On July 28 1979, a woman found two males bodies alongside a road. This later was named the “Atlanta Child Murders”. Between 1979 and 1981, a total of 20-30 African-Americans disappeared in Atlanta, Georgia. They were mostly murdered by strangulation or asphyxiation. A whopping 29 homicides were proved to be linked to the same killer. Police did not have a huge amount of forensic evidence to track down the killer. They only had the evidence of fibers from the bodies and clothing of the victims. The fibers were unusual ones. Some of the fibers were yellow-green nylon and some had a cross section shape to them. The fibers apparently were used in rugs or carpets. In February 1981, the killer began dumping bodies into the Chattahoochee River. The victims found were completely or almost completely in the nude. Supposedly, the killer was watching media coverage of the killings. That helped him modify his methods to get rid of the fiber evidence on the victim’s bodies.
Police then started to watch and search bridges along the river. This is all in an effort to catch the killer possibly doing his methods of dumping a body. Early on the morning of May 22, 1981, a police patrol heard a splash in the river. That caused Police to stop and check out what they heard or saw. They found a station wagon on the James Jackson Parkway Bridge. They found out the driver was 23-year-old Wayne Williams. Wayne Williams was a music promoter. He was questioned by police, but was then allowed to leave after a polygraph test, which came back inconclusive. On May 24 1981, the body of Nathaniel Cater was found from the Chattahoochee River about a mile from James Jackson Parkway Bridge. A single strand of yellowish- green nylon fiber was found on his body. A search warrant for Williams’‛ house was given to police.
They found carpet similar to the yellow-green fibers found in the early victims in his house. They had to be conclusive enough to tie Williams to the murders. The police needed to demonstrate that these carpet fibers were not normally found in houses throughout Atlanta. Police found in his home a book detailing how to ‘beat’ polygraph tests. They also found statements from colleagues working in Williams’ studio stating he had been seen covered in scratches around the time of the murders. Chemists at DuPont also the world’s largest producer of fibers helped the FBI. FBI analysts passed the fibers through a device that stretches fibers giving it optical properties. This allowed the FBI to trace these fibers to a Georgia carpet manufacturer. over a 12 month period from 1970 – 1971 the factory only made 16,397 square yards of carpet of this certain fiber and color which was English Olive.
Police did some calculations and found out that the probability of finding a room in the metropolitan area of Atlanta that had carpet in that shade was 1 in 7,792. Wayne Williams was thought to be linked to 28 to 30 killings. Police and prosecutors decided on a plan to focus on just two cases, which were the Nathaniel Cater, and Jimmy Ray Payne cases. Those bodies were semi-nude and where recovered from the Chattahoochee River on April 27, 1981. In the latter case, police had also found a fiber on the shorts of the victim, which were similar to fibers found in Wayne Williams’s station wagon. Chevrolet gave details on the number of pre- 1973 vehicles with this type of carpet in them.
Police found out that only 680 out of 2 million registered cars were carpeted with this type if carpet. That meant the odds of the victim encountering this fiber from any other car than Williams’‛ were 1 in 3,828. Even though not all this evidence may be enough to convict someone of murder, consider that the odds of both events happening was 1 in 29,827,776. The fiber evidence was the key to all, which was determined. On 27 February 1982, Williams was found guilty of the murder of two victims. Those victims where a Nathaniel Carter and Jimmy Ray Payne. He was sentenced to two terms of life imprisonment. Even though he was not charged with additional counts of murder, it was suspected that Williams was responsible for more of the Atlanta murders. He remains in prison at the age of 58 to this day.
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