Real Life Crime

Wayne Williams – Serial Killer or Incorrectly Accused?

In 1982, Wayne Bertram Williams was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murders of two men in the Atlanta area. After his incarceration he was branded as the man behind ‘The Atlanta Child Murders,’ as the killings stopped with him behind bars. Prosecutors were unable to charge Williams with the killing of the 27 boys, whose bodies were found between July 1979 and May 1981, due to a lack of evidence. Although the killings stopped after he was locked up, Williams maintains his innocence. This has left many people to speculate about whether the killer could have gotten away or changed his murder zone, or if there was really a KKK conspiracy behind the killings as Williams suggests.

The murders began in July 1979 when two teenage African American boys went missing four days apart. Their bodies were found next to each other under some bushes, with one boy strangled and the other shot. The locals dubbed the crimes ‘The Atlanta Child Murders,’ as there were three more bodies found by the end of the year. The FBI were called in to assist with the investigation but leads kept turning up nothing.

An FBI profiler identified the killer as a black male, as he would have access to the black community without drawing undue attention to himself, as well as somebody who would have had many failures in his life. At the time Wayne Williams was pursuing an unsuccessful career as a freelance photographer, after moving from job to job. The profiler theorized that the act of killing would enable the murderer to feel he had something under his control, in a life that was spiraling away from him. The profiler also suggested that police begin staking out lakes and rivers, after the bodies began turning up near water.

This led authorities to begin monitoring 14 bridges along the Chattahoochee River. In May 1981, one morning at 3am the police heard a splash in the river next to a bridge which they had been staking out. A speeding car was pulled over leaving the area, driven by Wayne Williams. Due to a lack of evidence the police were forced to release him. Two days later the body of Nathaniel Cater, 27, washed up downstream. Williams was arrested and charged with his murder on June 21, 1981, after he failed a polygraph test and his alibis did not check out. He was convicted of the murders of Cater and another man and given life sentences for both.

Lack of evidence in the other murder cases prevented prosecution, but in 2010, DNA forensics showed where two hairs found on the body of an 11-year-old victim had a 98% chance of belonging to Williams. He continues to maintain his innocence, and in a prison interview Williams said he accepts his fate and declared that God has a plan for him.

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