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The Prominent Case of Atlanta: Wayne Williams

The Prominent Case of Atlanta: Wayne Williams


Whenever a bizarre or sadistic crime occurs, the general public asks an immediate question of who could commit such an act. The same happened in the case of Wayne Williams. Most extraordinary crimes are astonishing and bewildering at the same time. Therefore, deep understanding of the murderer’s personality is required in order to solve the challenging task of capturing and further prosecution of the delinquent. Research has indicated that the personality of the offender should be considered in a different manner than the modal personality (Hawkins, 2013). In most cases, the crime scene itself reflects the violent personality of a criminal. It has also been proven that the detailed study of the attack can provide particular information that can aid in tracking the unknown offender. In such a manner, the holistic analysis of any crime site should be made in order to draw a clear mental picture of a criminal. It has also been reported that most serial offenders are aware of nonphysical evidence that can be found at the crime scene (Nickell & Fischer, 2013). The crime scene reflects the pathological mindset of an offender and his/her personality becomes a part of the crime scene.

Wayne Bertram Williams was the main suspect in a crime spree in Atlanta, in which numerous children were murdered between 1979 and 1981. Only in1982, after killing two adults he was caught and prosecuted (Fox & Levin, 2014). His conviction allowed the police of Atlanta to solve 23 out of 29 murders of children; the man was found guilty in all episodes. His guilt was disputed by many individuals because they could not believe how such a well-raised person became a killer. Williams, in turn, was vehemently denying all accusations.

This paper proves that there is a clear correlation between the Forensic psychology and the nature of the case. All the victims were young African-Americans; it could only be investigated by the behavioral science methods. This fact, in turn, allowed creating a profile of a possible criminal.

Wayne Williams: Personal Information

Wayne Williams was born in 1958 in Dixie Hills, Atlanta to the family of teachers, Homer and Faye Williams. The environment mostly comprised poor African-American population. Most of his victims had a similar background. Williams was a successful radio disc jockey who ran a radio station from his house. He graduated from a famous Fredrick Douglas High School in Georgia with a degree (Turner, 2013). The man later entered the Georgia State University; however, he dropped his education after one year. Most importantly, Williams was well-known for his role in promoting the local artists. He was not so good in choosing talented musicians; he had to spend huge amounts of money on making the demos of artists of the second rank (Hawkins, 2013). According to the research, Williams spent most of his time and draw income from completing different odd tasks, as well as taking photos of accidents and crime scenes, and selling them to the newsmakers (Fox & Levin, 2014). Evidence shows that his parents spent a lot of resources to finance his projects, but he did not return anything. Eventually, his parents had to declare bankruptcy.

The most surprising issue of his early days was the fact that the man owned a scanner commonly used by the police; he would often listen to the talks of the officers. The man was initially arrested for giving himself out as a police officer in 1976; nevertheless, he was not convicted. Williams was diagnosed as a sociopath since his murders were not planned, and he told no one about them. Moreover, he killed African-American people believing in his white supremacy. It is always surprising how the behavioral science specialists come up with the concepts concerning the suspect. In this case, the  profile suggested that the suspect was an African-American, homosexual man of around 29 years old, who was unable to perform in bed since there were no sexual assaults in his crimes (Hawkins, 2013). Most importantly, the research unit revealed that all the victims had trusted the suspect and could know him. In one word, Wayne Williams’ past featured many aspects and events that had influenced his further behavior and led to becoming a murderer.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sent two prominent officers, Roy Hazelwood and John Douglas in order to carry out an investigation in Atlanta alongside the police. The two gathered all possible details to give insights about the killer by creating a profile. The investigation started in 1980 after the abduction of a seven-year-old child. Generally, the FBI personnel linked several disappearances that shared similar characteristics (Fox & Levin, 2014). They discovered that all the victims were African-American males; they disappeared in full daylight at public places. Their bodies were found in desolate parts of the city (Nickell & Fischer, 2013). The FBI discovered that the murders were not motivated; this fact indicated a serial killer. In May 22 the same year, the investigation made a breakthrough. One of the sectors carrying out the investigation that comprised an FBI agent, a police officer, and few police cadets heard a splash and a car moving across the bridge. They stopped the car and found Wayne Williams in it. At that time, there was neither a probable cause nor direct evidence against him, and the investigators had to let the man free. However, the body was found shortly. It was Nathaniel Cater, an African-American male, who was fished out in the downstream after two days. The suspicion fell on Williams (Davis, 2011). The man was arrested and subjected to several polygraph tests, which he failed. He was convicted of two killings in 1982. Moreover, the accusation in several similar killings was leveled against Williams, based on the hair and fiber analysis alongside the testimonies of the witnesses. The law enforcement authorities decided that they had sufficient evidence that could help them associate Williams with numerous killing episodes in Atlanta (Fox & Levin, 2014).

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Tests were to be done after Patrick Baltazar’s body was found in a wooded slope in 1981. That time, a forensic investigator found two samples of human scalp hair on the shirt of the boy. However, observing the hairs through a microscope was not a matter of science, but only a subjective judgment. Therefore, it was decided to carry out the DNA tests (Hickey, 2012). The test was demanded by the defense lawyers who suggested that the dog hair was found on most of the victims’ bodies and used for evidence. Therefore, the judge concluded that the two samples of scalp hair were to be sent to the laboratory at Quantico, VA for the DNA testing. Consequently, the laboratory report revealed that the hair samples found on Charles’ shirt belonged to Wayne Williams (White, Lester, Gentile, & Rosenbleeth, 2011). Despite several controversies raised by the man claiming that it was not his hair, it was concluded that it was his hair. Baltazar’s stepmother also witnessed against Williams assuring that he killed the boy. Moreover, the dog’s hairs were also taken for the DNA testing after Wayne Williams continued to deny being involved in the killings. When the dog hairs were genetically tested in California in 2007, it was found out that they actually matched the DNA sequence of Williams’ German shepherd. It was explained that the DNA sequence could only be tested for one out of a hundred dogs. Therefore, the scientists regarded the hair and fiber samples to be among the most vital evidences in the case (Turner, 2013).

The offender’s profile was prepared by the investigators with the help of the FBI experts. The experts of the Behavioral Science Unit came to Atlanta in order to assist the local police. After careful examination of all facts, they managed to provide a detailed profile of a serial killer. The local officers were informed that the murder was an African-American of about 29 years of age. Moreover, the killer could possibly be a moviemaker and a homosexual. In addition, the profile indicated that the killer was not able to perform in sexual intercourse; it was considered a reason for no sexual assault in the crime episodes (Turner, 2013). Most importantly, the profile revealed that the victims trusted the person who killed them. That assertion was deduced from the fact that prior to some disappearances, the witnesses had seen children willingly getting into the blue car. However, despite all accurate issues of the profile delivered by the FBI, the murderer was still roaming free. It was later discovered that Wayne Williams matched the same profile (Nickell & Fischer, 2013).

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The evidence proved Wayne Williams to be a serial killer despite his rigid denial. It was soon found out that the killer brought several alterations that could help him escape the punishment. The number of victims continued to rise. William changed the way he was disposing of the bodies bringing them to the Chattahoochee River (White et al., 2011). He also chose another group of victims and started murdering the African-American adults. In March, 1981, Eddie Duncan who was only 21 years old disappeared; the young man was mentally and physically ill. His body was found in the Chattahoochee River several days after his disappearance. In the same place, three more bodies of adult men were found. Consequently, the police began to search the bridge of the river that had become a site for body dumping. More evidence was collected when the police officers heard a loud splash near the bridge and stopped the car of an African-American male moving across that bridge; it was Wayne Williams (Hickey, 2012). At that time, he was just questioned to give continuous lies. The police brought the man to the headquarters; however, they did not find sufficient evidence to arrest him. Nevertheless, in few days, the evidence was fished out of the Chattahoochee River; it was a dead body of a young man, Nathaniel Cater. The investigations were further carried out. Soon it was proved that the carpet fibers and dog hair found on the victim’s body were also found in a car and home belonging to Williams. Wayne Williams was arrested. Later on, five bloodstains were found on the floor of a station wagon that belonged to him. Despite the fact that the evidence against him seemed circumstantial, it was to be used in the accusation (Nickell & Fischer, 2013).

29 deaths have been associated with Wayne Williams starting with Alfred Evans, who was strangled and found at the Niskey Road in Atlanta near another victim, Hope Smith. The victim was last seen on 25th July, 1979; his body was found three days after, on 28th July, 1979. Another murder episode involved Yusef Bell, who was also strangled to death and left near the Johnson Elementary School in Georgia (Hickey, 2012). The victim was last seen on 21st October, 1979 and found dead on 8th November the same year. Another victim, Eric Middlebrooks was beaten to death; his body was discovered on the Flat Shoals Road near a bar in Atlanta. He was last seen on 18th May, 1980; his body was discovered on 19th May the same year. Another killing involved Christopher Richardson, who disappeared on 9th June, 1980; his body was found dead on 9th January, the following year. Aaron Wyche was found dead in Atlanta; his neck was broken. He was last seen on 23rd June, 1980; his body was found the following day (Davis, 2011). At the age of 22, Wayne Williams murdered Anthony Carter by stubbing him dead; the victim’s body was found in a warehouse at the Wells Street in Atlanta on 7th July, 1980. Clifford Jones was also strangled and beaten to death in the Hollywood Plaza, Georgia on 21st August, 1980. In addition, at the age of 22 years, he suffocated Charles Stephen with a strange object and left his body at the Norman Berry Drive in Atlanta. The man was last seen on 10th October, 1980. Patrick Rogers died of a blunt force trauma and was later found in the Chattahoochee River on 7th December, 1980. Nathaniel Carter died of undetermined asphyxiation and was fished out of the Chattahoochee River in Atlanta on 24th May, 1981 (Hickey, 2012).

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The above killings prove that Wayne Williams committed disorganized and unplanned crimes. He neither involved anyone else in executing the killings. His murders were not linked with any suspension before execution since he did it on impulse. Most importantly, the killings were committed at various places; however, the murderer preferred some specific sites such as the Chattahoochee River and major streets of Atlanta. The evidence has shown that the victims were not sexually assaulted, but only killed through various techniques such as stabbing and beating to death. (Davis, 2011).

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In conclusion, Wayne Williams had a lot of demands; even his parents considered his way of life rather weird. Dropping from school and earning money by taking pictures of accidents and crime scenes was another clue to learning his behavior and mindset. He demanded too much from his parents that led them to bankruptcy. Williams was also rather quick-witted man; he even changed the way of conducting his killings after having realized that he was being followed. According to him, shifting from killing children to male adults was a nice achievement. The investigation involved the FBI agents when the situation became worse. According to the profile developed by the FBI experts, all crimes were committed by one person who most probably was a movie producer. The FBI profile was not so far from that of the real villain. Williams conducted unplanned and unorganized crimes in different places. The rationale behind the psychological profiles done by experts is influenced by several factors including the social, environmental, and economic factors surrounding a criminal.