From 1979 to 1981, a serial killer targeting black communities in Atlanta, Georgia, kidnapped and brutally murdered at least 28 children between the ages of 7 and 17.
Dubbed the “Atlanta Child Murders” or “ATKID” by the FBI, the case eventually went cold, though investigators believed a man named Wayne Williams was responsible for several of the killings. ATKID was recently re-examined in a New York Times feature and in the true-crime podcast Atlanta Monster. Now, it’s being featured heavily in season 2 of Netflix’s original series Mindhunter, due out August 16.
To this day, Williams maintains his innocence, and remains in prison on separate murder charges. Here’s everything you need to know about the accused killer.
In 1982, Williams was convicted of killing two adults
Williams, a then 23-year-old freelance photographer and self-described music promoter, was pulled over by police near a local bridge in 1981 after they heard a loud splash in the water.
The body of 28-year-old Nathaniel Cater was found downstream a few days later, and police arrested Williams after dog hairs and fibers found in his parents’ home matched those found on Cater and also on another 21-year-old murder victim named Jimmy Ray Payne.
One year later, he was convicted of the murders of Cater and Payne, and sentenced to two life sentences in prison.
Investigators believe he is also responsible for many of the child murders in Atlanta
During his trial, prosecutors introduced evidence that allegedly linked Williams to many of the child victim cases in ATKID through dog hair, carpet, and bedspread fibers—but he was never tried or convicted of killing any of the children.
However, some families don’t believe Williams is the killer
Catherine Leach, mother of 13-year-old ATKID victim Curtis Walker, says Williams is not behind her son’s death. Instead, she believes the Ku Klux Klan is responsible for the killings, a sentiment shared by many other parents of victims.
“They had to hurry up and blame [the child murders] on somebody because the city was fixing to go haywire,” Leach told People. The magazine reports that retired FBI agent Jim Procopio disputes this posit, because the killer would have had to “blend” into the black community, in order to abduct the children.
A new investigation has been opened
In March 2019, the case was reopened, and evidence gathered by Atlanta’s police department will be retested using new DNA technology. In a news conference, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said, “It may be there is nothing left to be tested. But I do think history will judge us by our actions and we will be able to say we tried.”
Bottoms acknowledges that there is evidence linking Williams to many of the victims, but says the child cases should be reexamined to determine the truth once and for all.
In response, Williams released this response through the Dewayne Hendrix of the Wayne Williams Freedom Project: “I stand fully ready and willing to cooperate with any renewed investigation to find the truth on what happened with the purpose of straightening up any lies and misconceptions of my unjust convictions.”
Williams remains in jail
According to The New York Times, he resides in a state prison “about three hours south of Atlanta and has steadfastly denied that he is a killer.”