Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Wayne Williams and the Atlanta Child Murders

Two More Boys

Milton Harvey
Milton Harvey

While the police may have been able to get away with dismissing the deaths of Smith and Evans as "drug-related," it was certainly not the case with fourteen-year-old Milton Harvey. His parents had extricated Milton from the high-risk projects years ago and moved him to a pleasant middle-class neighborhood in northwest Atlanta.  He didn't go to school on the first day of the session because his mother had inadvertently bought him the "wrong" kind of sneakers and he couldn't face the embarrassment.  That day, September 4, 1979, Milton borrowed a bike and took a check to the bank to pay a credit card bill for his mother. He disappeared along with the bicycle, which was found a week later on a deserted dirt lane named Sandy Creek Road.

Milton's badly decomposed remains were found in mid-November in a rubbish dump off Redwine Road in the suburb of East Point, a jurisdiction outside of Atlanta's city limits, and many miles from the bicycle and Milton's home. His death was not at first considered a homicide since there were no marks of violence on the skeletal remains.

Yusef Bell
Yusef Bell

A few weeks before Milton's remains were found, Yusef Bell, an extremely gifted nine-year-old, disappeared on his way to the store to buy snuff for a neighbor.  After buying the snuff, a woman thought she saw him get into a blue car with a man she believed was the former husband of Yusef's mother Camille.  The police later discounted this sighting.

Unlike the earlier three cases, Yusef's disappearance received some media attention as Camille begged the abductor to release her well-loved boy.  Her community was rallying around her for emotional support.

Camille's hopes vanished when a school custodian in the abandoned E.P. Johnson Elementary School discovered Yusef on November 8th. His body had been wedged into a concrete hole in the floor. He had been strangled to death, either by hand or ligature. The boy had been barefoot when he disappeared and was still barefoot when he was found, but the bottoms of his feet had been washed clean.

This case had finally captured the attention of the community at large. Yusef's funeral was a major event. City officials, black leaders and politicians of every color fell all over themselves to give their condolences to Camille and mourn the tragic death of this promising young man.  Mayor Jackson promised a full investigation but none of the four murders were considered connected -- just random acts of violence that "happen" in poor black neighborhoods.

Camille Bell and her friends didn't buy that story and realized that these murders were not typical.  They continued to articulate their displeasure at the efforts of the police and the city administration, which they considered too distant from its black constituency.  Along with this vocal displeasure crept in the fear that the murders were racially motivated and that the Klan was behind it.

The police got some breathing room between the last half of November and early March.  In March of 1980, the killing of black children and youths began in earnest.

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