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The Atlanta Child Murders: A Case Study in Fiber Analysis

Who was Wayne Williams?
Wayne Bertram Williams was born on May 27, 1958 and raised in Atlanta’s Dixie Hills neighborhood of Northwest Atlanta to Homer and Faye Williams. Both parents were teachers. Williams graduated from Douglass High school and developed a keen interest in radio and journalism. Eventually he constructed his own carrier-current radio station. He also began hanging out at radio stations WIGO and WAOK where he befriended a number of the announcing crew and began dabbling in becoming a music producer and manager.

Tell me generally about the victims (the 5 W’s).
Who: Edward Smith, Alfred Evans, Milton Harvey, Yusef Bell, Angel Lenair, Jeffery Mathis, Eric Middlebrooks, Chris Richardson, Latonya Wilson, Aaron Wyche, Anthony Carter, Earl Terell, Clifford Jones, Darren Glass, Charles Stephens, Aaron Jackson, Patrick Rogers, Lubie Geter, Terry Pue, Patrick Baltazar, Curtis Walker, Joseph Bell, Timothy Hill, Eddie Duncan, Larry Rogers, Michael Mcintosh, Jimmy Ray Payne, John Porter, Nathaniel Cater,
What: Causes of death between the victims were, asphyxiated, strangulated, shot, bludgeoned to death and stabbed multiple times.
Where: In Atlanta, Georgia, USA.
When: from the summer of 1979 until the spring of 1981.
Why: Unknown.

What did most of the victims have in common?
The age range was similar (children and teens from 7-15 years old and young adults from 21-28) and all of the victims were black.

How and when did police first encounter Williams? What was the outcome of this meeting?
Williams car was stopped by two policeman after they recognized his car next to one of the crime scenes.

What happened two days later?
The nude body of Nathaniel Cater, 27, was found floating downriver a few miles from the bridge where police had seen the suspicious station wagon.

Explain the carpet evidence, both from DuPont and Chevrolet.
Dog hair and fiber evidence recovered from the rear of the vehicle were used in the case against Williams, as identical fibers were found on some of the victims. They matched his dog and the carpet in his parents’ house.

How did probability enter the case?
Probability entered the case as two police officers heard a splash happening in one of the bridges and saw Williams’ car at the same place/time but did not have any concrete evidence that he had been the one that threw the body on the water. The probability that it had been Williams though, was high.

What was the verdict and the sentence?
He was sentenced to two consecutive life terms in Georgia’s Hancock State Prison at Sparta.

In your opinion, was the evidence against Williams conclusive?
No, because the main evidence they used against Williams was carpet fiber and dog hair. In my opinion, the problem is: two people could have the same type of carpet, and the DNA sequence presented in Williams’ dog could belong to every 1 out of 100 dogs, and despite the chances that the strand of hair belonged to Williams’ dog being high, it wasn’t conclusive because there was no way they could prove his dog had been the source of it.

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