The Netflix original series “Mindhunter” is based on the true work of FBI agent John Douglas, who helped revolutionize law enforcement’s view on criminal psychology and profiling.
With the recent release of the second season, a series of disturbing unsolved cases, known as the “Atlanta Child Murders,” have been brought back into the limelight.
Between 1979 and 1981, approximately 29 people in and around Atlanta — most of whom were young, black boys — went missing and were later found dead.
According to the FBI Vault, “a majority of the killings shared common details,” leading investigators to believe that the same person was responsible for them.
Wayne Bertram Williams, a freelance photographer and music promoter, was convicted of the murders of Nathaniel Cater, 27, and Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, and is serving two life sentences as a result.
The cases of the Atlanta Child Murders were closed following Williams’ conviction even though 28 of the cases remained unsolved and Williams has since been associated with 20 of the 29 unsolved cases despite only being convicted with the murders of Cater and Payne.
Williams continues to claim his innocence in all cases, both solved and unsolved. After he went to jail, however, the killings stopped.
Many families of the victims also did not accept law enforcement’s assumptions that Williams was responsible for the murders; they believed that it was a member of the Ku Klux Klan, who still had a large influence in the city at the time.
According to People, retired agent Jim Procopio doesn’t believe that the murderer was from the KKK because it would’ve been harder for one of them to “blend in” to the mostly-black community.
In March 2019, almost 40 years after the haunting string of murders began, the city of Atlanta mayor, Keisha Bottoms, announced that some of the cases would be reopened so local law enforcement could re-examine evidence that had been gathered — evidence like DNA samples, pieces of cloth and carpet fibers.
“It may be there is nothing left to be tested,” Bottoms said during a Mar. 21 news conference. “But I do think history will judge us by our actions and we will be able to say we tried.”
The Atlanta Police Department, the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation will all be involved in the new investigation of the cases.
APD also set up a new telephone line to receive information about the cases.
“We have one goal and it is to bring closure to these cases and to be able to look at these families who were never given a definitive answer and say, ‘We did everything we could possibly do on your child’s case,’” Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said.
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