Atlanta 1981: when newspapers report that children are safe

I stumbled on an article about 2 young missing kids. 14-year-old Termal Heard and 10-year-old Dempster Williams had gone missing on Wednesday. They were reported safe on Thursday.

Why did that merit news coverage? They were Black, it was Atlanta, and a killer was on the loose.

In Atlanta, there were already 20 dead or missing Black children. A task force had been set up. Police were reviewing video tape of the funeral of Patrik Baltazar, 11 years old. He was the killer’s most recent victim.

Published February 26, 1981, it would take 3 more murders and 4 more months for police to arrest Wayne Williams. The murders stopped, but many, including author James Baldwin, believed him innocent. The controversy, including allegations the KKK were involved, continue even now.

In March 2019, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields announced that officials would re-test evidence from the murders.

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