Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Wayne Williams and the Atlanta Child Murders

Ominous Beginning

Edward Hope Smith
Edward Hope Smith

Fourteen-year-old Edward Hope Smith lived in one of Atlanta's lower income housing projects on Cape Street in southwest Atlanta. It was a destitute place that many had the misfortune of living and few had the means to escape, even though Edward had tried. It isn't difficult to understand why anyone would want to run away from such a disheartening place where more garbage filled the streets than people. Just after midnight in the early morning of July 21, 1979, Edward left a skating rink where he had spent the evening with his girlfriend and began the long walk home.

Alfred Evans
Alfred Evans

Several days later, his friend fourteen-year-old Alfred Evans, who lived on the other side of town off Memorial Drive in the East Lake Meadows housing projects, left home to see a karate movie in downtown Atlanta.

Both boys were very athletic. Smith was a football fanatic and Evans was equally exuberant about basketball, professional wrestling, boxing and karate.  Smith was training to play on the high school football team in the fall and Evans played basketball and boxed.  These boys had promise, despite their disadvantaged status.  They had dreams that they were enthusiastically pursuing.   Dreams became nightmares when Edward never got home from the skating rink that morning and Alfred didn't make it to the karate movie.  Instead, both of them were found July 28 in a wooded area off Niskey Lake Road in the southwestern part of the city. Edward had been killed with a .22-caliber gun and Alfred by an undetermined means -- the medical examiner guessed at asphyxia, possibly resulting from strangulation.  Both boys were dressed in black, but Edward's socks and distinctive football shirt were missing; Alfred was wearing a belt that wasn't his.  Edward was easily identified with dental records, but Alfred's identification is still debated.

What happened?  Police determined that both boys had at least some involvement with drugs and were possibly together at a pot party.  One caller claimed that Alfred shot Edward and a third boy strangled Alfred in a fit of rage.  These stories did not work well with the difference of days between their disappearances, nor did the caller ever show up to make a formal statement.  Well, that's all the police needed to hear:  black boys involved with drugs (no matter how tangentially) -- sad, but it happens all the time. Further investigation was very limited.  

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