A decade has passed since police branded him a serial killer who preyed on young blacks, but Wayne Williams still insists that he is innocent.
"I'm not Ted Bundy. I didn't go out and kill these people," Williams told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a recent interview. (Bundy, who killed young women across the nation in the 1970s, was executed two years ago.)
In 1979, Atlanta police began investigating a rash of disappearances. They began finding bodies in July. By May, 1981, 28 young blacks--most of them children--had been found murdered.
Most of the victims were suffocated. A 29th is still missing; a 30th name was added to the list during Williams' trial.
Williams was arrested in June, 1981. He was convicted eight months later of killing Nathaniel Carter, 27, and Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. He will be eligible for parole in 1996.
He was implicated in 22 other killings, and police closed the cases. The primary evidence against him was circumstantial--fibers found in Williams' home and car that matched others found on some of the bodies.
In his first extensive interview in a decade, Williams told the newspaper by telephone he believes he eventually will be exonerated.
"I know, eventually, that I'm gonna get out," Williams said. "If we get an open-minded court, we've got a pretty good chance."
If he is released, he said, he may become a minister.
Williams is scheduled to appear in court in September on his request for a new trial. In the appeal, Williams' attorneys say that suspected Ku Klux Klansmen might have committed at least 10 of the murders.
Williams' attorneys contend that prosecutors withheld evidence, including a Georgia Bureau of Information report on the klan. They say that a highly regarded police informant reported klan involvement in one of the murders attributed to Williams.
Prosecutors painted Williams as a brilliant young man who suffered a stalled rise to stardom. As an aspiring music promoter, he was auditioning young blacks as the bodies of young blacks were being found across the city.
"A very unfortunate coincidence," Williams said. He denied that he knew any of the victims.
"If you look at the case group, you'll see no serial killer," he said. "You didn't have one general pattern, (but) two or three subgroups with several suspects."
Williams' father, Homer, said he still has the 1970 Chevrolet station wagon police said his son used to carry away the bodies. He said he is saving it for his son.
"How they railroaded that poor boy is unbelievable," he said. "They were trying to cover things up. . . . Atlanta was in turmoil."