Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Atlanta Child Murders

Witnesses to Murder

At this point, LaTonya Wilson had been abducted and Earl Terrell potentially abducted and transported across state lines. Kidnapping and transporting a person across state lines was the jurisdiction of the FBI. Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson had been trying to get the FBI into this case and now he had the proper rationale.

Clifford Jones
Clifford Jones

The summer ended up with the death of one more child. Thirteen-year-old Clifford Jones had come to visit his grandmother in Atlanta and was found strangled by some unknown ligature on August 20. His body had been put in a dumpster wearing shorts and underwear that were not his.

Police were presented with a strong suspect in a manager of a laundromat that, according to Chet Detlinger, "was widely known for homosexual gatherings." Bernard Headley sums up the case against this suspect: "Three youthful witnesses saw the manager go into the rear room with a black boy. One of them said he saw the manager 'strangle and beat' the boy, then carry his body out to the trash container. Two polygraph tests were administered to the Laundromat manager. He 'failed' both, according to FBI records — even though he admitted that he knew Clifford and that Clifford was in his Laundromat on the evening of August 20, 1980. Medical experts had determined that the time of Clifford's death was between four and six hours before the discovery of his body, which would have placed the Laundromat manager with the boy around the time he was killed. The authorities had not charged the man with anything, however, because they determined that the youth who said he actually saw Clifford Jones being murdered was 'retarded.'"

Another witness said he had seen the man, whom he knew, carry a large object wrapped in plastic and place it by the dumpsters the night before Jones' body was discovered. The large object wrapped in plastic turned out to be the body of Clifford Jones. Two other witnesses claimed to see the same man, who they had also known, carrying an object wrapped in plastic to the dumpsters.