Sadistic Child Killer or a Victim of a Flawed Investigation
Why Wayne Williams is definitely not a serial killer
Wayne Williams was convicted of murdering two black men; however, he is suspected of murdering twenty black youths in Atlanta, Georgia, between 1979 and 1981. The case may not be as straightforward as it seems on first examination.
Williams may have also murdered up to twenty black youths, or it could be that he has been connected to twenty murders conducted by the Klu Klux Klan. Whatever the truth, there are problems with the case; mistakes were made.
The Atlanta Child Murders
The first two bodies were found on 27th August 1979; a woman discovered two black boys under a bush at the side of the road. Edward Smith, who was fourteen, shot with a 22 calibre; he had been reported missing one week before. Alfred Evans, twelve who had been missing three days and had been strangled.
These two bodies started a string of twenty-two months of killing within Atlanta and became known by the media as the Atlanta child murders.
The FBI is called in
When a seven-year-old girl went missing in 1980, local police called the FBI in, and behaviour science constructed a profile that stated the suspect might be black as he was gaining the trust of these children.
Originally the bodies of the victims were dumped in wooded areas. In April 1981, the killer changed this and tossed them in the Chattahoochee River. Investigators narrowed down their search to the dumpsites. They stationed officers on each of the fourteen bridges.
In late May, a group heard a loud splash at 3 am. A car was observed on the bridge, which then fled the scene. The police pursued the vehicle and pulled it over; the driver was twenty-two-year-old Wayne Williams, a black freelance photographer. They let him go, as there was insufficient evidence to hold him. Two days later, the body of Nathaniel Cater, twenty-seven, was found downstream. Williams was called in for questioning again, his alibi was weak and he failed the polygraph test.
On 27th February 1982, Williams was convicted of killing two men, Cater and twenty-one-year-old Jimmy Ray Payne; he received two consecutive life sentences. Williams was convicted on the physical evidence, eyewitness accounts, and fibres matched between the victims and William’s car. At the time, the prosecutors said that they did not have enough evidence to offer conviction for the twenty young children who had been found.
Although Williams was never convicted for the Atlanta child murders, the murders stopped as soon as he was imprisoned; the police also closed the cases even though the victims’ families felt they had received no justice. Williams has always maintained his innocence of the crimes.
Was Williams Guilty?
At first glance, this looks like a simple case of case solved; however, other theories have become known, which may make some question the guilt of Williams.
At the time of the murders, Atlanta had its first black mayor, Maynard Jackson; it also had a black city council president and first black police chief. It was a national hub for the black middle class, and to some white extremists, this was concerning. The killings threatened to tarnish this image, which the Ku Klux Klan wanted when they started the massacre.
Many parents of the victims believe justice was never served. Especially vocal about this was Camilla Bell, Yosef Bell’s mother. She has stated on several occasions that Wayne Williams was the thirtieth victim of the Atlanta slayings. Evidence exists that shows the Atlanta officials were more interested in an excellent public relations exercise than in solving the murders.
Former FBI profiler John E. Douglas wrote in his book Mindhunter that, in his opinion, “forensic and behavioral evidence points conclusively to Wayne Williams as the killer of eleven young men in Atlanta.” He added, however, that he believed there was “no strong evidence linking him to all or even most of the deaths and disappearances of children in that city between 1979 and 1981” — Douglas, J. and Olshaker, M. Mindhunter: Inside the FBI Elite Serial Crime Unit. William Heinemann
The Evidence Missed
They never looked into a convicted sex offender that several eyewitnesses identified as being seen with the victims before death during the investigation. Charles T Sanders was a known white supremacist who was affiliated with KKK. He also allegedly admitted to the murders and was proud of his achievement in wiping out the next generation of black people.
Many would say that Williams was convicted on the DNA fibres. However, DNA was considered mainly junk science in those times. The DNA was examined in a poorly maintained laboratory; countless samples were compromised from there. The DNA has since been sent off for further analysis by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
When I look at the case, I am drawn by many inaccuracies. Williams is labelled a serial killer in all the articles and media reports. This is inaccurate as he was convicted of two murders; you need to have amassed three or more victims to be classified as a serial killer. The adverse reporting of Williams as a serial killer, because he is suspected of more killings and an error, or perhaps a deliberate attempt to incite the opinion of others against him further.
I also believe that thirty murders in two years for one man are a considerable number; it would make sense to think that more than one person could have carried out these murders. The change in dumpsites is also not typical for killers; they rarely change their pattern this considerably. Some would argue that the murders stopped when Williams was imprisoned, but this alone can not confirm guilt. Clever killers would know that they got away with the killings, now was a good time to stop.
Whatever the truth of the matter, the fact remains that twenty families have not got the closure they deserve as no one has ever been convicted of killing their children.