Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered Children

 Atlanta Children Murders:
From 1979 to 1981, 29 young African Americans disappeared in Atlanta, Georgia. Twenty-eight were found dead. The murders terrified the city and the rest of the country supported and sympathized. Green ribbons, "symbolizing life," and green-lettered buttons reading, "SAVE THE CHILDREN," appeared everywhere.
Vice President George BUSH took a trip to Atlanta to show national concern. President Ronald REAGAN authorized a $1.5 million grant to aid the investigation. Huge rewards were offered for any information leading to the capture of the killer(s). Celebrities (like Frank SINATRA, Sammy DAVIS, Jr.) gave money to pay for the investigation and aid to the families of the victims. Thousands of letters containing checks, bills, and coins poured into Atlanta.
The manhunt was plagued by bickering between local and federal investigators. FBI Director William H. WEBSTER stirred local feelings when he proclaimed 4 of the cases, apparently unrelated to the others, solved. The next day a bureau agent in Macon, Georgia claimed the 4 children had been murdered by their parents. An angry public demanded to know why no arrests had been made. Atlanta Mayor Maynard JACKSON said this was because there was not enough evidence to warrant an arrest. He complained the FBI had undermined the confidence of the public in the investigation.
A large number of the murders were so similar they appeared to have been committed by the same person(s). Nineteen of the 28 were believed to have died from strangulation or other forms of asphyxiation. Nine were found nude, or almost nude, in rivers. More than 12 had traces of similar fibers (a blanket or carpet) on their bodies. Evidence of gog hair was also found on a number of the victims.
Many suspects, some found far away from Atlanta, were questioned without success. Then, on 3 June 1981, 23-year-old Wayne B. WILLIAMS (who had worked as a TV cameraman and a part-time talent scout and booking agent) was ordered by FBI agents to come downtown for questioning. After being held for 12 hours he was released due to lack of evidence. Privately, however, the FBI implied WILLIAMS was a definite suspect.
Following his release, a search warrant was obtained for WILLIAMS' home. Authorities confiscated a yellow blanket, a purple robe, samples of dog hair, and fibers from a bedspread and carpet.
WILLIAMS first caught the attention of police when officers staking out a bridge across the Chattahoochee River at 3AM on 22 May 1981 stopped WILLIAMS car after hearing a loud splash in the water. According to the police, when asked if he had thrown anything into the river, WILLIAMS said he had dumped some garbage. Later, he would claim he told them he threw nothing into the river. Two days later, the body of 27-year-old Nathaniel CATER floated to shore about a mile downstream from the bridge, within 500 yards of where the body of 21-year-old Jimmy Ray PAYNE had been found a month earlier.
On 21 June 1981 WILLIAMS was arrested and charged with murdering CATER. An Atlanta grand jury indicted him on 17 July for the murders of both CATER and PAYNE. The authorities acted as though several of the cases had been solved with WILLIAMS arrest and indictment. In August, WILLIAMS plead not guilty to the charges.
By September 1981, when the new school year started, there had been no further unaccountable murders of young African Americans.
On 27 February 1982, WILLIAMS was convicted of the 2 murders and sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children case pertains to a series of murders committed in Atlanta, Georgia from 1979-1981 during which 29 African-American children and young adults were killed. In 1981 police arrested Wayne Bertram Williams, and in 1982 Williams was found guilty of two of the 29 murders. The remaining murders were closed, although the case Williams' guilt was opened in 2005, and re closed in 2006. In 2007 a DNA test was done on evidence from the case but results were considered inconclusive, and Williams' sentence was not changed.  
View of jurors in the Missing and Murdered Children case of Wayne Williams inspecting the river bank where Williams was said to have turned around before re-crossing the James Jackson Parkway/South Cobb Drive bridge over the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta, Georgia.
Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this terrible time in Atlanta’s history
The cornerstone of the Chattahoochee bridge on
South Cobb Drive says 1943. The white structure behind the cornerstone is a replacement bridge, that is being constructed in 2009.