Georgia authorities will be taking another look into convicted killer Wayne Williams, and the serial murders and disappearances of many Atlanta children between the years of 1979-1981.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fulton District Attorney Paul Howard, along with his new Conviction Integrity Unit, will be reexamining the nearly 40 year old cases. The CIU is an eight-member panel consisting of Fulton prosecutors, lawyers from the Georgia Innocence Project and the NAACP, a representative from the county’s faith community and a defense attorney. The investigation is also receiving the supported of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“We’re going to look at all of the homicides that involved children at the same age and methods as in the Wayne Williams case,” Howard said at a press conference, according to the AJC. “We’re going to collect all the forensic evidence we can and see where it leads us.”
While Williams, now 60, was believed to be behind the majority of the 29 killings, in which young Black men between the ages of 7-17 made up at least two dozen of the victims, Wayne was never actually tried or convicted for most of the murders.
Instead, he was given life in prison for the murders of two adult males, Nathaniel Carter and Jimmy Ray Payne, yet 10 of the 29 missing-or-murdered children cases were introduced into evidence at Wayne’s trial. At the time, officials were able to match certain fibers and dog hairs from the crime scene of Carter and Payne to those found in the then 23-year-old suspect’s home and car.
Williams, dubbed the “Atlanta Monster,” after the conviction, has always maintained his innocence for the serial murders. But according to CNN, years after his arrest, it was revealed authorities had investigated the Ku Klux Klan as part of their probe into the killings.
In a press conference last month aired by the network, Catherine Leech, mother of 13-year-old victim Curtis Walker, said she supports the reexamination of her son’s case, and a second look into Wayne’s connectivity.
“I don’t think it’s right. For all these kids to be killed and nobody was concerned about it. And I really, really- it hurt. Because we loved our children. And it really hurt. We want some closure. I want to know who killed Curtis. His case is still sitting on the shelf. Getting dusty. I want some closure. I want some justice. So I can rest in peace.”
Howard said the creation of the Conviction Integrity Unit was inspired by the century-old Leo Frank case in which Frank, a Jewish pencil factory office worker, was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan. But the case has long been criticized for its anti-Semitic overtones and that Frank was convicted on the testimony of a janitor named Jim Conley.
Frank’s sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but a mob broke into the prison where he was housed and lynched him.
But another man, Alonzo Mann, who confessed in 1982 on his deathbed that he had seen Conley carrying Phagan’s body to the factory’s basement. He said he remained silent because Conley threatened to kill him.
Former Georgia governor Roy Barnes, will serve as a consultant to the Conviction Integrity Unit. He had lobbied for a re-examination of the Frank case.