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Four decades after the Atlanta area was rocked by the killings of more than 20 children and young adults, officials announced Thursday they plan to re-test evidence from the cases.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, speaking at a news conference, said that technology has changed "considerably" since the murders and could finally give families of the unsolved killings a definite answer as to who was behind the slayings of their children.

"It may be there is nothing left to be tested," Bottoms told reporters. "But I do think that history will judge us by our actions and we will be able to say we tried."

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Altogether, 29 people — all of them black, most of them boys — were killed in the Atlanta area between 1979 and 1981. The man suspected in the killings, Wayne Williams, was only convicted of killing two men.

Williams, who is black, was convicted in 1982 and is serving a life sentence in connection with the two killings. Authorities said that animal and other fibers linked Williams to the two killings based on technology at the time of the trial. He has maintained his innocence, saying he was framed and that Atlanta officials covered up evidence of a Ku Klux Klan role in the killings to avoid a race war in the city.

Accused in Atlanta child murders, Wayne Williams is in handcuffs as he leaves a car for his court trial in 1982.

Accused in Atlanta child murders, Wayne Williams is in handcuffs as he leaves a car for his court trial in 1982. (Getty Images)

Bottoms stressed that authorities are not officially re-opening the case, but working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to look at "every single thing we have that is related to this case" in order to give the case a fresh look.

"Even though there is evidence tying Williams to these 22 children, he was only ever tried on the cases of two murdered adults," Shields said. "This has caused some of the victims’ families to believe that they were never afforded justice.”

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said that that officials plan to "painstakingly" go through all of the boxes of evidence.

Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields said that that officials plan to "painstakingly" go through all of the boxes of evidence. (FOX5)

The effort will involve Atlanta Police, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, according to FOX5.

Bottom’s announcement came a week after she announced during her State of the City address that she is looking to form a permanent memorial to honor the murdered children and adults. Reexamining the evidence also comes ahead of a documentary on the cases that will soon air on the Investigation Discovery Channel, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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The chief said that officials plan to "painstakingly" go through all of the boxes of evidence to see if anything can be retested or if there may be any evidence that has never been tested because the technology did not exist at the time.

“The fact that I had to work to find out where the evidence was is indicative that no one has gone through it exhaustively,” Shields told reporters. “We need to exhaustively go through it and say, could this be looked as evidence?”

Catherine Leach, whose son Curtis Walker was among those murdered, said she just wants "some closure."

Catherine Leach, whose son Curtis Walker was among those murdered, said she just wants "some closure." (FOX5)

District Attorney Paul Howard, who had just started with the District Attorney’s Office at the murders, called those years “a very tough time for our community” and added, “many heavy hearts still exist in our community.”

Howard added the case will be the first one handled by his office’s Conviction Integrity Unit, which will allow family members and others to make an application to review a case to see if a conviction is justified.

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For Catherine Leach, whose son Curtis Walker was among those murdered, she said she still doesn’t have closure after almost 46 years.

“It seems like the Atlanta Missing and Murdered Children have been forgotten in this city. We want some closure," she told reporters. "I want to know who killed Curtis. His case is still sitting on the shelf, getting dusty and rusty.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox News National

DNA and a forensic genealogy search have solved two cold cases in Maryland — a rape and a murder — but the suspect won’t have to answer for his alleged crimes.

The cases involved the 1989 rape of a 52-year-old woman and the 1994 murder of Le Bich-Thuy, a French-born 42-year-old research biologist who was also raped, Montgomery County Police said last week. Both had been followed home from a Rockville train station.

Police said the person who committed the crimes was Kenneth Day — but Day has been dead for two years. He died in West Virginia when he was 52 and his obituary said his survivors included a daughter and two grandchildren. It was not immediately clear how Day died. Though several mug shots were released of Day, it also wasn’t known what he had been jailed for in those cases.

Officials said Day could be a suspect in other unsolved cases in Montgomery County, too.

Mug shot for Kenneth Day when he was 24 in 1989. Police last week tied Day to an unsolved 1989 in Rockville, Md., using DNA and forensic genealogy.

Mug shot for Kenneth Day when he was 24 in 1989. Police last week tied Day to an unsolved 1989 in Rockville, Md., using DNA and forensic genealogy. (Montgomery County Police Department)

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Retired detective Bob Phillips devoted hours to solving Bich-Thuy’s murder without success, according to a 2010 report.

Phillips was on the job in 1994 when he responded to Bich-Thuy’s home when her body was found.

"I remember responding there that evening with Detective Drury and Detective Bond,” he told NBC 4 DC. “She was not covered up but she just naturally sunk into this English Ivy and was hard to see."

Photo of Kenneth Day when he was 40 in 2005.

Photo of Kenneth Day when he was 40 in 2005. (Montgomery County Police Department )

In 2017 Montgomery detectives produced a composite sketch of the woman’s killer using DNA recovered from the crime scene with the assistance of Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia.

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More recently, detectives used Parabon to upload the crime scene DNA to the genealogy website GEDmatch. That led to the identification of individuals who shared a significant amount of DNA with the suspect. A genealogy search then identified Day.

In the past year, cold case detectives in other parts of the U.S. have used GEDmatch to identify suspects in a number of unsolved cold case rapes and murders, including some that were decades-old.

Police trying to solve the murder of Le Bich-Thuy in 1994 used the killer's DNA from the crime scene to produce these composite sketches of what the suspect may have looked like at age 25 and 45. 

Police trying to solve the murder of Le Bich-Thuy in 1994 used the killer’s DNA from the crime scene to produce these composite sketches of what the suspect may have looked like at age 25 and 45.  (Parabon NanoLabs/Montgomery County Police Department)

Even before naming Day, Montgomery police believed the person who killed Bich-Thuy and raped the other woman had committed other unsolved crimes.

“I don’t think he did this just two or three times,” Sgt. Chris Homrock, head of the cold case squad in Montgomery County told the Washington Post last year. “This guy was targeting women in that area for at least five years.”

Source: Fox News National

A man was arrested Saturday in the cold case killings of two 17-year-old Alabama girls 20 years ago — one of Alabama’s highest-profile cold cases, according to reports.

Cops investigating the deaths of high school seniors Tracie Hawlett and J.B. Beasley in Ozark, Ala., got a break when DNA and a search of a public genealogy website linked Coley McCraney, 45, to the crime, local media reported.

Investigators found their bodies in the trunk of J.B.’s car on Aug. 1, 1999, a day after their families reported them missing. The girls were going to a birthday party for J.B. when they disappeared, the Dothan Eagle reported.

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One of the girls was raped.

The search of the genealogy website was conducted using DNA from the crime scene, according to the paper.

Mug shot for Coley McCraney, 45.

Mug shot for Coley McCraney, 45. (Dale County Jail)

The newspaper quoted Tracie’s mother as saying at a vigil on the tenth anniversary of the murders that she prayed every day law enforcement would come up with answers.

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“Some days you go to work, get home and tears start. You go to sleep crying,” Carol Roberts said. “Through God’s grace and strength, we’ve come this far, and that’s what Tracie would want us to do.”

She said in 2007 that her daughter and J.B. wound up in Ozark after getting lost driving to the party, WDHN-TV reported.

“She said, ‘Mom, we’re on our way home,’” Roberts said, according to the station.

Online records show McCraney, a married Dothan, Ala., man with children, was booked into the Dale County Jail on five counts of capital murder and one count of rape.

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His DNA was not on file because he had no criminal record, WSFA-TV reported.

Source: Fox News National

A man arrested in February in connection with the cold case murder of 11-year-old Linda O’Keefe was charged this week in two other sexual assaults that occurred in California sometime between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, prosecutors announced.

James Neal, 72, who made his first appearance at an Orange County courtroom, faces additional charges of lewd or lascivious acts upon a child in Riverside County, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office announced, according to the Orange County Register.

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“While that evidence will be presented in court, there are now allegations of multiple sexual assault victims,” Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer said, according to KTLA. “And so, we do believe that Mr. Neal was involved in creating more victims beyond the murder of Linda O’Keefe.”

Neal, of Monument, Colorado, was charged last month with the sexual assault and killing of the Newport Beach girl in July 1973. O’Keefe’s body was found in a Back Bay ditch the next day. Advanced DNA technology helped link Neal to the murder, police said.

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Neal faces a maximum 82 years to life in prison if convicted, authorities said.

Source: Fox News National


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