ATLANTA - Police announced Thursday a plan to re-test evidence from decades-old child murder cases that rocked Atlanta in the late '70s and early '80s.
Mayor Kiesha Lance Bottoms and police Chief Erika Shields made the announcement Thursday at a news conference.
From 1979 to 1981, at least 25 young black men and children were killed in areas around Memorial Drive.
Bottoms said she remembered hearing about the horrific crimes as a 9-year-old, and felt robbed of an innocent childhood as a result.
“It may be there is nothing left it be tested,” Bottoms said. “But I do think history will judge us by our actions and we will be able to say we tried.”
The operation will be a joint one, with authorities from the Atlanta Police Department, Fulton County and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation using modern technology in examining the evidence.
Bottoms started thinking about taking a renewed look into the murders after speaking with the mother of one of the victims. Applying modern technology to the crimes of 1979 to 1981, she said, will assure the families that “we have done all that we can do do to make sure their memories are not forgotten and, in the truest sense of the word, to let the world know that black lives do matter.”
Authorities have for decades suspected Atlanta native Wayne Williams was the killer who terrorized the city. He is serving life for murder convictions in the deaths of two adults in Fulton County, though he’s never faced charges in any child’s death. After his conviction, authorities in Fulton, where the vast majority of deaths occurred, announced they were closing the child homicides case because they were convinced Williams was guilty.
Five cases from the same period are open today in DeKalb County because of disagreements through the years among various officials about whether the deaths should be attributed to Williams. DeKalb police told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in late 2017 that the investigations were inactive.
Some of the victims’ relatives have questioned whether officials rushed to judgement by suggesting Williams was guilty in all the murders.
Williams, who was a cocky young freelance photographer at the time of his arrest in 1981, has long maintained his innocence.
Thursday’s announcement comes at the same time as a media blitz around filmmaker Will Packer’s forthcoming documentary on the cases, which is soon to air on the Investigation Discovery Channel.