Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Atlanta Child Murders

A Murderous Rampage

Eric Middlebrooks
Eric Middlebrooks

Eric Middlebrooks, 14, got a phone call around 10:30 P.M Sunday night, May 18, 1980. He immediately grabbed his tools and told his foster mother he was going out to repair his bike. Early the next morning, his body was found a few blocks away. His bicycle was nearby. Eric had been bludgeoned to death.

As police looked into this murder, it was suspected that Eric had been eyewitness to a robbery and that the robbery suspects were also the murder suspects. However, there was insufficient proof.

Christopher Richardson
Christopher Richardson

Just outside the city limits of Atlanta in the Decatur, twelve-year-old Christopher Richardson lived in a nice middle class neighborhood with his grandparents and mother. In the early afternoon of June 9, 1980, Christopher went to a local recreation center to swim. He never got there.

LaTonya Wilson
LaTonya Wilson

A few weeks later in the early morning of June 22, 1980, an amazing crime occurred. Seven-year-old LaTonya Wilson was abducted from her home. A neighbor claimed that she saw a black man remove the windowpane in the Wilson apartment, climb into the apartment and leave with the little girl in his arms. Chet Dettlinger in his book The List describes how difficult it would have been to do what the neighbor claimed she saw:

"If, as the neighbor said, the kidnapper climbed through that window, he stepped squarely onto a bed where two other Wilson children were asleep. Neither woke up. Once inside, he stole LaTonya from her bed, carrying her past the door of her parents' room. He walked out the back door, leaving it ajar. Outside, he is said to have paused in the parking lot to speak to another black male, all the while holding the limp figure of LaTonya Wilson under his right arm."

Whoever was responsible for these murders and disappearances was approaching a record in the history of crime. What the citizens of Atlanta, the city government and eventually the FBI didn't realize was that it was just the beginning. What Bernard Headley aptly named "A Summer of Death" was just beginning.

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