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DNA Evidence From Notorious Atlanta Child Murders Set To Be Reexamined

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says she hopes to provide "concrete answers for the families" of the victims in the decades-old Atlanta child murders.

By Constance Johnson
Crime News Atlanta Child Murders G

A Utah laboratory specializing in deteriorated DNA testing is set to examine evidence from the decades-old killing spree known as the Atlanta child murders, it was announced this week. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced in a tweet earlier this week that investigators were heading to Salt Lake City to hand over DNA evidence to a private lab.

“It is my sincere hope that there will be concrete answers for the families,” Bottoms wrote in the tweet.

Neither Bottoms nor the Atlanta Police Department named the Salt Lake City lab where the evidence will be examined.

“Considering the emergence of new science and technology related to DNA testing, the Atlanta Police Department realized an opportunity to re-evaluate evidence from the Atlanta Child Murders case,” the city's police department said in a statement on Monday. “We identified a private lab in Salt Lake City, Utah that specializes in analyzing deteriorated DNA.”

Between 1979 and 1981, nearly 30 Black children and young adults – mostly boys – were murdered across Atlanta.

Wayne Williams, then a 23-year-old freelance photographer, has long been viewed as the primary suspect in the cases, but he was never convicted of killing any children and has maintained that he is innocent.  He was convicted of murdering two adults in 1982 and is currently serving a life sentence in Telfair State Prison in Helena, Georgia. 

The cases were deemed solved and then closed after his conviction, according to WSB. But some, particularly parents of the victims, have remained skeptical.

As previously reported by Oxygen.com, Bottoms and the police chief announced more than two years ago that evidence was being re-examined in the case with the aid of new technology.

“When I asked for the re-examination of these cases, I wanted families to know that we care – that their children still matter,” the mayor said in a statement on Tuesday. “As we wait for the outcome of the evidence being tested, it is my hope that we can bring some sense of peace to so many of the families still searching for answers, searching for closure.”

Bottoms also announced in July that investigators had “methodically reviewed” about 40% of the evidence from the crimes.

Some parents of the victims said they are encouraged by these developments.

Catherine Leach-Bell, who always believed someone other than Williams was responsible for the death of her then 13-year-old son, Curtis Walker, said two years ago that she remains hopeful for justice.

“I am happy to hear what I heard today,” Leach-Bell said during a 2019 news conference, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It's brought a little comfort in my heart. I have been let down for many, many, many, many …. years.”

However, retired Atlanta police officer Danny Agan told the paper that he believes that the killer is behind bars.

“My feeling from the beginning was regardless of how much in-depth reinvestigation they do, the results aren’t going to change: You’re still going to end up with Wayne Williams a convicted murderer,” he said.

Still, Agan said that he doesn’t believe Williams is responsible for all the murders, especially the killings of young girls – Angel Lanier, 12, and LaTonya Wilson, 7, according to the paper.

“I’ve said this for decades: Wayne Williams had no interest in those little girls,” he said.

Williams, 63, was denied parole in 2019. He’s eligible again in November 2027, according to WSB.

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