Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Atlanta Child Murders

The List

Once the official task force was formed, the police had to decide which cases to include in their investigation. Those specially assigned cases, which represented murders that fit particular parameters, were compiled into a list. The "List" took on a life of its own during the media hype and investigation into the murders and is still the source of controversy. Unfortunately, The List led to more people misunderstanding the facts about the cases than to their understanding of them. This was largely due to the inaccurate and incomplete information gathered about each of the victims, which were often times caused by negligence, ignorance and mismanagement by authorities. In many instances reports conflicted with one another; bodies were misidentified; reports were sometimes changed or lost; and crime scenes destroyed. Moreover, according to author and investigator Chet Dettlinger, many that should have made the List never did. Of the many hundreds of murders that occurred during the late 1970's and early 1980's, at least ninety of those shared a similar geographic and/or social connection with one another. Connections that would later be ignored by officials in more than sixty of the ninety cases, during the course of the investigation into the murders. The Task Force Unit ignored the more than sixty cases mostly because they failed to meet the parameters that police were continuously changing and because they failed to notice the geographic and social connection between the victims, both on and off The List.

More than sixty names never made the List, which could have been because they fit similar social and geographical patterns of those cases that had qualified for the List. Unfortunately, the Task Force disregarded many as "special cases" because they failed to meet their parameters, which were continually modified. Some, who had failed to make the List at one point, could have qualified for it at another, after the List was changed. This allowed many victims cases to slip through the cracks that should have received the attention they deserved. After Wayne Williams arrest, more than twenty people were murdered, some of which could have also made The List. They never did because police had stopped adding names to the List after they had Williams in custody. Some of those who had fit the social and geographic parameters recognized by Dettlinger were Cynthia Montgomery, Angela Bacon, Joseph Lee, Faye Yearby and Stanley Murray. They are just a few of the many who had not made the List.

For example, Faye Yearby, twenty-two years old, was considered too old to have made the List at the time of her death in January of 1981. She was found almost nine months after Angel Lenair 's body had been found, stabbed to death and tied to a tree. Yearby had also been found bound to a tree in almost the exact same position Angel had been found. Even though her death, in many ways, resembled that of Angel Lenair, Task Force Agents refused to acknowledge any link between the cases. Furthermore, she was never added to the List because of her age and her sex.