Wayne Williams Case Study
By Emily Rockwell
Crime and Evidence
This discovery would mark the start of a string of killings lasting 22 months in Atlanta that became known as the Atlanta Child Murders, and it would continue in late September, when Milton Harvey, age 14, was also found dead. The end of 1979 brought two more child victims: Yusef Bell had been strangled, and Angel Lenair was tied to a tree with her hands bound behind her, also strangled.
Conviction and Bias
On June 21, 1981, Williams was arrested, and on February 27, 1982, he was found guilty of the murders of Cater and another man, Jimmy Ray Payne, 21. The conviction was based on physical evidence—matching fibers found on the victims and in Williams’s personal possessions—and eyewitness accounts, and he was sentenced to two consecutive life terms.
Once the trial was over, law-enforcement officials declared their belief that evidence suggested that Williams was most likely linked to another 20 of the 29 deaths the task force had been investigating. DNA sequencing from hairs found on different victims revealed a match to Williams’s own hair, to 98 percent certainty. But that 2 percent doubt was enough to prevent further convictions.
The only possible bias against Williams was his race in this time period