Wayne Bertram Williams (born May 27, 1958) was identified as the key suspect in the Atlanta Child Murders that occurred in 1979 through 1981. In January 1982, Williams was found guilty of the murder of two adult men. After his conviction, the Atlanta police declared that an additional 23 of the 29 child murders were solved, with Williams shown to be the murderer.
Williams was born and raised in Atlanta's Dixie Hills neighborhood, from which many of the Atlanta Child Murderer's victims would later disappear. An aspiring radio disc jockey, he ran an amateur radio station from his parents' house. He was well-known in the area for scouting local musicians, particularly teenagers. His only encounter with the law prior to becoming a murder suspect was in 1976, when he was arrested but never convicted for impersonating a police officer.
He first became a suspect in the child murder case in May 1981. His car was spotted directly above the sound of a loud splash heard in the river by a stake out team. He was stopped by police and questioned, and claimed that he was going out of town to audition a young singer. This alibi fell apart after police found that the address and phone number he gave them didn't exist.
Two days later, the nude body of 27 year-old Nathaniel Cater, who had been missing for days, turned up in the river. The medical examiner on the case ruled he had died of "probable" asphyxia, but never authoritatively said he had been strangled. Police theorized that Williams had killed Cater and had thrown him off the bridge the night they had pulled him over. Their suspicions about Williams increased after he failed a polygraph test, and hairs and fibers on one of the victims' bodies were found consistent with those from Williams's home, car, and dog. Throughout the course of the investigation, police staked out Williams's home for several weeks while he taunted them with insults and jokes. During this time, people working in Williams's studio also told police they had seen him with scratches on his face and arms around the time of the murders, which the police thought could have been inflicted by victims during a struggle.
Williams held a press conference outside his parents' home, proclaiming his innocence. He was nevertheless arrested on June 21, 1981, for the murders of Cater and 29-year-old Jimmy Payne.
The trial began on January 6, 1982. The prosecution's case relied on an abundance of corroborating evidence. During the two-month trial, prosecutors matched 19 different sources of fibers from Williams's home and car environment: his bedspread, bathroom, gloves, clothes, carpets, his dog and an unusual tri-lobal carpet fiber to a number victims. There was also eyewitness testimony placing Williams with different victims, blood stains from victims matching blood in Williams's car, and testimony that he was a paedophile attracted to young black boys. Williams himself took the stand, but he seemingly alienated the jury by becoming angry and combative. Williams never recovered from that outburst, and on February 27, the jury deliberated for 12 hours before finding him guilty of murdering Cater and Payne. Williams was then sentenced by the Court to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment.
Williams's guilt has been disputed by some. Some people in his community, and several of the victims' parents, did not believe that Williams, the son of two professional teachers, could have killed so many. On May 6, 2005, the DeKalb County Police Chief Louis Graham ordered the reopening of the murder cases of four boys killed in that county between February and May 1981 which had been attributed to Williams. However, the legal authorities in the neighboring Fulton County, where the majority of the murders occurred, have not moved to reopen any of the cases under their jurisdictions. Williams has always vehemently denied the charges. DeKalb County finally closed its case after finding no new evidence.
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