Utah lab to examine DNA evidence from Atlanta child murders

“It is my sincere hope that there will be concrete answers for the families,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.

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DNA evidence linked to the Atlanta child murders will be tested by a private lab in Utah with the hope that the results will bring closure to the families of victims.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms wrote in a tweet on Monday that city investigators will provide “old DNA evidence” to a private lab in Salt Lake City. The mayor did not disclose the name of the lab that will analyze DNA evidence from killings committed in Atlanta during the 1970s and 1980s, ABC News reports.

“It is my sincere hope that there will be concrete answers for the families,” Mayor Bottoms said.

One Twitter user responded to her tweet: “Mayor Bottoms, this has been a long time coming. My old friend, Jonathan Bell, lost his little brother, Yusef Bell ( 9 yrs-old ), in 1979. He was the 4th child that was killed out of the 28. I was 8 yrs-old at the time and my next birthday, by the grace of God, I will be 51.”

In 1982, freelance cameraman and music promoter Wayne Williams was convicted of killing two adults, but he has long been considered the main suspect in the deaths of 22 of the 29 murdered children, teens, and adults from 1979-1981 known as the Atlanta Child Murders.

In arresting Williams for the two murders, the FBI declined to pursue the remaining 30 or so unsolved missing and child murder cases, even after information on a pedophile ring and KKK involvement surfaced as theories and other evidence seemed to be in conflict with the case against Williams,The Daily Beast reported.

In the 2020 HBO docuseries Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children, several people emerge as suspects in the missing and murdered cases of the Black and poor children. The FBI declined to pursue their arrests and several FBI agents say in the series that they are confident they have the right man behind bars.

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.

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, as well as provide clues as to who may have committed the murders.

“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,” the mayor said in a press conference back in July. 

Lance Bottoms previously noted that 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 from which the DNA was extracted will remain confidential.

This article contains additional reporting from Tonya Pendleton and Dawn Onley.

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