More on the Atlanta Child Murders

As I promised last week, I have written an op-ed for the AJC about the reopening of the Atlanta Child Murders case…


The toxic silence
Child murders opened a wound that never healed; it’s time to talk about it
By TAYARI JONES
Published on: 05/22/05
In 1988, I was a student at Spelman College earning extra money by tutoring Jemmie, a jug-eared fourth-grader. On Thursdays, I’d meet him at the bus stop and we would go and sort out the complexities of multiplication. One Thursday, I was a little late to the bus stop and Jemmie wasn’t there.
My body registered that this was an emergency before my mind was able to process the information. I called his name, asking passersby whether they had seen a little black boy carrying a blue book bag with a green stripe. Then I doubled over, clutching my stomach, and vomited on the corner of Ashby and Fair.
With my heart splashing in my chest, I ran back to Spelman, calling for someone to help me find Jemmie. Most of my dorm-mates, busy with homework or nail polish, were not concerned that the little boy was just a few minutes late. “He’s probably at Mrs. Winner’s getting something to eat.” But other friends put down their textbooks and unplugged their curling irons. “Call the police,” they said.
It wasn’t until we found Jemmie, safe and sound at Mrs. Winner’s, that I realized that all of us who panicked shared a common terror: We had all grown up in Atlanta. We all knew that a little boy unaccounted for constituted an emergency. It was then that I knew that if I ever became a writer, I would write a novel about those of us who were children in Atlanta. I would put on paper this memory that we never spoke aloud but carried with us in our bones.
Fear, resentment, anger, guilt
The Atlanta child murders began just before I started fifth grade, when someone killed two African-American boys, Edward Hope Smith and Alfred Evans, and left their bodies in a vacant lot. The brutal end of their childhoods became the formative event of mine.
For almost two years, the “city too busy to hate” was held hostage by a toxic combination of fear, resentment, anger and guilt. This was true for all the city’s residents, even those of us who were not quite 10 years old.
Three years ago, the summer of my 30th year, I published a novel, “Leaving Atlanta,” a novel based on my experiences growing up in Atlanta during this terrible moment in the city’s history. At book signings, I was often asked to speculate about the cause of the silence surrounding these murders. We are, after all, obsessed with serial killings. People are still talking about Jack The Ripper more than 100 years later.
But at the book signings, I knew what answer people were looking for: The world has forgotten these murders because the victims were black and mostly poor. And I believe that on many levels this simple explanation is sadly accurate. But it cannot explain away the silence in my own community, the hush in southwest Atlanta, the home of many of the murdered children, the area of the city where many of those whose lives were directly touched still reside. The question still eats at me.
Years marked by fear
During the two years that Atlanta was under siege, I was at a peculiar stage in my personal development, caught between childhood and adolescence. These years are significant for all kids, no matter where they grow up and under what circumstances. But in my life, they were marked indelibly by the fear of sudden disappearance and random murder, and the lessons I learned then haunt me still.
It’s difficult to choose a starting point for describing the ways in which I was changed. I apologize before I start because I know whatever I write here will be incomplete, a mere outline.
Fifth grade was the year that boys and girls became aware of each other in a new way. Brave girls experimented with strawberry lip gloss and the boys brushed their hair until it waved. Picture us, a class of fifth-graders at Oglethorpe Elementary, a school southwest of downtown, in a sector of city that would become ground zero for the child murders. Try to imagine, if you can, how the lines between “boy” and “girl” changed for us that year, once it became clear that almost all of the children who would be killed would be male.
I have an older brother, three years my senior, who is named for Patrice Lumumba, my father’s idol. My brother’s picture hung in our basement den between portraits of Malcolm X and W.E.B. DuBois. As a young girl, I envied my brother his hero’s name and his place on the wall. But when the murders began, being a boy meant something different. It meant that someone might want to kill you.
There was another layer of meaning for me, a little black girl, the sister of a black boy. On the one hand, I felt a rush of relief not to be a marked child — relief mixed with stinging guilt. On the other, there was an irrational sense of resentment. According to street wisdom, the boys were targeted because they posed some sort of threat to the white power structure. There were theories that their bodies were magical, containing a mysterious chemical, interferon, which could be harvested only upon their death and sold on the black market. The kids in my class were transfixed by these hypotheses and believed them all. I listened, too — female, invisible, safe.
I couldn’t discuss these feelings with my parents. I didn’t have the nerve, nor the language, despite the fact that my lexicon was constantly growing with the frightening terms Monica Kaufman pronounced each night on the evening news: asphyxia, decomposition, ligature. And there were other words learned at home, like lynching. During this time, my father spent a lot of time in the basement studying a tattered paperback called ”100 Years of Lynchings,” a collection of newspaper accounts of mob murders of African-American men and women. He read that book so frequently that the binding disintegrated and he was forced to turn the pages in the same way that a person would flip through a deck of cards.
My capable, sensible mother was preoccupied with the safety of her own children, and of the other kids in our school. Another word, supervised, was often heard in our household. Hard-won party invitations had to be declined if my mother deemed there was not adequate supervision. She organized a Halloween carnival at Oglethorpe Elementary in 1980, raising money and urging her former Clark College students to donate prizes, so we kids, who were no longer allowed to trick or treat, could still have a good time.
I wonder whether this period was harder on my parents than on my brother and me. Lumumba and I were kids, finding comfort in talismans. We believed our old dog, Missy, could rise to the occasion, if necessary, becoming a ferocious attack-mutt. Once my father pointed out that the ornamental bars on our windows would prevent my abduction in my sleep, I was able to rest easily. But I doubt that he ever did.
Just before Wayne Williams was arrested, my father returned home from a simple errand about an hour late. He was shaken, clearly upset. My parents weren’t the sort who would discuss important matters before the children, so we were sent away. But I hung back, where I could listen.
My father explained that he had become lost while finding his way home. He’d driven around on the back roads, looking for a familiar street sign. “What would have happened if the police had pulled me over? I’d been gone for almost an hour. I couldn’t say where I had been. There was no one to vouch for me.” I backed away from my secret eavesdropping space, having already heard more than was good for me.
A few days later, Wayne Williams was arrested after being found at the wrong place at the wrong time, unable to account for his whereabouts. Over the dinner table, I looked at my father’s ashen face. In that moment, my father and I had exchanged places.
For so many months, my brother and I had sat mute in front of the television, understanding our vulnerability as black children as another victim’s face was shown, another name announced. Now, I looked at my own father as he processed his vulnerability as a black man, and I learned what it was to experience vicarious agony.
As I write these words, I can understand those who would argue that reopening this case is “opening old wounds.” But for many Atlantans, the memory of the child murders cannot be likened to an old wound, carefully sutured and healed.
For us, it is more like a bone poorly set — painful, crooked and gimpy. The events of 1979-81 so ravaged our community that we have been unable to speak of them in the years since. The arrest and conviction of Williams for the murders of two adults, and the subsequent closing of the children’s cases, was neither balm nor tincture. Rather, it was just a plaster cast, ensuring that the fractured bones of our community would never properly mend.
Re-examining this case will cause great pain to Atlanta, the city of my birth, the place where my family still lives. I don’t anticipate that this will be easy. Tempers will flare, as will old rivalries and grudges. But as we know, the only way to repair a bone badly set is to break it again, and then set it right.

About TayariJones

Author of SILVER SPARROW, LEAVING ATLANTA, and THE UNTELLING.
This entry was posted in The Writing Life. Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to More on the Atlanta Child Murders

  1. Willie Mink says:

    Thanks for reposting it so I didn’t hafta register at the AJC (so annoying).

  2. Tinesha says:

    As I read this I had butterflies in my stomach (well not butterflies but something like them moving around and setting my belly uneasy) – I grew up in Rhode Island and remember watching the movie about this on television. Don’t know why, but that movie was so hauntingly real for me – I mean why wouldn’t it be – I was black and I was a child. At the same time I thought of Atlanta as being in another country – in my distance I hoped I was safe. These days it is so hard to connect the history of those murders in Atlanta with the Atlanta we know today (black mecca). I have not read your book, but after reading your blog it is on my list of must reads. I thank you for writing a story about this – for daring us to remember that place in time. – oh and I love this article.

  3. CoCo Harris-Ogugua says:

    Tayari,
    Great commentary. I especailly appreciated your taking us down your memory lane. As a fellow Atlanta schoolmate during that time, I clearly associate that as my first memory of real Fear.
    You were cleverly aware of the fact that reopening the case may be very sensitive for many of us, while being open to the possibilities of what this could ultimatley mean for us all. You say it so well with your closing sentence:
    “But as we know, the only way to repair a bone badly set is to break it again, and then set it right.”
    Thanks,
    CoCo

  4. Syria says:

    I think we can all relate to this on some level because we hear about violence against children seemingly everyday. I agree with your mom about Supervision. We screen folks very closely and arrange play dates with children of other trusted adults.
    (I also remember when a certain person was late arriving in Atlanta and didn’t call. Belated apologies!)

  5. Kenya says:

    Tayari you are so right. I have read books, watched movies, documentaries and I have researched the FBI files through the FOI act pertaining to these cases. I believe it was a gross miscarriage of justice Wayne Williams sitting in prison for crimes he wasn’t even formally charged with let alone committed. I am so relieved Louis Graham is opening these cases. Hopefully he will uncover the ugly truth so Atlanta can adress it’s problems and begin the healing.

  6. Raquel says:

    I had the pleasure of meeting Tayari approimately a month ago at a cookout that she hosted. The menu was very eclectic. We had everything from cornish hens, apple and ginger salad, blackbean dip to macaroni and cheese and collard greens. Being the Georgia Women that we are, Tayari prepared the macaroni and cheese and I brought the collard greens. It was during this meeting that Tayari gave me a copy of “Leaving Atlanta”. I began reading the book as I traveled to Georgia for Father’s Day. I am so touched by her depiction of the lives of the children. I was a seventh grader, living in Dry Branch, Georgia in 1979. Dry Branch is approximately 2 hours South East of Atlanta and 5 miles east of Macon. I remember feeling that I was somewhat safe but not free from harm.
    Tayari, thank so much for writing this book and welcoming me into your home.
    A fellow Georgia Peach,
    Raquel

  7. I’m a full-time poet/spoken word artist. I recently released my third cd and I’m now starting to work on material for my second book and fourth cd that will be under the same title. One of the poems will be dedicated to the children murdered. If you can help me in getting the 29 names known that would help. Be blessed.
    Peace & Faith,
    Rebecca “Butterfly” Vaughns

  8. Patrice Hardy says:

    I was a youngster during this summer of terror and was not allowed to visit my mother during this time for fear by my grandmother and mom that my sister and myself would be in danger. After seeing the scene in the film where the young girl is taken from her bed, I couldn’t sleep in my bed for many nights. The idea of someone coming in her home and selecting her for execution was random and frightening. Thanks for the heads up. I hope this case is finally solved and resolved for those persons affected…. and isn’t that all of you.

  9. Patrick says:

    Having read everything on crimelibrary.com and a few other places, I have to wonder one thing: were children continued to be killed after Williams was arrested? While a “no” does not prove William’s guilt, a “yes” would be pretty definitive of his innocence. Nothing I have seen indicates that they did continue.
    I am not saying that William’s trial was not a joke; it was. But that does not mean that he is innocent. Remember, it wasn’t just that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time: he actively lied about what he was doing on the bridge and where he had been before and has never, to my knowledge, told the truth.
    This is just a different kind of rush to judgement.

  10. Katia Falco says:

    dear Tayari
    don’t you worry the children of Atlanta will not be forgotten.
    could you tell me the title of the movie on this case? Tinesha refers to it.
    Regards
    Katia
    from Sydney
    Australia

  11. Victoria says:

    Having just read your article and your book is on top of my reading list. Thank you for writing this book and for helping the people heal. This is a must read book.

  12. LaTonya says:

    My brother and I watched the movie – haunted and in fear for the children in Atlanta. We were snuggled away in Rockford, Illinois – just an hour and a half from Chicago but the fear hit home with us. Now as a parent, living in the south – my father still says – watch my grandbaby with every fiber in your bones and never forget the murders in Atlanta. This could have happened anywhere and the article and words you speak remind us that we must connect to our children and keep them safe with open communication. Break the bone…I will look for your book soon.

  13. Amanda says:

    Did the murders stop? Yes & no. I just got done reading “The List” by Chet Dettlinger. It is not so much that the murders ‘stopped’ but that they stopped putting them on the list. So of course it looked as if it stopped.
    Also, the list itself doeasn;t really make any sense. How do you go from pre-adolescent males (and only a few females) to a 27 year old convict? Remember the 2 murders that he was tried & convicted for were for 2 adult ex-cons (that doesn’t mean that they deserved it—that is certainly a difference, right?
    There wa salso no rhyme or reason to the slayings, MO was not static (not that it cannot change but this list was ALL over the place) and there was no clear signature. Really the only thing in common with all the vics on the list was that they were black.

  14. Tawana P. says:

    Tayari,
    I am truly moved and touched by your comments. I too watched the movie, The Atlanta City Childer Murders. I was 5 in 1981. I don’t recall when the movie was made but I do recall that after seeing the movie that neither I nor my younger sister could sleep in our own beds for quite some time. Although we lived in Detroit, MI, the distance meant absolutely nothing as we were also young black children. To know that a child could be removed from her own bed, in her sleep, was unreal. However, the murders of children had become all too real. From 1976-1977, we had the Oakland County Child Murders just a few miles away in MI. Because these were white children, boys and girls ranging from ages 10-12, it helped me to realize that no child, no matter the age, sex or race was safe. It was even more disturbing that these happened within a few years apart. This case is unsolved and has recently been reopened.
    I want to commend you for this article, your book and learning to live with your experience. I also grew up in fear and now that I have a 10 year old son, I am glued to the sex offender website, television, etc. to make sure that I am informed enough to inform my child. As I am typing this to you, I am watching, “Who Killed Atlanta’s Children” created in 2000. This film depicts most of the theories, including copy cats, the Klan, etc. I hope and pray that both the Atlanta City and Okland County murders of innocent children are solved and those responsible are brought to justice.

  15. Caramel says:

    Tayari,
    I was moved by your article on the Atlanta Child Murders. I was only a baby when the first murder occurred, and growing up in Florida, it didn’t change the way black children where being treated down here, either. During that time, my father wouldn’t even let my older brother go outside our home sometimes…it was just too risky. When I got older, I too saw the Atlanta Child Murders movie, and it’s really taken me so long to figure see how justice was served back then, and now. I am just sorry that you had to live with this after so many years.

  16. Tia says:

    Hello to the host and posters,
    I have had an interest in this case ever since coming to Atlanta while a Junior in high school to explore various college campuses. (From Chicago) I recall us all wearing little green ribbons attached somewhere on us in memory of the victims. We had no idea of the danger that lurked within the city. I also have had “leaving Atlanta” in my book collection for some years now but I have yet to read it. I am going to place it up front to read ASAP.I have no doubt that Tayari put her soul into the book and it will reveal itself during the reading.I haven’t seen any references made about the outcome of the “reopening” of the few or so cases that are being reviewed. Does anyone know where this material can be found? It could be that since it is an active investigation it can’t be discussed right now. To all of you that were so profoundly affected by these murders, I pray for you. As far as Wayne Williams is concerned, there is a comprehensive collection of material displayed via multimedia on a web site created and maintained by William Scarbrough. This man took five years of his life, time and money to reinvestigate the cases. He has laid out his work professionally at this site:
    http://www.williamscarbrough.com/html/atlanta_murders.htm
    Wayne Williams may be guilty of something; I’m just not convinced it’s most these murders. There are too many inconsistencies that cannot be overlooked. While the fiber evidence seems to be the most critical evidence against him, this very well could have been planted. I don’t see him overpowering two “street smart” males and killing them, then lift their dead weight out of his car and “toss” them into a river. He’s certainly not your average bear, but I think his overzealous personality bit off more than it could chew. God willing, if he is in fact innocent, shine down a light into what has been a very dark and frightful journey.

  17. Alice says:

    Hello,
    I’ve just come across this case on a UK, documentary channel & my first impression before the case was outlined, was “how strange that I’ve never ever heard about this case of 30 murders, mainly children”?
    As I havent studied this case & had never heard about it until half an hour ago, I can only set out what key features seemed to be to me, from this one hour UK documentry.
    28 children & 2 Adults were added to a list of those murdered by a serial killer/s over 2 years. Many of the children killed were street children, some of whom were known to have been sexually abused by those mentioned below, or at the very least visited the abode where the sexual abuse of unfortanate children was known to be taking place.
    Others were children from loving families going about errands etc, 1 was a 20 yr old who looked extremely young for his age, while most were between 9 – 13 yrs old, 2 were adults.
    Originally there were 3 main suspects who were part of a pheodophile ring known to prey on vunrable street children, 2 of these 3 are now dead.
    As well as the above the KKK were recorded, claiming they were going to kill black children or boys in Atlanta to instigate racial unrest, while on top of this they were also looking for weapons & politically it was tense with Atlanta’s first black Mayor or Council leader. Who also claimed it was only when the FBI were brought in, that he had anyone that would talk to him about it in a friendly manner. Their was alot of polital pressure, people wanted answers. Deputy President George Bush came & visited Atlanta.
    Then a few weeks/days later Williams, (who was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time or was used as a scape goat), was accused of killing the 2 adults & was later found guilty of the 2 adult murders while the the murders of children,were closed without answers for the families etc & with the assumption that the murderer, had been found but as he would only be given the same life sentence, their was no point in re trying him. None of the families who’s sons were victims who were shown on this documentary believed Williams killed there child.
    While the evidence from this documentry, showed it seems more than unlikely that if Williams was involved at all he would not physically have been strong enough as the small meak man he is was, to have disposed of the adult body in the manner he was accussed of alone.
    It seems unlikely that these killings were by one person or even one group & that the most likely scenario is that the street children were killed by the above pheadophile ring & possibly others, while the children going about their errands etc were possibly killed by KKK, who may well have been Police Officers & the 2 adults by a person or persons uknown.
    As another poster says, murder didn’t stop. Street children were still being abused & murdered & other murders did take place, but the assumption I made from this documentary was it was the KKK murders which stopped, thus making it look like they had stopped.
    Alice, UK.

  18. Alice says:

    Hello,
    I’ve just come across this case on a UK, documentary channel & my first impression before the case was outlined, was “how strange that I’ve never ever heard about this case of 30 murders, mainly children”?
    As I havent studied this case & had never heard about it until half an hour ago, I can only set out what key features seemed to be to me, from this one hour UK documentry.
    28 children & 2 Adults were added to a list of those murdered by a serial killer/s over 2 years. Many of the children killed were street children, some of whom were known to have been sexually abused by those mentioned below, or at the very least visited the abode where the sexual abuse of unfortanate children was known to be taking place.
    Others were children from loving families going about errands etc, 1 was a 20 yr old who looked extremely young for his age, while most were between 9 – 13 yrs old, 2 were adults.
    Originally there were 3 main suspects who were part of a pheodophile ring known to prey on vunrable street children, 2 of these 3 are now dead.
    As well as the above the KKK were recorded, claiming they were going to kill black children or boys in Atlanta to instigate racial unrest, while on top of this they were also looking for weapons & politically it was tense with Atlanta’s first black Mayor or Council leader. Who also claimed it was only when the FBI were brought in, that he had anyone that would talk to him about it in a friendly manner. Their was alot of polital pressure, people wanted answers. Deputy President George Bush came & visited Atlanta.
    Then a few weeks/days later Williams, (who was probably in the wrong place at the wrong time or was used as a scape goat), was accused of killing the 2 adults & was later found guilty of the 2 adult murders while the the murders of children,were closed without answers for the families etc & with the assumption that the murderer, had been found but as he would only be given the same life sentence, their was no point in re trying him. None of the families who’s sons were victims who were shown on this documentary believed Williams killed there child.
    While the evidence from this documentry, showed it seems more than unlikely that if Williams was involved at all he would not physically have been strong enough as the small meak man he is was, to have disposed of the adult body in the manner he was accussed of alone.
    It seems unlikely that these killings were by one person or even one group & that the most likely scenario is that the street children were killed by the above pheadophile ring & possibly others, while the children going about their errands etc were possibly killed by KKK, who may well have been Police Officers & the 2 adults by a person or persons uknown.
    As another poster says, murder didn’t stop. Street children were still being abused & murdered & other murders did take place, but the assumption I made from this documentary was it was the KKK murders which stopped, thus making it look like they had stopped.
    Alice, UK.

  19. Tracy says:

    I have lived in Atlanta my entire life I was 9 years old in 1979 when this case broke. I lived a block or two from government housing in Decatur where all my friends lived. We were all ‘unkempt’ and left to roam. During this period all the kids were telling stories about how their friends disappeared. Everyone was talking about it. I was at school one day when one of the kids in the class mentioned that a friend said he told his running mates the night before that he knew who was killing the people and that he was going to go find him and tell people. He was one of the last victims.
    Atlanta in my experience was not unlike Training Day, the movie. We saw violence every day. Kids thrown down stairs, knife fights, gang riots, shootings, most of it never made the news. We heard every day “_ murders in Decatur today.”… Decatur mailing address is broad but always was in the news for murders. Every night we would hear the public service announcements stating “Its 7 o’clock do you know where your children are?”
    We were witnesses to all sorts of crimes, all of us… We were playing in the creek one afternoon and a woman was stoned to death in the same creek while we were playing only 250 feet from where we stood.
    It was our life… I would be lying if I said that it has not affected me.
    But, the good times and friends I had there I wouldn’t trade for any of the negative experiences.
    I will definitely read your book.

  20. bestep111175 says:

    My name is Brigid I was between the ages of 4 1/2 and 5 1/2 years old when the killings had taken place.At the time I was living in Portsmouth Va. This summer I plan to take a trip back to house in Portsmouth I grew up in. This is the first time after all these years that I have actually wanted to find some closure. I have blocked out that part of my life. Im sure you wonder why would I need closure. As a young child during that period I would wake up screaming because I would see another child being killed before it happened. All I remember was when they convicted a man I kept telling my mom that they got the wrong man.The guy who did it was connected with a church and something to do with a janitor. Not exactly sure how they were connected. Of course back in those days to be able to see something happen before it did was just not something you went telling everyone. I wish I could help. Because I have blocked it out so many years, I dont remember much. I know the closure to the parents and the children of that time and place is far deeper than the closure im looking for. I just hope and pray we find it.Most of all I pray for the closure to those that were killed.

  21. Edwin says:

    Even though i am an hispanic/italian male from connecticut, and was 20-21 at the time of the murders. I can still remember the news broadcasts and eventually the arrest of mr. williams . I can remember thinking at that time, and ever since.”that this man, has nothing to do with the child murders”
    I am so glad that these cases are being re-opened. maybe now there will be some measure of truth that will let the innocent children that died so long ago finally rest in peace.

  22. CJ Duel says:

    I turned 7 the summer of 1979. Even though I lived over a thousand miles from Atlanta (Solen, North Dakota on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation), I can clearly remember watching the news every day before being shuttled off to school. I had been raped early in the summer and had already decided that the world was not safe, but seeing those faces of innocent children lost to some unknown monster day after day, with no end in sight…it made safety seem an impossibility. Growing up on a reservation, of mixed race, I know a little about being poor, invisible and forgotten. Logical or not, I found it entirely too easy to picture “Indian” or “native” kids disappearing and being killed and exactly the same lack of reaction by the powers that be. Society as a whole fails to take responsibility for the monstrosities that were visited upon the Atlanta area for those 2 1/2 years. I feel the same as I do now, as an adult, when I see disappearances and/or murders of white women and children plastered all over the news, seemingly a new case each day and I wonder…how many minorities have gone missing or have been found dead that no one even knows about. Except for their families. I can sympathize with the families of these publicized victims as I would for anyone who loses a loved one. But I cannot help but ponder how many more of the poor, invisible, forgotten have been taken from us without even a whimper, much less the cry of outrage that surrounds crimes like the Elizabeth Smart case, or the Natalee Holloway case, or JonBenet Ramsey, and on and on and on…
    My personal belief, even as a child, when Wayne Williams was arrested, tried and convicted was that he was not the serial killer they were looking for. He was someone who was an easy patsy. Heck, they only convicted him on 2 murders, neither of them of children, and then want the other murdered children to simply fade away into oblivion.
    I just wanted to add my voice as one who will not forget those children and the way they died and whose deaths remain unanswered for and unavenged.
    Maybe with more questions being asked, more sophisticated DNA testing available, more sites like this one, maybe, just maybe, someday the truth will be known in full.
    Cade Duel Gullickson
    Remember the heroes 9-11-01

  23. B.L. Dillard says:

    yeah i remember being terrified during this time even though i was living in n.c. i was around the age of the murdered children and felt like the killer would walk into my room at any given time. amazing! i eventually went to morehouse and am pretty familiar with the memorial drive area where some of the victims were murdered. does anyone know how i can get my hand on a copy of the t.v. documentary?

  24. Theresa jones says:

    I’ll never forget the pain and fear i felt when the atlanta child murders were happening. i was a nine year old 4th grade student living in St.louis MO. I’ll never forget when jet magazine published a report on the slayings the cover of the magazine was filled with pictures of black kids(mostly male) who were unfortunante victims. I’m 38 years old and i still can’t let go of this unpleasant piece of history that haunts me till this day. esp knowing the real killer or killers are still out here. Wayne williams did not kill those kids, mas a matter of fact he was found guilty of killing two adults, after that conviction they closed the case. How were they able to do that? Even though i lived in St.louis, the faces i saw on that jet magazine cover looked like some of my classmates. the city of atlanta needs closure, and so do all the black kids who remember how terrifying those 3 years were.

  25. Chris M says:

    In the summer of 1980 I was 10 years old. My grandparents lived off Confederate Ave, near Moreland Ave. Since my mother worked nights, I spent a lot of time at their house. My grandfather had an old bike, just a frame and gears, really, that I really wanted to ride. he told me if I could get it working, I could have it. So I got it working :) . All I needed was some air in the front tire…that’s where this story get interesting.
    At that time, there was a shopping center on Moreland Ave, with a Sunshine department store, a grocery store (I think it was Food Giant), and next to that, a gas station. This shopping center was 3 or 4 blocks from their house. I was ready to ride, except for my flat tire. So I asked my grandfather if it was ok if I took my front wheel to the gas station to get some air. He said ok and to come straight back home. And that wasn’t just pro-forma; if you were around then, you remember the palpable sense of dread in the air in Atlanta that summer. Kids were disappearing right off the streets, and their dead bodies would wash up in the Chattahoochee, or their bones would be found months later in a deserted lot. But, hey, I was 10, I was invincible in my mind, and I was white. All the kids disappearing were black, so I had nothing to fear, right?
    So, off I go on my quest for air. I reach the shopping center parking lot, turn into it to cut across to the gas station, when a faded green car approaches (I want to say it was a Chevy Impala, but Im not certain…it was one of those really long big American cars from the late 60′s or early 70′s).
    The driver was an older white male. He asked me if I needed a ride. Knowing what was going on in Atlanta, I say “No thanks”, never slowing down. He keeps driving beside me, keeping pace with me, and insisting that I need a ride. As I reach the end of the parking lot, he pulls his car in front of me, as if to block my way. I say to the man “Im not going anywhere with you, now leave me alone”. Its getting pretty scary by this point, so I dart around the back of the shopping center to get away from him. As Im congratulating myself for being so clever, I see his car turn the corner at the other end of the shopping center, driving directly toward me. I run behind a dumpster and crouch down to hide, now scared out of my little 10-year old mind. This guy must have driven around and around that shopping center for 20 mins, obviously looking for me, since he would slow to a crawl in the rear of the shopping center and was looking around the whole time. Finally, a few minutes go by and I dont see him. I make myself count to 500, vowing to run home as fast as possible if I dont see that car again when I get to 500.
    I finally work up the nerve to come from behind the dumpster, and seeing the coast was clear, rasn home as fast as I could. Of course, in all the excitement, I forgot to take the wheel with me, but Im sure not going back to get it at that point! I made it back to my grandparents’ house and never said a word to anyone about what had happened, or almost happened. I have agonized over that silence for years.
    Was that the “real” Atlanta Child Murderer? I have no idea. But it has haunted me for years that I was almost abducted during that time, and I never told anyone. If I had told someone, would it have mattered? Would it have saved the life of a later victim? I dont know, but the thoughts like that have eaten away at me.
    The closest I came to saying something, before now, was when they announced the Wayne Williams verdict and I said, almost to myself but loud enough so my mother heard, “That’s the wrong guy; he didnt do it”. She of course wanted to know why I said that, but I just said I didnt think the killer was black. All I know for sure is that they convicted Wayne Williams of 2 murders, both adults, on the flimsiest of evidence, and then decided he WAS the Child Murderer, and closed the rest of the cases.
    30 years later, I still dont believe Wayne Williams was the one responsible, and I pray I didnt have a brush with the “real” killer