“Wiped out a generation of n****rs for good”
The murders began at Atlanta in July 1979 when teenagers Edward Smith and Alfred Evans were killed. On 4 September a third teen, Milton Harvey, disappeared, followed on 21 October by nine-year-old Yusuf Bell, the son of Camille Belle, a civil rights leader. In March 1980 Angel Laner, 12, was raped and murdered — the first female victim — and in May Eric Middlebrooks was killed. On 9 June Christopher Richardson became the next victim. The death toll began to climb — all the victims were young and all were black.
Blacks began to fear that a racist was killing their children but this was soon discounted for two reasons. The area in which the children were taken was a heavily black one where any white face would stand out and serial killers tend to remain within their racial group — whites killing whites, blacks killing blacks, and so on. Then they believed that, because the victims were black, the police were not trying very hard to catch the perpetrator.
By May 1981 the death toll had reached 21 with another child on the missing list. The investigation bill for the inquiry was $250,000 a month and President Reagan authorized a government grant of $1,500,000 to prevent Atlanta going bankrupt. On 22 May a young, black DJ named Wayne Bertram Williams (born 27 May 1958) was questioned after he was seen acting suspiciously near the Chattahoochee River. With no proof to link him to any of the murders, he was freed but put under surveillance.
On 24 May the nude body of 27-year-old Nathaniel Cater was found in the river. A forensic test matched dog hairs on Nathaniel to those in Wayne Williams’s car. When people came forward to claim that Williams had molested them, he was arrested on 21 June.
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
Saturday 21 July 1979—May 1981
Wayne Williams went on trial on 6 January 1982 on two counts of murder. The evidence was mostly circumstantial but it was also noted that while Williams was in custody the Atlanta child killings ended. On 27 February 1982 Williams was found guilty and given two life sentences.
Doubts exist as to the safety of Williams’s conviction, especially when Charles T. Saunders of the Ku Klux Klan told the Georgia Bureau of Investigation that the killer “had wiped out a generation of n****rs for good”.
The parents of some victims do not believe that Williams was the murderer. Williams has continued to protest his innocence and his lawyers have demanded a new trial. Police refuse to reopen the case.