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*Wayne Williams was born on this date in 1958. He is a Black serial killer serving life imprisonment for the 1981 killing of two men in Atlanta, Georgia.
Wayne Bertram Williams was born and raised in the Dixie Hills neighborhood of southwest Atlanta, Georgia, the son of Homer and Faye Williams. Both of his parents were teachers. Williams graduated from Douglass High School and developed a keen interest in radio and journalism. He constructed his own carrier current radio station and began frequenting stations WIGO and WAOK, where he befriended a number of announcing crew and began experimenting in becoming a pop music producer and manager.
Williams first became a suspect in the Atlanta murders on the morning of May 22, 1981, when a police surveillance team, watching the James Jackson Parkway bridge spanning the Chattahoochee River (a site where several victims' bodies had been discovered), heard a "big loud splash", suggesting that something had been thrown from the bridge into the river below. The first automobile to exit the bridge after the splash, at roughly 2:50 a.m., belonged to Williams.
When stopped and questioned, he told police that he was on his way to check on an address in a neighboring town ahead of an audition the following morning with a young singer named Cheryl Johnson. However, both the phone number he gave police and Cheryl Johnson turned out to be lies. Two days later, the nude body of 27-year-old Nathaniel Cater, who had been missing for four days, was discovered in the river. The medical examiner ruled he had died of probable asphyxia. Police thought that Williams had killed Cater and that his body was the source of the sound they heard as his car crossed the bridge. Williams failed three polygraph tests.
Hairs and fibers retrieved from the body of another victim, Jimmy Ray Payne, were found to be consistent with those from his home, car, and dog. Co-workers told police they had seen Williams with scratches on his face and arms around the time of the murders which, investigators presumed, could have been inflicted by victims during struggles. He held a press conference outside his home to proclaim his innocence, volunteering that he had failed the polygraph tests, which would have been inadmissible in court. After Williams became a suspect, the killings stopped.
He was not tried for most of the Atlanta Child Murders, including that of Curtis Walker, age 13. But Walker's death prompted the Atlanta Police and the FBI to conduct surveillance at the Atlanta bridges. In May 1981, Williams was seen on one of the bridges. On June 3 and 4, he was questioned again by police and released but remained under surveillance. On June 21, 1981, Williams was arrested for the murders of Cater and Payne.
His trial began on January 6, 1982, in Fulton County. During the two-month trial, prosecutors matched to a number of victims nineteen sources of fibers from Williams's home and car: his bedspread, bathroom, gloves, clothes, carpets, dog, and an unusual trilobal carpet fiber. Other evidence included witness testimony that placed Williams with several victims while they were alive, and inconsistencies in his accounts of his whereabouts. Williams took the stand in his own defense but alienated the jury by becoming angry and combative.
On February 27, 1982, he was found guilty of the murders of Cater and Payne and sentenced to life in prison. Williams is serving his sentence at Telfair State Prison. On November 20, 2019, Williams was again denied parole. He will next be eligible for parole in November 2027.