Episode 167: Atlanta Child Murders: Serial Killer or KKK?

On this episode of the Sofa King Podcast, we look at the infamous Atlanta Child Murders which ran from 1979 to 1981. Called “ATKID” for short by the FBI, these included a variety of different murders and murder styles. Many consider this to be the work of one man, an African American “serial killer” named Wayne Williams. Williams, 23 years old at the time of the murders, was arrested for two of the murders and thought to be responsible for at least 20 of the others.

The victims tended to be killed by different means, but often by strangulation, and at first, they were all found disposed of in the woods. Somewhere in the middle of the killings, however, the MO changed, and the bodies started to get dumped in the Chattanooga River instead.

The FBI was late to join this investigation, but eventually, it became one of the largest manhunts in the US with over 400 officers from various law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation. Finally, based on the change in where the bodies were being ditched, the FBI started to stake out the water ways. This was when officers saw Wayne Williams allegedly stop his station-wagon on a bridge, and they heard a splash. They pulled him over but had weak evidence—until two days later when a body was found in the river.

This became a media circus in Atlanta, and it even generated a big celebrity concert with Sammy David Jr., The Jacksons, and Frank Sinatra performing to raise money, and people like Muhammad Ali and Robert Dinero publicly calling for help in the investigation.

Most of the evidence with Williams was circumstantial, but he was still convicted. Meanwhile, a conspiracy was brewing. Decades later, evidence came to light of a known KKK member named Sanders who had quite possible done many of the killing himself. There was as much evidence pointing to Sanders at the time as Williams, but it turns out that this evidence was never allowed into the Williams trial.

Why? Good question—that’s where the conspiracy comes in. Was the KKK trying to ignite a race war? Was the FBI covering it up? What evidence did they have to link Sanders instead of Williams to the killings? Was Williams involved in the CIA? Why does Williams refuse to discuss that possibility? Who really did the Atlanta Child Murders? Listen, laugh, learn.

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