Wayne Williams: Atlanta Child Killer Fiber Forensics Study

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  • Topic: Wayne Williams, Microscope, Atlanta
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Wayne Bertram Williams: Atlanta Child Killer

Police circulated this photo at the time showing victims of the Atlanta killings. Photo from CNN

Forensic Fiber Analysis Case Study

The best-known, if not the best-reasoned fiber case in American legal history involving fiber evidence issues is the Wayne Williams trial growing out of the famous Atlanta murders of twelve African-American males in 1979-1980. The Williams case involved all of the subjects still in controversy as we enter the world of forensic science and forensic evidence in the 21st century (Kiely 142). Wayne Bertram Williams was born on in Atlanta Georgia on May 27, 1958. Both his parents, Faye and Homer Williams were both school teachers. Wayne graduated from high school with honors and attended Georgia State University for a year. He had dreams of making it big in the music industry and he was running his own business as a talent scout. He earned money by doing odd jobs and selling photos of accidents to the local newspapers.

Wayne William’s Flyer
Provided by: Atlanta’s Missing & Murdered

Between 1979 and 1981, the city of Atlanta had a series of atrocious murders affecting African-American male children in the low income areas of the city. Over 30 children were reported missing in a 22-month period beginning of July 1979, and many children’s lifeless bodies were recovered, in the Chattahoochee River, alongside dirt roads, and in abandoned buildings, with the exception of one that is still missing, (Kiely 143). Most of the children were brutally assaulted and strangled. These murders were known as the Atlanta Child Murders. The FBI became interested when it became more evident that these murders were linked, as the victims were from the same geographical area, most have died from strangulation, and green-yellowish fibers were found on many of the children’s bodies. The police enforcement agency started surveillance over bridges that crossed the Chattahoochee River because a large number of the bodies were ditched in the river. In the morning on Friday, May 22, 1981, two police officers were on a stakeout on the James Jackson Parkway Bridge. One officer, Freddie Jacobs saw a 1970 Chevrolet station wagon slowly cross over the bridge than pull into a liquor store parking lot, turned around, and was crossing back over the bridge. The other police officer, Bob Campbell saw the car lights switched off and the car stop. He then heard a huge splash in the water and saw ripples in the water when the car lights were switched back on and commenced driving across the bridge. At that time the police office radioed the FBI Agent Greg Gilliland, the agent pulled over the station wagon and the driver was Wayne Williams. Williams had some story that he was trying to locate a woman’s house he had an appointment with the next day. The FBI and the police found the address to be non-existent and the phone number was wrong. Two days later, Nathaniel Cater’s body was pulled from the Chattahoochee River. At that time the police were watching Williams while waiting for search warrants for the home and the cars. The FBI had collected an enormous amount of fibers collected as evidence from the deceased victims. The FBI wanted to see if any of the fibers matched Williams’ cars and home. The FBI got search warrants to enter Williams home and vehicles to take and compare the samples removed from the victims. The prosecutor was reluctant to take Williams to trial on fiber evidence alone; he wanted traditional evidence such as fingerprints or an eyewitness. On June 21, 1981, Wayne Williams was arrested and indicted for the murder of two male adults, Jimmy Payne and Nathaniel Cater. The fiber evidence used to connect Wayne Williams to the murders was taken from Williams, his home, and cars by three state’s experts- FBI Agent Harold Deadman, GBI employee Larry Peterson, and Royal Canadian Mounted Police employee Barry...
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