Atlanta Child Murders: DNA Implicates Wayne Williams In Killing Case


One of the great questions troubling civil rights observers over the years has been whether the justice system got it right in convicting unassuming Wayne Williams in the Atlanta child killings in the 1980s.

The killings did seem to stop when Williams went to prison, but Williams’ claims of innocence always seemed to many to have a ring of truth, and conspiracy theorists made reasonable and somewhat convincing arguments surrounding the circumstances of Williams’ arrest and conviction.

Thanks to DNA evidence, which has rescued dozens of wrongly accused men in recent years, though, it seems that justice wasn’t blind when it sent Williams to prison.

New results have implicated Williams in the death of 11-year-old murder victim Patrick Baltazar, whose body was found behind an office park in 1981.

The new evidence is presented as part of a CNN special titled “The Atlanta Child Murders” to be broadcast Thursday.

From 1979 to 1981, fear gripped Atlanta as more than 24 black children and young men were killed.

Williams, an aspiring radio deejay, became a suspect, when his car was spotted by police near a murder scene. The alibi he gave police fell apart and then he failed a lie-detector test. Then fibers taken from one of the victims appeared to match those of Williams and his dog.

During the trial, Williams took the stand but became agitated and bickered with prosecutors. He was convicted in 1982 of murdering two people and was sentenced to consecutive life terms.

Despite the DNA testing, it is not 100 percent certain Williams killed Baltazar, but the enhanced testing done today of the hair samples taken from the victim point strongly to Williams being the guilty man.

Its understandable that Sheila Baltazar, the victim’s stepmother, said she believed “without a shadow of a doubt” that Williams was guilty. In the search for closure, it is human nature to point the finger at anyone authorities say is the perpetrator right or wrong.

Williams, 53, for his part, said he never met the boy.

Baltazar was one of the 11 deaths presented to the jury in Williams’ trial. He wasn’t charged in those deaths but was convicted in the murder of two adults whose bodies were found in an Atlanta river in 1981.

Little in the case against Wayne Williams is nice, easy or straightforward – the way we would like to see murder investigations resolved. With all of the evidence presented, it’s hard to see a scenario, where Williams is innocent of all of the killings.

Likewise, its hard to envision Williams as being guilty of all of the murders in the case, which leaves me with the troubling notion that while a guilty man is rightfully in prison, a murderer may have avoided capture all these years.