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Boy’s Body Found In Georgia Graveyard In 1999 ID’d As 6-Year-Old, Mom Charged

William DaShawn Hamilton was found dead 23 years ago, but was only identified by authorities thanks to a tipster who reignited the case.

By Dorian Geiger
A side by side photo of William Deshawn Hamilton as a young boy next to a recreation image

A 6-year-old boy found dead near a Georgia church cemetery more than two decades ago has been identified, and his mother has been charged in his killing.

William DaShawn Hamilton was identified as the child whose remains were located near a Decatur graveyard in 1999, according to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office. His mother, Teresa Ann Bailey Black, 45, was indicted for his murder on June 28. She’s facing two counts of felony murder, two counts of child cruelty, aggravated assault, and concealing the death of another in connection with the young boy’s suspected killing. 

“For far too long, this precious little boy had no name and no story,” DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston said in a statement on Wednesday. “Through the tireless efforts of several individuals and organizations who were determined not to let this boy be forgotten, William has been identified, and justice will be served in his memory.”

On Feb. 26, 1999, Hamilton’s then-unidentified and decomposing remains were discovered in a wooded area near the intersection of Clifton Spring Road and Clifton Spring Church Road in Decatur. Due to the advanced state of decomposition, authorities were immediately unable to determine the cause and manner of death.

Officials did estimate, however, that the child was between the ages of 5 and 7 and had been dead for approximately three to six months prior to being found. He was wearing a blue and white plaid shirt, red denim jeans, and brown Timberland boots.

A police handout from 1999 of Teresa Ann Bailey Black

In May 2020, a tipster who knew Black and her son in 1998 saw an artistic rendering of the unidentified child that had been distributed by authorities and contacted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The DeKalb County Police Department, along with county prosecutors, later followed up on the lead and resumed actively investigating the case.

Earlier this year, DNA linked Black to the childs’ remains. 

Investigators say Black was living in Charlotte, North Carolina with her son and a relative shortly before Hamilton’s death. In December 1998, without notice, she withdrew Hamilton from school and the mother and son moved to Atlanta. Black later returned to Charlotte the following year but without her son. According to detectives, she gave conflicting accounts at the time regarding her son’s whereabouts.

Black was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona on June 29. She’s currently awaiting extradition to Georgia. No court date information was immediately available for her.

Authorities didn’t specify this week how Hamilton may have died or a possible motive in the child’s alleged killing. No further information was immediately available this week. A  spokesperson for the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to questions about the case sent by Oxygen.com on Thursday morning.

“This case is a perfect example of why we never give up hope,” Angeline Hartmann, the director of communications at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said in a statement

Hartmann specifically praised the tipster who came forward in the case.

“For more than two decades, a woman in Charlotte followed her gut feeling that something wasn’t right,” Hartmann added. “She made phone calls, scoured the internet and talked to anybody who would listen. We’re grateful she never stopped until she found that rendering of William online and gave investigators the missing piece to help solve this 23-year-old mystery.”

Hamilton was a bright and artistic 6-year-old who possessed a keen sense of humor, according to those who knew him. 

“He liked to crack jokes,” Ava, the case’s tipster, told the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

Ava, who knew Black and Hamilton when they lived in North Carolina, requested her last name be withheld due to privacy concerns.

“He did like to draw a lot, color, mainly read books,” she added. "He didn't want you to read to him…he wanted to read to you!”

Investigators are now seeking the public’s assistance to help piece together a more concrete timeline of Black and Hamilton’s movements leading up to the 6-year-old’s death.  Authorities say Black worked at a now-defunct Atlanta-area strip club known as “Pleasers” and may have been getting assistance from the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children for a brief period.

Anyone with additional information related to the case is urged to contact the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Cold Case Tip Line at 404-371-2444.

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