INNOCENT . Thank you very much , God bless you Sir . Allison

    Reply
    • JH

      This is really interesting, Allison. How do you know Dr. McDonald is innocent? Do you have any more details? I’m familiar with his case, but I’d have to know more in order to look into it.

      Reply
  29. ALL. YOU. HAVE TO DO. IS LISTEN. VERY. CLOSELY. TO. WHAT. THE. “DISTRICT. ATTORNEY. SAID. ABOUT. “WAYNE. WILLIAMS”,. AND. THAT. WAS. THAT. THERE. WASNOT. ENOUGH. EVIDENCE. TO. ARREST. AND. CHARGE. “WAYNE. B. WILLIAMS,. WITH. ANY. OF. THE. MURDERS…. “LOUIS. SLATEN”. MADE THAT. STATEMENT. LIVE ON. CAMERA…. AND. THE. “HEAD. MEDICAL. EXAMINER”. JOSEPH. BURTON. MADE. A. STATEMENT. THAT. THERE. WAS NO. SMOKING. GUN. REGARDING. WILLIAMS..

    Reply
    • JH

      Is this a telegram? 😉

      Reply
  30. What is Douglas hinting at when he says : ‘It isn’t a single offender and the truth isn’t pleasant.’?

    Reply
    • JH

      He’s saying that there were multiple killers. Even though he believes Wayne Williams responsible for some of the deaths, he knows Williams wasn’t the only killer.

      Reply
  31. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of information regarding this case out in the media today with regards to the victims themselves. We keep being told about these young black children as “poor” yet with all these stories of a child prostitution ring what have the AUTHORITIES said about that…what do the victims FAMILIES say about the possibility of their children being involved in this? I’ve watched the documentaries out there and those IMPORTANT STRONG questions are NEVER addressed! Why aren’t those in power at that time, if still around FORCED to answer those questions. What is Wayne Williams supposed motive? None of the information in this case makes any logical sense yet people have just accepted this man as ” The Atlanta Child Murderer” and for the last 35 years with nothing else and no pursuit of justice for the victims. Wayne Williams may very well be another victim and he may not but how disgusting we’ll NEVER know? Not acceptable!

    Reply
  32. Great post. My question may enrage some but would the african american community in Atlanta be so doubtful if the convicted person was white? I doubt it. It’s sad that there is a knee jerk racial reaction of disbelief in the face of the evidence. I dont care what color he is if he did it he should rot in jail so those children have justice. This was well before DNA so they had to work with fibers and other evidence, including circumstantial. Contrary to what you might believe, circumstantial evidence can be just as strong as testimonial or documentary evidence if the timeline is there. Who else was on that bridge at 3 am just days before the body was found? Who else had the same carpet fibers, same dog hairs, same head hairs to the exclusion of 99.5% of the population? When you have this type of evidence, people always say, well he could have been in that small 5% of the population excluded by the DNA. Yes but what are the chances of him being in that 5% but also being on that bridge? Having the same dog, the same carpet? The totality of the evidence supports that it was him for those children who had the same fibers or hairs. My only question is was DNA recovered from any of the dead bodies of the boys whose cases remain “unsolved” and if so could that be tested so that this whole thing can finally be put to rest? If tested, the results could also support the theory that others were involved if those other offenders have DNA in the database. Just my thoughts. I’m a lawyer but I only do civil defense so criminal is just my “hobby” :).

    Reply
  33. I am glad you are of the belief he is guilty. I have been listening to this podcast and it seems already there is so much evidence against him. Why this is even truly being investigated further idk. Especially when you do consider the fact that the murders stopped when he went away. A rope in his car, something being thrown in the river, a great reason for kids to get in the car, fibers that can be traced all the way back to his parents buying a specific carpet, DNA, fishy behavior, dog hair etc etc. I am sure people would like a confession but you can’t please everyone

    Reply
    • JH

      I definitely believe he’s responsible for some of the murders, but sadly, the killings didn’t stop when Williams was arrested, which has led many to think him innocent. But there was a ton of evidence against him, and he fit the FBI profile perfectly. The FBI said from the beginning that more than one killer was at work in Atlanta.

      There was a strong sentiment that the murders were committed by a white man, and I think it’s still very hard for a lot of African-American Atlantans to believe someone in their own community would betray them that horribly. But murders like this are rarely committed by someone of a different race, especially back then (with more interracial marriages, etc., it’s more common now), and a white man would have stuck out and been noticed right away, as the police and FBI agents discovered.

      Reply
  34. There is a less than 2 in 10,000 chance that someone would have the DNA profile from the hair found on the victim and a dog with similar DNA. That with Williams found on the bridge after a splash, his stories afterwards, and the fibers make it beyond any doubt that Williams is a killer. Did he kill them
    all? Who knows? What’s the background rate of murder for poor black kids in Atlanta? Maybe a copycat did some killing, or maybe a couple of the kids where just part
    of the awful background violence. However, I don’t stay up worrying an innocent man is in jail.

    Reply
    • JH

      Good points, Joe. Thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  35. The problem is the murders did not stop children were still coming up missing or dead Wayne Williams is not the mass murderer

    Reply
    • JH

      No one said Wayne was responsible for all the murders, not even the FBI agent who helped the police convict him. That doesn’t mean Wayne is innocent.

      Reply
  36. Growing up in the next town over from the kidnappings was scary. My sister and I were almost kidnapped in the early 80’s and the man was black but didn’t look like Wayne Williams. Our parents never called police but I still have nightmares over it.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s really scary, Lola. Why didn’t your parents call the police?

      Reply
  37. After reading The List by Chet Dettlinger, it is without a doubt that Wayne Williams is completely innocent!! If anyone would like to know the truth about the Atlanta Child Murders and the situation surrounding the murders please read this book.

    Reply
  38. Wow! This post produced much commentary and dialogue. With so many murders, there were/are probably many perpetrators. Unfortunately. You mention the JonBenet case. It haunts me as well.

    Reply
  39. Edward Edwards killed them all, and everyone else too. Stories involving the murder of children always set me on edge, and this one is particularly awful. And I am less rational about evidence and the like when it comes to dead children. I know my bias and it would keep me off any jury in any similar case.

    Reply
  40. I wish i knew more about this but i do know some and agree with you that he may have killed some but not all. He was most definitely a predator of children and could disguise it by his type of business. I think there is a lot of overlapping and there may have been travelling serial killers. I watched a documentary talking about disappearances and many often occur near highways. There seems to be a connection with truck drivers as many travel long distances. I feel bad for the truck drivers who are honest and true but there seems to be a connection. I think you talked about bernardo and his horrific wife is out and a member of society. What about discussing the murders of the native American women?

    Reply
  41. Another horrible story. For some reason, when children are the victims, the crimes appear more violent, creating helplessness. I think Williams belongs in prison, but I’d need to read more about all these cases to suspect them of all the murders.

    Reply
  42. Was any more background found on John David Wilcoxen? I have been looking at a possible connection to the Boles family murders in Crestline,CA.

    Reply
  43. I honestly don’t know what to believe. It seems like a lot of people just wanted it to be over. I don’t think this guy did all the killings, but I also don’t think he’s innocent. His hand definitely have some blood on them.

    Reply
    • JH

      Agreed, Toi. On all counts. Such a terrifying case.

      Reply
  44. I remember this case I grew up in Charlotte and was 10 yrs old when the killings began. Charlotte being only a 3 1/2 hr drive down interstate 85,my mother mentioned that fact many times. Even though we were white didn’t make it any less frightening. I don’t think I ever regained my innocence.
    As far as other cases maybe look into Henry Wallace a black serial killer and rapeist who strangled nine black women i Charlotte in the early ninties. He worked at the chicken restaurant in front of the apartment complex I lived in. It was definitely strange see the chichen cook being arrested for nine rapes n murders.
    I’ve never seen anything written or on tv about this case. Thanks

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Franklin. His name sounds familiar to me. I’ll check it out.

      Reply
  45. Thanks for your post, i enjoyed reading it. I was surfing around for facts on this case — there are a lot of unanswered questions and unfortunately, no one place to find all the salient facts.

    I have almost finished listening to the 10 part podcast with extras called ‘Atlanta Monster’: https://atlantamonster.com/
    It’s a frustrating listen until towards the end of the series and the extra episodes where the producers respond to listener questions. At the start and throughout much of it, the host appears to be seduced and hoodwinked by Williams. Then in episode 10, the host finally sums up the contradictions in the ‘stories’ that Williams has told him. The podcast series illustrates to me how good Williams is at seducing some people. It is infuriating to keep hearing how intelligent Williams is — I think he’s very good at giving that impression to some people and if he really was, he wouldn’t be where he is now. In one of the Atlanta Monster Vault episodes, the hosts try to work out where the idea of his ‘intelligence’ came from. As with much of this series, when an interesting question is posed — it’s quickly lost in a mush of other stuff. The series is anything but incisive but as a true crime addict, I can’t help but gather any new information on cases that interest me. I suspect he himself probably started the rumour about his intelligence. ‘The Mask of Sanity’ does pop up in my mind when I think of Williams.

    Like you, I believe Williams is guilty of some of the murders but I also think that this is probably one of the reasons why some people refuse to believe that he is guilty of any of the murders.

    Like OJ Simpson, Williams has done a good job of exploiting racial tensions for his own purposes. Sadly, I think racial tensions have also muddied perspectives, as it did in the OJ Simpson case.

    Most of us find it frightening and difficult to see that these ‘monsters’ are like us or one of us. Williams has used this to his advantage; of course black people can be and have been serial killers —it’s far more likely to be someone that doesn’t appear to be a threat and blends in than it is to be the KKK which Williams would like us to believe and some people do believe. Time after time, it’s been proven that access to victims is key — Arthur Shawcross hung out with the prostitutes he murdered, John Wayne Gacy as a respected businessman lured young men with promises of work. Wayne’s defenders think that he was an upstanding, intelligent music entrepreneur seeking ‘young’ talent; how is that different to John Wayne Gacy or how he gained access to his victims?

    For the murders that he is convicted of, his bridge alibi was a crock of s**t, the forensics on carpet fibres and dog hairs is compelling. Forensics undertaken since he was convicted if not conclusive hasn’t exonerated him.

    When you listen to him in this podcast series or watch him in his documentary appearances, he is anything but straightforward or honest. He ducks, dives and fabricates on the spot.

    Those that believe Wayne Williams is innocent also tend to invest a lot in the fact that he has claimed to be innocent all these years. Aside from the fact that manipulative serial killers don’t give up anything easily — he’d probably get the death penalty if he was convicted for any of the other murders, particularly those of children so he has every reason not to confess to anything else. Because he’s only convicted of the 2 adult murders, there’s wiggle room for doubt. I don’t believe Williams is Einstein but he’s not stupid. He will take his guilt to his grave — unless there’s enough in it for him not to. He loves attention — and he keeps on getting it.

    Season 2 of Mindhunter will feature the Atlanta Child Murders. I am a true crime addict so I will definitely be tuning in.

    As an addict, my favourite podcast is Casefile (check it out if you haven’t already!). Contains intelligent, in depth, thoroughly research and sensitive retelling of true crime stories from across the world, well known and little known cases.

    It seems that I have offloaded my frustrations with this case and the podcast series here — apologies for the long rant!

    I wish there was one really good, well researched, documentary or podcast on this case — might put in a request to Casefile, I don’t think they have covered it yet!

    Reply

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