James Baldwin on the Atlanta Child Murders

James Baldwin on the Atlanta Child Murders
Bob Adelman/Magnolia Pictures via AP

One by one, they went missing. At least two dozen young boys and girls, ages seven to seventeen, disappeared—while walking home or riding their bicycles, on their way to the bank or the store or the local swimming pool, in the spring and fall and winter and summer. Most of their bodies were found within a few months, in abandoned buildings or vacant lots, under bridges or deep in the woods. Some of them were never found at all. For three years, from 1979 to 1981, these disappearances terrified the people of Atlanta, and the city has been haunted by them ever since. None of the murders were ever solved, although, inexplicably, twenty-two of the cases were closed after a man named Wayne Williams was convicted of two other murders in 1982, both of adult men, which the police argued were linked to at least ten of the missing children.

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