DNA from the Atlanta Child Murders case re-investigated

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the case remains a dark time in Atlanta's history

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Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced at a Friday press conference that 40% of DNA evidence was “methodically reviewed” in an ongoing attempt to use modern technology to glean more information about the Atlanta Child Murders, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In 1982, freelance cameraman and music promoter Wayne Williams was convicted of killing two adults. The then 23-year-old has reportedly also been linked to 22 of the 29 murders of children, teens, and adults from 1979-1981, in what eventually came to be known as the Atlanta Child Murders.

Williams, now 63, is serving two life sentences, but was never charged in any of the children’s murders. He was linked to the crimes by fibers in his home and car, but that evidence was not strong enough to charge him with any additional murders.

Three of the young victims of the Atlanta child murders (Handout)

In 2019, Lance Bottoms ordered the reopening of the cases so that modern DNA technology might be used on evidence and shine more light on what really happened and give clues as to who may have committed the murders.

“This was a very, very painful time in our city’s history,” Lance Bottoms told the media gathered for a press conference about an anti-violence initiative on Friday.

“Part of my asking that this be reopened was in light of where we are with DNA testing some 40 years later…to make sure that we have examined everything possible to make sure that the person or people responsible are being held accountable.”

By reopening the case, Lance Bottoms hopes to find more answers about the fate of the children who were murdered mysteriously and bring some ease to their families and the community.

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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms speaks with community members and students at Clark Atlanta University on June 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images)

“I want to know who killed Curtis,” says Catherine Leach, the mother of Curtis Walker, who was 13 when his body was found in 1981. He had been asphyxiated. “His case has been sitting on the shelf, getting dusty and rusty and you can’t see the page,” she said at a press conference, per Fox5Atlanta.

Leach called for a memorial to the victims and has been an advocate for her son and others for more than 40 years. She was finally heard when an installment of portraits of the murdered and missing children was installed at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International airport.

In February, the City Council approved an eternal flame memorial to honor the victim’s lives. That memorial will be a permanent fixture at Atlanta’s City Hall.

Victims of the Atlanta Child Murders (Handout)

Lance Bottoms says deteriorating DNA and fiber evidence was tested on June 21 and that the murder’s timeline has been extended to span from 1970 to 1985, to ensure no cases were missed in earlier investigations. To maintain the “integrity of the investigation,” the identity of the victims that DNA was extracted from will remain confidential.

“I believe there are two cases…that we have been able to send off DNA for additional analysis,” Lance Bottoms said at the press conference.

“We certainly hope to have that information back over the next few months. Hopefully, before I leave office, I hope that we’re able to get it back, but if not, I trust that whomever the next mayor will keep this as a priority,” she added. “And it’s truly my hope that with the analysis of this additional DNA that we can have some additional answers.”

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