“It was chaos, and we all just took off running, and kids were crying and everybody was hysterical,” she recalled. “It was like there was a boogeyman out there, and he was snatching black children.”
The memory stayed with Ms. Bottoms. So when she recently learned about the case of two Alabama teenagers whose killer was arrested 20 years after the crime through the use of DNA, she instantly thought of the Atlanta child murders.
Last month, she announced that investigators would take a fresh look, and the city would begin exploring plans for a memorial to the children. For years, a group of parents, led by Ms. Leach, had asked the city to find a permanent way to remember the children.
A hotline was established, and within days, 50 tips came in; 16 were sent to investigators. Chief Shields said the new investigation began with three questions: Where is all the evidence? How many cases would be reviewed? And from over what time period?
“We opened it up,” she said. Investigators established a 15-year window ending in 1985, in which the team would review crimes that might be linked to the Atlanta child murders but weren’t identified as such at the time.
During that time period, 157 children were killed, including the 24 children already considered part of the case. Many others were victims of domestic violence. The remaining cases will be reviewed, and more could be added to the new investigation.
Atlanta police, with assistance from other agencies, will review the cases to determine the condition of the evidence, whether it can be tested or retested and run through DNA databases. Early on, the team determined that some of the cases were not thoroughly investigated, and the 22 cases closed after Mr. Williams’s trial should have remained active.
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