ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Thursday she has asked Atlanta Police and other law enforcement agencies to re-examine evidence collected during the infamous Atlanta Missing and Murdered cases that terrorized the community during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Flanked by Atlanta’s Police Chief, Fulton County’s District Attorney, former law enforcement officers, community leaders, and family members of some of the victims, Mayor Bottoms said she had directed her police department to do this for the victim’s families “to let them know that we have done all we can do to make sure their memories are not forgotten to let the world know in the truest sense that black lives matter.”
The Mayor read the names of the 25 children and 4 adults who were murdered.
While Wayne Williams has served a life sentence since 1981 after his conviction by a Fulton County jury for the murders of 2 adults, the Mayor said it’s time to give all of the cases a fresh look to “determine once and for all if there’s additional evidence that may be tested that may give some peace to the extent that peace can be had…to the victims’ families.”
Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields agreed to this effort is in large part to bring closure to the families.
Chief Shields said, “Even though there is evidence tying Williams to these 22 children, he was only ever tried on the cases of 2 murdered adults. This has caused some of the victims’ families to believe that they were never afforded justice.”
The effort will involve Atlanta Police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.
“The Atlanta Police Department has reached out to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and what we’ve asked is that they look at the evidence that was handed over to them 40 some years ago and they see whether any of it qualifies for further analysis”, Chief Shields said.
District Attorney Paul Howard announced the case will be the first one handled by his office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which will allow family members and others to make an application to review a case to see if a conviction is justified.
Howard, who had just started with the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office at the time of the murders called those years “a very tough time for our community” and added, “many heavy hearts still exist in our community.”
"It did a lot to our psyche because you know everyone was a stranger then," said Walter Jordan, 49, who grew up in southwest Atlanta, and remembers the child murders.
Jordan said his neighborhood was terrorized because some of the victims disappeared and/or their bodies were found just blocks from his childhood home.
"We all had to be in groups, whether getting on the bus, getting off the bus making sure each one of us made it home safe during that time."
The mother of one of the victims told reporters “It’s been almost 46 years, and I still don’t have closure.”
Catherine Leach, whose son Curtis Walker was murdered, said, “It seems like the Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children have been forgotten in this city. We want some closure. I want to know who killed Curtis. His case is still sitting on the shelf, getting dusty and rusty.”
Mayor Bottoms announced at her State of the City address last week that the city will look to form some sort of permanent memorial to honor the murdered children and adults.
In thanking the Mayor, Ms. Leach said, “We need this plaque for our children.”
FOX 5 Senior I-Team Reporter Dale Russell is one of the only working journalists who covered the case. Last year, he talked to the creators of the Atlanta Monster Podcast about his nine weeks covering testimony during Wayne Williams trial in 1982.