“It’s 10 p.m., do you know where your children are,” Georgia TV broadcast stations asked at the end of the 1970s. The 1979–1981 Atlanta Child Murders claimed the lives of at least 28 children, adolescents, and adults. Twenty-three-year old Atlanta native Wayne Williams was arrested and convicted for two of the adult murders during the two-year spree. He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Officials will re-evaluate evidence in the Atlanta Child Murders case, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced on Thursday, March 21. The Atlanta Police Department will re-test 22 murder cases which which have been deemed cold cases since 1981. The cases are the subject of the upcoming documentary The Atlanta Child Murders, which premieres Saturday, March 23 on Investigation Discovery.
“It would certainly be in order for us to look once again at evidence that the city of Atlanta has in its possession,” Mayor Bottoms, who was 9 when the murders began, said in a statement. “To once again take a fresh look at these cases and 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 in a situation like this- to the victims’ families. To let them know that we have done all that we can do…to make sure their memories are not forgotten, and in the truest sense of the word to let the world know that black lives do matter.”
The Atlanta Child Murders, produced by famed executive producer Will Packer, delves into the many theories surrounding this decades-old case, sparking new attention on the city of Atlanta and the conviction of Wayne Williams. In 1981 Williams was convicted of the murders of two adults in the Atlanta area. The judge allowed the prosecution to attribute ten additional victims to him, essentially putting Williams on trial for the entire Atlanta Child Murders case. To date a killer has never been tried for all 29 murders.
The re-examination will focus on technological advances in testing DNA evidence since the incidents occurred. “As law enforcement, we have an obligation to exhaust every conceivable avenue of investigation and make every effort to make sure these families receive closure,” Police Chief Erica Shields said in a statement.
“We are thrilled that the Atlanta Police Department has decided to reexamine these cases, and we hope this moves the city one step closer to finding the closure that these families so desperately need and deserve,” Henry Schleiff, Group President of Investigation Discovery, Travel Channel, American Heroes Channel, and Destination America, said in a statement.
The Atlanta Child Murders showcases the theories surrounding this historic case. Tracing these tragedies from start to finish, the documentary details the exhaustive investigations behind these killings, sharing how the impact of these cases still resonate in Atlanta, as well as across the nation.
The Atlanta Child Murders premieres Saturday, March 23 on Investigation Discovery.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.