Wayne Williams and the Atlanta Child Murders
Killing in Earnest
Venus Taylor's worst fears were confirmed on March 10, 1980 when the police found Angel's body tied to a tree with an electrical cord around her neck and a pair of panties that did not belong to Angel stuffed into her mouth. Cause of death was asphyxiation by strangulation with the electrical cord. Although Angel's hymen had been broken and there were some minor abrasions in the genital area, the medical examiner did not interpret those facts to mean evidence of sexual assault. Those findings became controversial and did not mean that Angel was not the victim of some sexual abuse.
This particular case was quite different than the previous cases, in that the victim was female and her body was found under different circumstances than the previous male victims. There were two suspects, who were eventually cleared of the murder.
What she did not immediately understand when she contacted that department the next day is that the missing person's department at that time in the Atlanta Police Department -- and in many major cities -- did very little to investigate the disappearance of young people. It was assumed that children and teenagers were runaways and not the victims of foul play.
Jefferey had last been seen by a friend getting into the backseat of a blue car, possibly a Buick. Thirteen days after Mathis had gone missing, Willie Turner, who had recognized Mathis' picture from the newspaper, claimed that he saw Jefferey in a blue NOVA car, driven by a white adult man. Willie Turner also told police that the man he had seen with Mathis had later in the week pulled a gun on him before taking off in his car. Police did little in response to the information given by Turner. The report was filed away and forgotten. The blue car that was earlier seen by Mathis' friend in connection with Jefferey's disappearance was very similar to the description of a car seen by an eyewitness in a later disappearance case of a boy named Aaron Wyche. Jefferey Mathis' two brothers had also reported seeing a blue Buick in the driveway of a house that Jefferey frequented. Interestingly, shortly after Mathis' disappearance, boys from his school had complained to their principle that two black men in a blue car had attempted to lure them away from the schoolyard. The youngsters had memorized the license plate and reported it to police. Once again, police did little to investigate.
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.
"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.