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(1958-05-27) May 27, 1958 (age 55), Atlanta, Georgia, USA
The Atlanta Monster,
The Atlanta Child Killer,
The Atlanta Child Murderer
Number of victims
Span of killings
July 21, 1979-May 22, 1981
June 21, 1981
Wayne Bertram Williams (born May 27, 1958) is a convicted murderer who has been blamed for committing most of the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979 through 1981. In 1982 he was tried and convicted of killing two adult men, and sentenced to life imprisonment. After his conviction the Atlanta police announced that Williams was responsible for at least 23 of the 29 child murders, but he has never been formally indicted nor tried for any of them. His guilt has been disputed by multiple parties, and Williams himself continues to maintain his innocence.
2 Trial and conviction,
6 External links,
Wayne Bertram Williams was born on May 27, 1958 and raised in Atlanta's Dixie Hills neighborhood of Northwest Atlanta to Homer and Faye Williams. Both parents were teachers. Williams graduated from Douglass High school and developed a keen interest in radio and journalism. Eventually he constructed his own carrier-current radio station. He also began hanging out at radio stations WIGO and WAOK where he befriended a number of the announcing crew and began dabbling in becoming a music producer and manager.
Trial and conviction:
Williams first became a suspect May 1981 when his car was heard by a team of police who were conducting surveillance under a bridge near the site where the bodies of murdered children had previously been found. They heard a loud splashing sound and upon investigating the noise stopped William in his vehicle. They questioned him but he claimed that he was going out of town to audition a young singer, Cheryl Johnson. The police later discovered that that phone number he gave them did not exist. FBI tried to find Cheryl Johnson from the address and phone details given, but were unable to find her.
Two days later, the body of 27-year-old Nathaniel Cater, who had been missing for days, turned up in the river. The medical examiner on the case ruled he had died of "probable" asphyxia, but never authoritatively said he had been strangled. Police theorized that Williams had killed Cater and had thrown him off the bridge the night they had pulled him over. Their suspicions about Williams increased after the results of three polygraph tests indicated he had failed each one, and hairs and fibers on one of the victims' bodies were found to be consistent with those from Williams's home, car, and dog. Police found a book on how to beat a polygraph test when they searched his home and later stated Williams seemed to be in disbelief that he could fail a test.
Throughout the course of the investigation, police staked out Williams's home for several weeks while he taunted them with insults and jokes. During this time, people working in Williams's studio also told police they had seen him with scratches on his face and arms around the time of the murders, which the police thought could have been inflicted by victims during a struggle. Williams held a press conference outside his parents' home, proclaiming his innocence. He was nevertheless arrested on June 21, 1981, for the murders of Cater and 29-year-old Jimmy Payne.
The trial began on January 6, 1982. The prosecution's case relied on an abundance of corroborating evidence. During the two-month trial, prosecutors matched 19 different sources of fibers from Williams's home and car environment: his bedspread, bathroom, gloves, clothes, carpets, dog and an unusual tri-lobal carpet fiber to a number of victims. There was also eyewitness testimony placing Williams with different victims, blood stains from victims matching blood in Williams's car and testimony that he was a pedophile attracted to young black boys (although none of the victims were sexually assaulted).
Williams took the stand in his own defense, but alienated the jury by becoming angry and combative. Williams never recovered from that outburst, and on February 27 the jury deliberated for 12 hours before finding him guilty of murdering Cater and Payne. Williams was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment.
Williams filed a the habeas corpus petition and requested a retrial in the late 1990s. Butts County Superior Court judge Hal Craig denied his appeal. Attorney General Thurbert Baker said that "although this does not end the appeal process, I am pleased with the results in the habeas case," and that his office "will continue to do everything possible to uphold the conviction."
In early 2004 Williams sought a retrial once again. The 146-page federal court filing said Williams should be retried because law enforcement officials covered up evidence of Klan involvement, and that carpet fibers linking him to the crimes wouldn't stand up under scientific scrutiny. A federal judge rejected the request for retrial on October 17, 2006.
Williams has always contended that he was framed and that Atlanta officials covered up evidence of Ku Klux Klan involvement in the killings to avoid a race war in the city. His defense lawyers have maintained that a "profound miscarriage of justice" has occurred, which not only has kept Williams behind bars for a majority of his adult life, but also which kept a blind eye to bringing the real killers of these many victims to justice.
Neither Williams nor anyone else was ever tried for the murder of the boy, later identified as Curtis Walker, aged 13, whose body was dumped into Atlanta's South River in 1981. This was the same case which would lead to the stakeouts of Atlanta bridges by the Atlanta PD and FBI that resulted in Williams becoming a suspect in May 1981 and his later apprehension in June 1981. Williams is serving his sentence at Hancock State Prison.
Williams's guilt has been disputed by some. Others, most notably the author James Baldwin in his essay The Evidence of Things Not Seen (1985), have raised questions about the investigation and trial of Williams. Members of his community and several of the victims' parents did not believe that Williams, the son of two professional teachers, could have killed so many. On May 6, 2005, the DeKalb County Police Chief Louis Graham ordered the reopening of the murder cases of four boys killed in that county between February and May 1981 that had been attributed to Williams. The reopening of the investigation was welcomed by some relatives of victims who believe the wrong man was blamed for the bulk of the killings and they hoped a new police investigation will uncover the real killer.
DeKalb County Police Chief Louis Graham, formerly an assistant police chief in neighboring Fulton County at the time of the killings, said his decision to reopen the cases was driven solely by his belief in the innocence of Williams. Also former DeKalb County Sheriff, Sidney Dorsey, spoke out stating he believed, Williams was wrongly blamed for the murders, elaborating that "if they arrested a white guy, there would have been riots across the U.S". Dorsey was an Atlanta homicide detective at the time of the Atlanta child killings. Both men investigated the Atlanta child murders in the early 1980s and have also previously spoken out publicly of their belief of Williams' innocence.
However, the legal authorities in the neighboring Fulton County, where the majority of the murders occurred, have not moved to reopen any of the cases under their jurisdictions. Williams has always vehemently denied the charges.
On August 6, 2005, it was revealed that Charles T. Sanders, a white supremacist affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, who had been investigated for a role in the Atlanta child killings, once praised the crimes in secretly recorded conversations. Although Sanders did not claim responsibility for any of the deaths, Williams' lawyers believed the evidence would help their bid for a new trial. Sanders told an informant for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the 1981 recording that the killer had "wiped out a thousand future generations of niggers." Police dropped the probe into the KKK's possible involvement after seven weeks, when Sanders and two of his brothers passed lie detector tests. The case was once again closed on July 21, 2006.
Former FBI profiler, John E. Douglas, wrote in his book Mindhunter, that while he believes that Williams committed many of the murders, he doesn't think that he committed all of them. Douglas added that he believes that law enforcement authorities have some idea of who the other killers are, and that "It isn't a single offender and the truth isn't pleasant."
DNA tests did not exclude Williams when hairs found at the scene were tested in 2010 with a 1 in 130 chance the hairs came from someone else.