Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announces asked Atlanta Police and other law enforcement agencies to re-examine the evidence collected during the Atlanta child murders in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Four decades after the Atlanta area was rocked by the murder of more than 20 children and young adults, officials announced Thursday they plan to re-test evidence of the cases.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, speaking at a press conference, said that the technology has changed “significantly” since the murders and was finally able to families of the unsolved murders that a definitive answer to who is behind the slaughter of their children.
“It may be, there is nothing more to be tested,” Bottom told reporters. “But I think history will judge us by our actions and we can say that we tried.”
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A total of 29 people who are all black, most of the boys were killed in the Atlanta area between 1979 and 1981. The man suspected in the murders, Wayne Williams was only convicted for the killing of two men.
Williams, who is black, was convicted in 1982 and is serving a life sentence in connection with the two murders. The authorities said that animal and other fibers linked Williams to two murders based on the technology at the time of the trial. He has maintained his innocence, saying he was framed and that Atlanta officials covered up evidence of Ku Klux Klan role in the killings to avoid a race war in the city.
Suspect in Atlanta child murders, Wayne Williams is in the handcuffs, he won a car for his trial in 1982.
Soils stressed that the authorities will not officially re-opening the case, but working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look into “everything we have that is in connection with this case” to give the case a fresh look.
“Even though there is evidence of a connection between Williams up to these 22 children, he was only ever tried on the cases of two murdered adults,” Shields said. “This has led to some of the families of the victims believe that they were never afforded justice.”
The Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said that officials plan to “carefully” go through all the boxes of the evidence.
The effort will involve the Atlanta Police, Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, according to FOX5.
Among the announcement came a week after she announced during her State of the City address that she is looking to form a permanent memorial in honor of the murdered children and adults. Reexamining the evidence also is the harbinger of a documentary about the things that will soon air on the Investigation Discovery Channel, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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The chief said that officials plan to “carefully” go through all the boxes of the evidence to see if there is something that can be tested or if there is possible evidence that was never tested because the technology did not exist at the time.
“The fact that I had to work to find out where the evidence is indicative that no one has gone through it extensively,” Shields told reporters. “We need to extensively go through it and say, this can be seen as evidence?”
Catherine Leach, whose son Curtis Walker was one of the people killed, said she just wants “some closure.”
District attorney Paul Howard, who had just started with the District Attorney’s Office into the killings, called those years “a very difficult time for our community,” and added, “a lot of heavy hearts still exist in our community.”
Howard added the event for the first time handled by his office, Conviction of the Integrity of the Unit, allowing family members and others to make an application for the review of a case to see if a belief is justified.
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For Catherine Leach, whose son Curtis Walker was one of the people killed, she said that they still have no closure after almost 46 years.
“It seems as if the Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children are forgotten in this city. We want some closure,” she told reporters. “I want to know who killed Curtis. His case is still sitting on the shelf, dusty and rusty.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.