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You've heard about him in true crime podcasts and seen him in 'Mindhunter', but what's the real story behind this infamous serial killer from Atlanta?

Is the Atlanta Child Murders the most horrifying serial killer story ever?

It’s been covered in documentaries and talked about in podcasts, but the mystery surrounding the murder that took place in Atlanta is still fresh in everyone’s head. The series of murders rocked the Atlanta metro area and terrified locals for several years. 

We hate to compare serial killer cases because every one of them is horrific, but often, some cases get more attention than others. Why are Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer so well-known for their murders, but not the Atlanta Child Murders serial killer? Are the Atlanta Child Murder cases the most horrifying of them all when it comes down to it? 

Warning: content contains subjects of murder involving children

What happened

Between 1979 and 1981, twenty-nine murders were committed, mainly targeting young boys in the black community and even some small children. Each boy disappeared in various ways, but most were found days, weeks, and even months later in remote or wooded areas. 

After two years of disappearances and the community living in fear, a man named Wayne Williams was captured & arrested. He was initially picked up for the murder of two young men in Atlanta, but it was soon discovered his insidious ways were linked to the gruesome Atlanta Child Murders. 

Williams was an Atlanta native who was just twenty-three years old at the time of his arrest. He was tried & convicted for the two adult murders and is serving two consecutive life sentences at Telfair State Prison in Georgia. 

Even though law enforcement officials suspect Williams is behind the twenty-nine killings that happened all those years ago, there has been no further evidence showing Williams is the culprit. 

Later developments in the case

In 1986, two journalists named Robert Keating and Barry Michael Cooper reported the Georgia Bureau of Investigation had other leads on the killings. Allegedly, they were conducting a secret investigation into potential involvement with the Ku Klux Klan crimes in the area.

Police discovered the group might have been involved in the murder of Lubie Geter and fourteen other boys in the area. Again, allegedly, a family of Klansmembers living on the outskirts of Atlanta was hoping the crimes would ignite a race war in Atlanta proper.

Fast-forward to 2004 when Louis Graham, the DeKalb County Police Chief, reopened investigations into five DeKalb County victims. Five young boys went missing when Wayne Williams was caught & captured, but Graham doubted Williams had anything to do with them. 

After Graham resigned and was replaced by acting chief Nick Marinelli, the Atlanta Child Murders case was closed again. 

 

Criminal profilers

Criminal profiler John E. Douglas, who Jonathan Groff would later play in the true-crime series Mindhunter, mentioned he thought Wayne Williams was guilty of many of the child killings, but not all of them. 

Douglas has stated he thinks law enforcement officials know who the other killers are but haven’t shared that with the public.

Where to listen & watch

The Atlanta City Murders is a very familiar case in the true-crime world and covered on several platforms. For example, a series called Mindhunter premiered as a Netflix Original in 2017 and covered Wayne Williams (Christopher Livingston) before he was named a suspect in real life. He can be seen running up to a particular crime scene while taking photos. 

A docuseries named Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children offers a never-before-seen look at the killings of the children and young adults in the Atlanta area and provides flashbacks of the terror reigning throughout the city. 

Tenderfoot TV & HowStuffWorks presented Atlanta Monster, a multiple-part podcast series that walks listeners through the events from start to finish if you’re into true-crime podcasts. Investigative journalist Payne Lindsey narrates each episode. 

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