Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Atlanta Child Murders

STOP

The cumulative ineffectiveness of the Atlanta police to solve the growing number of missing and murdered children galvanized three of the victims' mothers — Camille Bell, Willie Mae Mathis and Venus Taylor — to join with Reverend Earl Carroll to form the Committee to Stop Children's Murders (STOP). The group pressured both the Atlanta city government and sought support from the white corporate power structure.

Aaron Wyche
Aaron Wyche

The group was formed none too soon because the day after La Tonya Wilson's shocking abduction, ten-year-old Aaron Wyche disappeared. The next day his body was found beneath a six-lane highway bridge that passed over railroad tracks in DeKalb County. His death was caused by asphyxia, said the medical examiner, because he landed in a way that prevented him from breathing. This death was not initially considered a homicide even though Aaron was deathly afraid of heights and would not have voluntarily climbed that trestle unless he was running away from someone. The assumption was that Aaron fell off the bridge, despite the fact that the guardrails on the bridge were almost as high as Aaron was. Dettlinger says, "There is no way Aaron Wyche could have fallen off that bridge. Jumped or been thrown, maybe; but fall off, no way."

Anthony Carter
Anthony Carter

July 6, 1980, nine-year-old Anthony Carter was out playing hide and seek with his cousin after 1 A.M. in the morning when he vanished. He was found stabbed to death the next day behind a warehouse less than a mile from his home.

Throughout this epidemic of murder and missing children, the Atlanta police maintained that the cases were separate and not connected. The general attitude was that Atlanta in recent history had a high rate of murdered children. However, after the publicity that the mothers' group STOP was getting, the city government bowed to the political pressure and announced the formation of a task force in mid-July to focus their investigative efforts.

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