Netflix’s hit true-crime series Mindhunter has blown up in popularity for delving into the minds of some of the most terrifying serial killers in history. Fans can expect to see even more dark murderers' psyches explored in season two—including that of Wayne Williams, a man who was convicted of the Atlanta Child Murders that occurred in the late '70s and early '80s.
It’s been a minute since Williams' name dominated headlines, so if you'd never heard of him before watching this season, here’s everything you need to know about him—and the crimes he was accused of committing.
What were the Atlanta Child Murders?
Between 1979 and 1981 in Atlanta, 29 African American children, teens, and young adults (mostly boys) were kidnapped and murdered, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Authorities started linking the killings together after discovering they had several details in common.
The children were all between the ages of seven and 17, according to The New York Times. (Although two of the twenty-nine cases were young adults, not children.) They were also mostly from low-income areas of Atlanta.
But perhaps the most chilling commonality of the victims was that they simply vanished while doing ordinary things, like going to see a movie or ice skating.
The children’s bodies surfaced weeks, or sometimes even months, later in a river, under a bridge, or behind a dumpster. Terrified parents refused to let their children play outside. Some even took their kids out of school, the Times reported, while city officials imposed a curfew.
The FBI eventually became involved, along with several other government agencies.
Who is Wayne Williams?
In the early '80s, Wayne Williams was a 23-year-old freelance photographer who also described himself as a music promoter, per People.
He became a suspect in the murders when a surveillance team pulled him over near a bridge in the early hours of May 22, 1981, after hearing a loud splash. (Officials had been staking out bridges because some of the bodies had been found in the Chattahoochee River.) Days later, a body was found in the river not far from where another one had been found, according to The Times.
Investigators eventually linked hairs and carpet fibers on the bodies of two of the victims to those in Williams' house and car, The Times reported. Williams was convicted in February 1982 for the murders of two adults. After the trial, law-enforcement officials linked Williams to 22 of the other murders, but he was never actually tried for the crimes. (Five of the remaining murder cases were left open.)
There have also been new allegations (as of this year) against Williams by several men who say he tried to molest them when they were kids, per the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.
Where is Wayne Williams now?
Today, Williams is 60 years old and serving two life sentences in prison. However, he maintains his innocence in the Atlanta Child Murders.
And as it turns out, Williams may not be the only person who thinks so. Atlanta police announced in March 2019 that they would be reopening the case (how fascinating!), and Williams released a statement, reiterating that he is innocent of any crime.
"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," he said in a statement read in a news conference, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Williams reportedly sends families of the victims Christmas cards and letters declaring his innocence, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, and some families say that they don’t think Williams killed their children.
Hopefully, with the reinvestigation, the world will get some answers. Until then, you might as well get your true-crime fix with the new season of Mindhunter, premiering this Friday, August 16, on Netflix.
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