Payne and the team gear up for a closer look at the so-called “bridge incident.”
I’ve recently been told that if I release this podcast, “bad things” are going to happen to me in the sense of a threat on my life, or my safety, or that of my family.
– Neil Strauss, Journalist/Host
I’ve recently been told that if I release this podcast, “bad things” are going to happen to me in the sense of a threat on my life, or my safety, or that of my family.
– Neil Strauss, Journalist/Host
– Vincent Hill, former police officer
Last Seen 05/21/1981
Last Seen 03/11/1981
Last Seen 02/06/1981
Joseph “Jo Jo” Bell
Last Seen 03/02/1981
Bill Bernham: The church was a little United Methodist church on Eastland Road, which is right off of Moreland. It was an elderly white congregation in a neighborhood that had transitioned.
Bill Bernham: It had gone on several months when the pastor said, “We’ve gotta do something to help the kids in this community.” I was 26 years old, just finishing up my undergraduate studies, and he asked me, “If maybe you’ve got some extra time, can you come and help us reach these kids?” All I did was put up a basketball goal in the church parking lot, bought one basketball, and went out there, just myself, and just started bouncing the ball in the parking lot. Just bouncing the ball. Did it for a couple hours, went inside. Next day, same thing, same time, just bouncing the ball.
Bill Bernham: I thought, “Maybe if I’m consistent,” and sure enough, a couple of kids showed up from the neighborhood. One week, two weeks, three weeks went on, and pretty soon, before we knew it, we had 100 kids.
Bill Bernham: The tragedy began to gain more and more publicity. Our program began to get more attention. It was sad to see the kids, and you know adolescents, they don’t want to show their fear. They would joke with each other, “You’re gonna get snatched,” and, “Somebody’s coming to your house,” but you could tell deep down inside they were really frightened.
Bill Bernham: I got the feeling that they knew they were in something together, confronting this serious danger, and they came together, and around the program, and saw me as the leader. Made them feel good to be a community, to be a group. There was safety in our group. Everybody, whether they admit it or not, responds to love.
Bill Bernham: I think that we’ve made some progress, with a long way yet to go. I can see a tremendous difference in the prejudices I grew up with, being born in the mid-’50s. I remember the assassination of Dr. King. I remember the kids in my elementary school saying that they were glad that he had been killed. What a terrible thing for a child to say, but that’s what they were living, that’s what they’d been taught.
Bill Bernham: Yeah, I remember those things, and unfortunately still see some of those same prejudices that are alive even today in our beautiful city, although we’ve come a long way. There are still bigotries alive, not only here in the South, but I imagine throughout this country. Honestly, I think perhaps we hide them a little better than we used to, but they’re still there.
Bill Bernham: I found acceptance in those kids and their families, and together we made a difference in that one little part of Atlanta, so, thankful for silver linings.
Payne Lindsey: That was the man named Bill Bernham. As a young man in the ’80s, he saw how scared those kids were. The victims in this case are the children, and that should never be forgotten.
Payne Lindsey: Because this story is so complex, for years people have argued whether or not they got the right guy. From everyone I’ve talked to, there’s been a lot of disagreement over whether Wayne Williams is the Atlanta Monster. Many people feel that he’s guilty. His stories just don’t really add up. He fit the FBI profile to a tee, and depending on how you looked at it, after he was arrested the murders stopped. Some people seem to think this was a huge conspiracy against Wayne Williams, but with very little evidence to back up those claims.
Payne Lindsey: The question isn’t as simple as did he do it. The question is what did he do? Did he kill Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne, the two adults he was convicted for? Maybe he did, but what about the kids? Did he kill the kids too? Did he kill all of them?
Payne Lindsey: Even though people are still very divided over Wayne Williams himself, there’s one common thread that everyone seems to agree on. It was time for all this to end in the city of Atlanta, and someone had to go away for this. Wayne Williams was that guy. Wayne still claims his innocence, and from our very first phone call, he promised to provide strong evidence to prove that.
Payne Lindsey: I want this podcast to be the final debate over Wayne Williams and the Atlanta child murders. Now that my investigation is in full swing, I’m going to put everything out on the table. If Wayne Williams has anything credible to say, now’s the time to hear it.
Wayne Williams: I’ve been incarcerated since 1981 in connection with the Atlanta murders. It was a situation that few people understood then, and today even fewer people understand the truth about what happened, and probably even more so about what didn’t happen. Due to the political climate and the fear and all of the uncertainty about what happened, the police and authorities were just anxious to arrest anybody that they could, and that person just happened to be me.
Wayne Williams: Sadly, it’s taken all these years for me to finally get the case brought back to the forelight so people can see the truth about what happened, the fact that not only am I a innocent man, but that the people involved in this, the families, the city, and the nation, deserve a answer.
Wayne Williams: One of the main objectives for us is to make people aware of what really happened during events before the trial, as well as after the trial and that continue today. I don’t think few people realize I was never convicted in connection with any of the child murders. I was charged for the deaths of two adults whose murders were actually unrelated. Furthermore, we were prevented from bringing out a lot of evidence that could’ve helped me during the trial. We’re talking about the existence of other suspects. We’re talking about physical evidence, including fiber evidence from Caucasian suspects and others who we know were involved in some of these cases, as well as false testimony about the synthetic fibers that the FBI presented during the trial.
Wayne Williams: I’m referring to not only setting the factual record straight, but telling of the story behind the scenes about the hurt and the emotional pain that lingers to this day. I’ve done several interviews over the years, but none have addressed the full context of what this story is about.
Intro: In Atlanta, another body was discovered today, the 23rd.
Intro: At police taskforce headquarters there are 27 faces on the wall, 26 murdered, one missing.
Intro: We do not know the person or persons that are responsible. Therefore, we do not have the motive.
Payne Lindsey: From Tenderfoot TV and How Stuff Works in Atlanta.
Intro: Like 11 other recent victims in Atlanta, Rogers apparently was asphyxiated.
Intro: Atlanta is unlikely to catch the killer unless he keeps on killing.
Payne Lindsey: This is Atlanta Monster. According to Wayne Williams, the story begins with that infamous night on the James Jackson Parkway bridge. Wayne first described a rather convoluted story about the timing sequence at the bridge that night.
Wayne Williams: The FBI agent said yeah, I got him, he’s coming towards me, stopped. That’s the timing sequence he testified to in court. There’s the contradiction. During that sequence there’s no way any car could’ve been going south on the bridge, turn into the gravel park lot and turn back north. That’s absolutely impossibility.
Payne Lindsey: He’s saying that according to police testimony, the timing doesn’t make sense. In what he described as a matter of seconds, the police recruit below the bridge heard the splash, shined his light on the water, didn’t see a body, and only saw ripples, then radioed to the other officers, who then saw Wayne in his car turn around in a gravel parking lot just moments later, heading the opposite way on the bridge.
Wayne Williams: That car of mine actually had been traveling north the entire time of the sequence. The bottom line is there was no splash.
Vincent Hill: If you take the bridge out of the equation, Wayne Williams is not in prison, right?
Payne Lindsey: This is Vincent Hill, a law enforcement analyst and former police officer, but more significantly, Vincent is an expert of sorts on Wayne’s case.
Vincent Hill: If Wayne was not on that bridge, either the case would’ve been solved a different way or it would still be unsolved. Take that bridge out of the equation, and what do you have? I guess you can argue that it put Wayne next to the body, right? He’s on the bridge, they hear a splash, two days later there’s a body found.
Newscaster 1: That morning, while four officers sat quietly under the South Cobb Drive bridge, one of them, an Atlanta recruit, heard a splash.
Payne Lindsey: Why do you think they stopped your car that night?
Wayne Williams: You gotta remember that was the last night of the stakeout. That was the last day they were staking out any of the bridges, so I’m sure they were probably anxious to stop something, just so they can account for the time.
Payne Lindsey: The police recruit, Bob Campbell, was stationed below the bridge, and he’s the only one that heard the splash that night.
Wayne Williams: Campbell, something probably startled him, and he probably made up the story just to justify the existence of being on a stakeout. The point is is that the statements they said about the stop and what happened at the bridge are correct. The only ones that is not correct in that is what Campbell and Jacobs said.
Payne Lindsey: He claimed that most of the FBI statements about the bridge were in fact true, except for two major points, the first being recruit Bob Campbell’s account of the splash, and the recruit Jacobs’s accounts of the timing. The second major point was over Wayne’s strange story about a girl named Cheryl Johnson.
Wayne Williams: The only confusion in the statements was over the things on the telephone number from Cheryl Johnson.
Newscaster 2: He tried to persuade the jury he really was out near a bridge that night, looking for a Cheryl Johnson, who still remains a mystery to this trial. The state implied he fabricated the story, but Williams didn’t budge from it, claiming the woman simply gave him a wrong number and wrong address.
Payne Lindsey: When the FBI asked what he was doing out there, Wayne said he was looking for a woman named Cheryl Johnson, who had scheduled an in-person interview with him that morning. He told the police he was out checking the address. That night, Wayne gave police an alleged phone number for Cheryl Johnson, but later when they tried to call the number, it didn’t work. It didn’t belong to anyone. Wayne says the FBI called the wrong number, and the reason was his handwriting.
Wayne Williams: The number wasn’t 934-7766. You’ll see when you get my writing. I’m gonna send you some samples of it. It was 434. My fours and my nines look alike, because I close the loop at the top of them.
Payne Lindsey: The FBI claimed Cheryl Johnson wasn’t real, but Wayne Williams agrees. Cheryl Johnson, when did she originally call you, and what did she say?
Wayne Williams: She originally did not call me. She called my mother, and my mother left a note. I’d talked to her the day before. I figured she was a prank call thing. We were doing public auditions for my music company, Nova Entertainment which was the address. we had on the radio, the television stations, and the newspapers in 1980. The auditions were all over the radio and TV, and that’s how she found out and got the phone number. Like I said, we took maybe about 800, 900 calls. We screened those down, me and my two assistants, and we probably did about 150 actual interviews and auditions out of that.
Wayne Williams: I even tell the police, I said the only reason I went out to check the address was because I felt it was a fake address. That’s why I went out to check it in the first place.
Payne Lindsey: He said as a talent scout, he received hundreds of calls during that time, and that every so often he would get a fake caller, and Cheryl Johnson was likely one of them.
Wayne Williams: This is something to think about. Why in the world if somebody was a killer, killing people, why would they be doing public auditions? That doesn’t make sense.
Payne Lindsey: Why was Wayne out checking this address at 2: 00 in the morning, when he was scheduled to meet with her just a few hours later?
Vincent Hill: That never made sense to me. Me being a 45-year-old man, if I’m out at 2: 00 in the morning, if I’m not working, and I’m looking for someone’s house, let’s be honest, I know what I’m going to do at 2: 00 in the morning, and it’s not to talk record contracts.
Payne Lindsey: Did the FBI or the police ever find her in real life?
Wayne Williams: No! I told them, “You probably wasting your time,” because I’m not even sure that’s her name. That was just the name that she gave. We was doing public auditions. A lot of people gave fake names and fake addresses. That was why I went to screen it. I think all the hoopla over Cheryl Johnson is needless. She was obviously a prank call.
Vincent Hill: Maybe Wayne was out getting ready to meet someone and got lost, I don’t know. Wayne likes to embellish things. I don’t know why, but again, I think that was part of Wayne’s downfall. Regardless if he told the truth or not, I don’t think the outcome would’ve been different, simply because he was on the bridge.
Payne Lindsey: Do you regret being on the bridge that night? If you could go back and change it, would you not go that way?
Wayne Williams: Payne, let me put it to you like this. I’m the type of person, I’m likely to change my mind at any given time. Everybody said, “Do you think it was a conspiracy? Were they out to get you ahead of time?” No, that was the conspiracy only after I became a suspect and the FBI got involved. Nobody knew I was gonna take that route home, not even me that night. That was a spur of the minute decision. The only thing I regret was going out period that night. I should’ve just took my butt to bed and waited until the morning.
Payne Lindsey: Do you think that if you didn’t go out that night, that you would not be in jail right now?
Wayne Williams: Absolutely. No question on that. If they had asked the same questions that you’re asking me right now, I wouldn’t be sitting here. Bottom line.
Vincent Hill: Living in Fort Hood, Texas, my dad was military. Even then, that story was national news about these black kids being murdered in Atlanta. I remember my mom to this day telling me not to go outside past dark, even in Fort Hood, Texas, in Killeen, because they were killing these little kids.
Vincent Hill: Wayne Williams got arrested and got convicted and that was pretty much it, and supposedly the murders stopped. That’s what I took it for as a small child. It’s just you trust what the police say, you trust what the courts say, and that was pretty much it. As I got older, especially when I became a police officer and a private investigator and I realized this keyword called evidence, then my mindset started changing about the entire case.
Vincent Hill: First, we can’t say that the child murders were solved, because Wayne was convicted of killing Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne, which were adults, so we still have all of these child murders basically unsolved, because you can’t say it’s solved if you only convicted him of killing two people.
Vincent Hill: Wayne’s a very intelligent guy. I think Wayne’s downfall back then was he embellished a lot. Wayne wanted to be the center of attention. He was calling his own press conferences, which just made him a bigger target in the media. A lot of people that were innocent of this would’ve just said, “I had nothing to do with it,” and that’s it, but I’m convinced it was something totally different that happened.
Newscaster 2: Williams bluntly stated the police version of the now-famous bridge incident was wrong, a lie. He claimed he wasn’t driving slow, that he didn’t turn around in a parking lot next to the bridge, that he did not throw anything into the river.
Newscaster 3: The State contends that loud splash was the body of Nathaniel Cater hitting the water.
Newscaster 3: Although prosecutors had most of the pieces that night in May, it still lacked the essential part of the puzzle, someone actually seeing Williams’s car stopped on the bridge, or better yet, the suspect throwing a body from the structure.
Vincent Hill: Could be something, could be nothing. Could’ve been a bird taking off. It could’ve been a beaver. It could’ve been anything. You got police down there with flashlights immediately, and they see nothing? That would suggest that Nathaniel Cater’s body, as soon as it hit the water, just floated out of sight, like a speedboat. Splash, you shine your lights, “Nah, I don’t see anything.” Why not? If it floated down the river and you found it two days later, why wouldn’t you see it as it’s floating down the river right after it splashed? If you heard the splash, and you thought it was a body, why didn’t you send divers down there immediately?
Payne Lindsey: Dr. Blackwelder was there during the trial, so I asked him what he knew about the splash.
Dr. Blackwelder: The cadet that was under the bridge heard a splash, and had flashlights and all, and they shined them around, but they never saw anything. They said it could’ve been a beaver, because there were beavers in that river. It could’ve been a beaver slapping its tail on the water or it could’ve been a body that was thrown off the bridge into the water, but he heard a splash.
Payne Lindsey: I asked Popcorn with the FBI what was his take.
Jim Procopio: Two cadets under the bridge, two regular officers in chase cars. They were in tents underneath the bridge. The guy that heard the splash had been a high school swimmer, and he knew the sound of a body hitting the water, and he said, “That’s a body hitting the water.”
Jim Procopio: It was a splat. As you know, if you jump off a diving board, and you spread eagle and hit the water, you splat, and that’s what he heard.
Dr. Blackwelder: They looked to see what was in the water. They never could see anything floating in the water. Then they brought a hydrologist in from the Corps of Engineers, and somebody testified that there were a lot of beavers in the river. It pops its tail on the water, it’ll make a splash.
Payne Lindsey: A body hitting the water sounds like it would be much louder than a beaver.
Dr. Blackwelder: We’ve done that. We did that when I was in school. We’d throw bodies. They would be dummies. We’d make sure that they weighed the same amount by using sand and things like that. Because a beaver’s tail is flat, it’s like hitting it with a boat paddle, and a body wouldn’t.
Vincent Hill: If it was Nathaniel Cater, at his stature, wouldn’t someone else have heard that? It’s like going to a pool. You may be 20 yards away, but you can hear people diving off the diving board. This one guy is the only one that heard this? It’s not even logical. Wasn’t he 150, 160? That’s a loud splash. If they’re spread out the way they say they were, there’s just no way only one person heard it.
David Attenborough.: That was a warning signal to say that danger was around, that’s to say me. Beavers take refuge here whenever they are alarmed.
Payne Lindsey: I can’t help but think a splash from a beaver’s tail would sound a whole lot different from a splash from a fully grown human body, so I decided to test it out. The team at How Stuff Works helped me put together the whole experiment. The best option we had was Rescue Randy. Randy is an adult-size mannequin used for simulations in training for emergency personnel, so when dropped, Randy would fall like a human body, accurate weight distribution and everything.
Payne Lindsey: How do we try to recreate this sound?
Jason: What we want to do is drop something off the James Jackson Parkway bridge, something that is roughly the same size and shape of a human body, to see what kind of sound it makes, how loud it is, if we can hear it. What we’re trying to do is find something that we can drop off the bridge. We’ve been wracking our brains trying to figure out how to approximate a human body. It’s not something you can just go to the hardware store and find.
Tyler: We’ve actually gone through many iterations of this. Originally we were thinking we might want to try to actually build a body out of wooden dowels and duct tape and packing material. We got far down that path, but then decided it was not gonna really be as flexible as a body, the way we wanted it. We were thinking maybe something like a emergency rescue might have some dummies and things like that. We did actually find a fireman’s dummy. They use these in training and competitions for firemen. It just so happens that the dummy that they make has very similar proportions with height and weight to the deceased, Nathaniel Cater.
Payne Lindsey: There he is.
Tyler: That’s without the legs.
Tyler: Wow. He’s got chunky arms.
Paul: Tyler, get back. Be careful. Lift with your legs, not with the back.
Tyler: Come on, dude.
Paul: Oh my god!
Tyler: Yeah, it’s doable, but it’s tough.
Tyler: Randy’s a very large gentleman. He does weigh 145 pounds. Hearing that, it seems like that’s doable, but it’s dead weight. The arms flail and the legs flail, and so trying to pick up that mass is actually harder than you would expect.
Tyler: Pick up one of his arms or legs or something.
Paul: That is, yeah, very correct weight-wise.
Tyler: If your adrenaline’s up, you’re gonna be able to lift more than you normally could.
Jason: What’s the return policy on this guy?
Tyler: Can’t return it if it’s wet.
Paul: This is ours.
Tyler: We all took turns trying to pick Randy up, and to varying degrees of success, but yeah, it was a bit of a hassle.
Paul: It’s not easy. Tyler, you were able to pick him up. I really wasn’t. It’s way more difficult than you might expect.
Donald: How close is he in height and weight to Nathaniel Cater?
Tyler: The coroner’s report and some of the other reporting had Nathaniel Cater’s height at 5’11” and weight at 146 pounds. The Rescue Randy dummy that we ordered has a height of 6′ and weighs 145 pounds, so we’re really in that range of where we want to be. It actually fits quite well.
Paul: The bridge actually straddles two county lines, Fulton County on the south side and Cobb County on the north side. We have to close the bridge down. We have to get permits from both counties.
Tyler: On top of that, we found out that we also have to coordinate with the State Department of Transportation. They have to approve it as well. Closing a road down is one thing, but dropping a body into the Chattahoochee River is a whole different thing. We’ve been coordinating with Army Corps of Engineers, the Department of Natural Resources, all these different groups, to try to figure out who we need to essentially get permission from.
Payne Lindsey: Wayne spoke of a child sex ring that was operating out of a house on Gray Street in Atlanta. He told me that he believed many of these child murders were related to this sex ring.
Wayne Williams: We know that another six cases were involved in a homosexual ring going on in Atlanta, a black homosexual ring.
Payne Lindsey: Vincent Hill has spent the last several years looking into this theory too. He believes it has some serious merit.
Vincent Hill: If you look at old records and old police reports, “Uncle Tom” Terrell, his friend Jerry Thornton, Larry Marshall, Jerry Thornton told investigators 10 of the victims used to hang out at that house, that they would have sex with little boys. Men would come to that house to pay for sex with these little boys. How do you put that on Wayne?
Newscaster 4: It’s been learned that investigators have now found this man, Tom Terrell, and questioned him today about his role in some type of homosexual ring operated out of this home in Northwest Atlanta. That ring apparently involved the latest child victim, Timothy Hill, and through recent findings, may have linked together several other children on the task force list. Terrell knows this man, Larry Marshall, now in a Connecticut jail on armed robbery charges. Investigators also want to question Marshall, but so far he is fighting extradition back to Georgia. The next best thing is this man, sitting in a detective’s car this morning.
Newscaster 5: How many of the murdered children have you seen around here?
Jerry Thornton: About 10 of them. I told the man that today.
Newscaster 6: Jerry Thornton, Larry Marshall’s former roommate, identified 10 of the murder victims from pictures shown him by a police investigator, children he’s seen in the neighborhood. Among them, 13-year-old Timothy Hill, 11-year-old Patrick Baltazar, and 15-year-old Joseph Bell.
Newscaster 6: This morning, Terrell’s house on Gray Street was empty, unlike recent weeks when neighbors said at any given time, several boys would be hanging out here. Terrell is an admitted homosexual who says one of the victims, Timothy Hill, spent the night at his house the day before he disappeared.
Tom Terrell: He was here on the 12th. He was supposed to come back on the 13th. That was my birthday.
Newscaster 7: He didn’t come back?
Tom Terrell: He ain’t been back. If he did, I didn’t see him, and hadn’t seen him since.
Vincent Hill: Back in the ’80s, no one was saying, “I’m openly gay.” You definitely didn’t want to be known as a city that’s trading boys for sex. If you have 10 people that have been identified at one house where guys were coming in paying these boys for sex, they were giving them drugs, they were doing all these other types of things, you have all of these people coming to this house, trading for sex, how do you put those 10 bodies on Wayne Williams? You tied all these victims to Wayne, but you can’t.
Newscaster 8: 34-year-old Larry Marshall, now behind bars in Connecticut, is a known homosexual. He used to hang around this neighborhood on Gray Street. Tom Terrell, who is also a homosexual, said 13-year-old Timothy Hill also used to hang out here, and Larry and Timothy knew each other.
Newscaster 8: Larry told you he had Timmy over to his house?
Tom Terrell: Mm-hmm (affirmative). He said he came there. Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Newscaster 8: What did they do over there?
Tom Terrell: I don’t know. They don’t be doing nothing but drinking and talking.
Newscaster 8: You do know for a fact that Larry knew Timmy?
Tom Terrell: Yeah, he know him.
Vincent Hill: Patrick Baltazar went missing after being seen at the Omni Hotel. Patrick Baltazar, from the Omni to his house to Larry Marshall’s house was about 1.8 miles. Baltazar would’ve had to pass Larry Marshall’s house on his way home. He’s walking home, right pas Larry Marshall’s house, who’s associated with this pedophile who’s selling these boys for sex.
Newscaster 9: Marshall is believed to have known at least three of the victims, Patrick Baltazar, Timothy Hill, and Joseph Bell, who is still missing.
Vincent Hill: If you’re 10, 11 years old, and you say, “Yeah, I’m gonna go tell my mom what you’re doing,” the heck you are, because I don’t want to go to jail for rape of a jail, so I’ll just kill you. When Patrick Baltazar was found, one of the witnesses that morning, she said she saw a male, white, in a green station wagon just lurking around towards the wooded area where Patrick was found. Who was the white guy in a green station wagon?
Newscaster 10: Baltazar was with a 10-year-old friend, playing near these railroad tracks near the Baltazar home on Foundry Street. Baltazar’s friend told Jack Perry a big man in a car started following them and tried to get them to come get in the car with them. Perry taped part of the conversation with the young friend of Patrick Baltazar.
Patrick’s friend: He said, “Come here, you two boys.” Patrick started to the car. I grabbed him from behind. I said, “You don’t know who that man is.” Then when he was going up the hill, he said, “I’ll be back.” Then me and Patrick ran out and tried to get his tag number, but we couldn’t get it.
Newscaster 10: They called the task force from this phone near the key shop on Northside Drive, according to the young man who was with Patrick Baltazar. After Patrick and his friend made the call to the task force, they didn’t hang around waiting for police. They split up, and Patrick was not seen again. We don’t know if police sent a squad car to this area, but Jack Perry says he has learned the task force talked with Patrick Baltazar’s friend just two days ago.
Jack Perry: I’m sure that the task force has the same information, so I hope it’s beneficial to them.
Newscaster 10: I asked Jack why it would take more than a month to follow up on talking to someone who had phoned asking for help, particularly when one of the two children who had called turns up dead.
Jack Perry: It’s surprising that they’ve let this thing go this long. You want to follow every lead that you have. I think it’s just a breakdown of communications.
Newscaster 10: Jack Perry also has learned that Patrick Baltazar may have intentionally gone back to the area where the man tried to pick him up, because Patrick was a street hustler and believed he could get the license number and maybe he could collect the reward.
Vincent Hill: There’s no coincidence that the FBI had Tom Terrell’s house, Larry Marshall’s house under surveillance for weeks because of this alleged sex ring. If you follow the trail, you can’t call it a coincidence that Patrick Baltazar lives here, Larry Marshall lives here, the house where all the sexual activity was here, which also tied to 10 other victims. You can’t say it had nothing to do anything. That’s impossible.
Payne Lindsey: In the many years of Vincent’s research, he’s found a recurring story in the FBI files, a story about a vehicle that didn’t belong to Wayne Williams, a blue Nova.
Vincent Hill: I know there was talk about a blue Nova, which Wayne didn’t drive the blue Nova. Why didn’t police do a motor vehicle records search to tie this blue Nova to somebody other than Wayne?
Vincent Hill: The case about the blue Nova, the guy had an afro, with no glasses. Have you ever seen Wayne without glasses? Other than his booking photo, have you ever seen Wayne Williams without glasses? Wayne can’t see, so who was this guy with the afro with no glasses? Couldn’t have been Wayne.
Vincent Hill: Back then, a lot of people said every black person looked alike. We’re talking 1979. I had an afro in 1979. My dad had an afro in 1979. Who didn’t have an afro that was black in 1979? That was pre the Jheri curl when Michael Jackson made that famous, people were walking around with afros, so it very well could’ve been someone that resembled Wayne, because he looked just like that. He had an afro. The description wasn’t a white guy with red hair. It was a black guy with an afro. That was probably 90% of the black population of Atlanta in 1979, 1980.
Payne Lindsey: This whole time, I’ve been wondering if there were any kids that got away, that were almost abducted, and if so, were they still around? That’s when I met Rodney. He’s an Atlanta native, a child living here during the time of the murders. Rodney firmly believes that when he was 16, he was almost a victim of the Atlanta child murderer. He shared with me his chilling firsthand account.
Rodney: I was 15, not old enough to work, but Six Flags accepted a fake ID, which you could get downtown at that time, and put me to work. I rode the bus from my neighborhood in Southeast Atlanta to downtown. There was at the time a Marta direct shuttle from downtown to Six Flags, and all it did was go back and forth from this stop downtown to Six Flags, no other stops in between. I would change buses, get on the Six Flags shuttle, go to work, get on that shuttle to come back to downtown to go home and get on my bus, which was the 34 Gresham.
Rodney: That particular day, for whatever reason, by the time I had gotten off the 34 Gresham, walked across from the end of the line and to the Six Flags shuttle, I had missed it. As I’m standing there, this guy approaches me. He was not tall, about 5’6″-ish. He was in his mid-20s. He was clean shaven, which was unusual for a black male in the ’70s, and he had a short afro. He had a fairly soft voice. He didn’t come across very masculine. He just came off as a nice guy.
Rodney: He approaches me, and he’s just basically chatting with me, asking if I’m okay, “Yeah, I missed my bus. I’ve gotta get to work.” My recollection is that he almost immediately offers me a ride, “I’m going that way. It’s no problem. You want a ride?” Drove a blue Nova. The blue Nova was parked on that same street, just down the block. It wasn’t far. It was just walking down the sidewalk. I got in his car, and off we went.
Rodney: To go to Six Flags from downtown, one would go directly to I-20, which is maybe a mile or so from that spot. What he did was drove on surface streets heading north, away from I-20.
Rodney: On that ride, as he was talking to me, he offered me a joint. I had never done drugs. To this day, I don’t know if there was anything in it or if I was just new to that and just had gotten really, really high. Frankly, I smoked marijuana years after that and was very familiar with it, but there was something about that high that was it wasn’t just marijuana. There was something else in it.
Rodney: During the course of that ride, he started to fondle me, as he was driving, over my pants. I recall just staring down at what he was doing, just not knowing what was going on, not really communicating with him. At 15, I had no idea what was going on.
Rodney: As we continued down Fulton Industrial, I knew that he would get onto I-20, because we were one exit away from Six Flags. Either he’d get onto I-20, go over into Cobb County, drop me off at Six Flags, or he would continue down Fulton Industrial, which if he passed under I-20, heading south, it was no man’s land, industrial warehouses, nothing.
Rodney: As we were at a traffic light maybe two blocks from the entrance to I-20, it was like a do-or-die moment. As we were sitting at that traffic light, just out of nowhere I decided, “I’m gonna jump out.” I grabbed the door, unlatched the door, and opened it and tried to bolt out of the car. Now I did have on a seatbelt, but he had the seat cover over his vinyl seats. It had a hole in it. My afro pick that was in my back pocket, which was the way we carried them then, got hung up in his seat cover. I’m struggling at this light to undo myself from his seat cover as the door’s open, trying to escape, and he didn’t try to stop me. He just said to me as I’m struggling, and it was the most eerie, calm thing, “Bye, Rodney.”
Rodney: I got out of the car and started heading back in the opposite direction, back up the hill, toward a bank that I knew was the last stop for a Marta bus line. I was really out of it, really disoriented, looking out for him, to see if he had turned around to come back in that direction. He didn’t. He continued on. I basically just laid on the grass in front of this bank, waiting on a Marta bus to come, and finally one did. Got on it, went back downtown, got on another us to go to a relative’s house, to my aunt’s house, and slept it off during the afternoon, just slept. Never told anyone about it.
Rodney: I am convinced that had I stayed in the car, we would not have gone on to I-20, we would’ve continued straight south on Fulton Industrial, which would’ve led into that no man’s land outside of Southwest Atlanta. I’m convinced that the way that that happened at that time, that this guy had some responsibility for some of those murders, if not all of them.
Payne Lindsey: You think that you would’ve been a victim?
Rodney: I’m sure of it. It was an odd, disturbing thing that happened, but it didn’t occur to me until I was an adult and had knowledge of the child murders in general. It didn’t dawn on me that, hey, that situation was more than what it seemed to be. I started connecting the dots to other things that had happened. As the years went by, understanding what went on, what that whole thing about what the Atlanta child murders was about and the details of the investigation, it became clear to me that my experience was related to it.
Rodney: By the time I had that realization though, the investigation was over. We’re talking about mid to late ’80s. What’s the point? That’s the way I thought about it. In my mind, the authorities had found their man, the person they intended to put it all on, and what’s the point of me seeking out someone who cared in law enforcement to tell my story? What’s the point of that?
Rodney: When I came across this podcast and you guys were looking for information, I decided to offer it. It’s like, “Okay, I got something to offer here.” I still don’t think law enforcement is interested. In my mind, I think they consider this a closed case. I could be wrong, but that was the way I always looked at it. They were looking to close it and end it then. I know of no one in law enforcement who would be interested in reopening or reexamining any evidence around this, so why spend time seeking out someone who would want to hear what I would have to say?
Payne Lindsey: Do you think the man who picked you up that day was Wayne Williams?
Rodney: No. Absolutely not. Positive of that.
Payne Lindsey: He sounds similar in description.
Rodney: Yes, similar.
Payne Lindsey: Similar height, same hair.
Rodney: Clean shaven. The photos I’ve seen of Wayne Williams from that time, he had blemishes on his face that this guy didn’t have. The shape of his face was different. This guy was slimmer built, more of an oval-shaped face, different in more ways than he was the same, I’ll put it that way.
Payne Lindsey: Do you hear my voice?
Paul: Yeah. You have to go to the opposite side of the bridge.
Tyler: Hey. Hey. There you are.
Paul: This is Paul, over.
Tyler: This is Tyler, over. Do you want me to stay down here or come back up? Over.
Paul: Casey and Alex come down here to follow me with the camera.
Tyler: I’ll stay down here to get them safely to the spot.
Paul: Yeah, that sounds good. We want to get a camera on me as quick as possible. Then Taylor will have his camera up here. It’s 1: 00 now, and I’m hoping we can do the drop right at 2: 00-ish.
Tyler: That sounds good. Careful with that right here. If you could pull your truck down where the Georgia Power sign is, and then we could at least walk him up there and then get the dummy onto the back of your truck, just to get it back here quicker. That make sense?
Payne Lindsey: Yeah.
Tyler: We’re approaching things as if we might not get a chance to do it again.
Tyler: Yeah It wobbles a bit, but it’s in the play of the joints. The base feels stable.
Paul: Ready, everything is in position.
Payne Lindsey: You guys good up there?
Paul: We’re good up here. Ready on your call.
Payne Lindsey: You ready? Action. Cut.
Payne Lindsey: Atlanta Monster will be a 10-episode podcast, so there’s four episodes left. Here’s a preview of what’s to come.
Wayne Williams: One of my attorneys, Lynn Whatley, received a package on his doorstep, this anonymous package, and it contained hundreds of GBI files about a classified investigation into white supremist involvement in the Atlanta killings. It also contained several tape-recorded confessions. Some of the Klansmen admitted that they were involved in the murder of some of the missing and murdered cases.
Anonymous man: I don’t want to tell anything, because my wife right now is real nervous. We’ve been through this before. My name was put out there, and it was a scary ordeal. Family spent a few weeks in a hotel just out of being scared. I don’t know you from Adam.
Anonymous man: It’s a story that I’ve held onto for a long time, that I’ve known about. I don’t know how you want to go about this, Payne.
Payne Lindsey: You can always come here to the office that we have and talk.
Anonymous man: I’d rather not.
Anonymous man: You wouldn’t think here in this little sleepy town that he was any kind of a monster, or he certainly didn’t act like it, until we drank, and then he got the eyes of Charles Manson.
Anonymous Man: I don’t know. I don’t know where it should go from here. I know that there were some wrongs that should probably be righted. There’s family still suffering. Anybody out there who thinks that Wayne Williams didn’t do all this by himself is correct. I only know that from the mouth of the devil.
Anonymous man: I’m sorry that I did not come forth sooner.
Payne Lindsey: Atlanta Monster is an investigative podcast told week by week, with new episodes every Friday, a joint production between How Stuff Works and Tenderfoot TV. Original music is by Makeup and Vanity Set. Audio archives courtesy of WSB News Film and Videotape Collection, Brown Media Archives, University of Georgia Libraries. For the latest updates, please visit AtlantaMonster.com or follow us on social media.
Payne Lindsey: One last thing. We’ve set up an Atlanta Monster tip line. Anyone with information, leads, or personal accounts pertaining to the Atlanta child murders can call us and leave a message. The number is 1-833-285-6667. Again, that’s 1-833-285-6667. Thanks for listening.
Payne Lindsey: Can I show you something?
Dr. Blackwelder: Yeah.
Payne Lindsey: You guys good there?
Dr. Blackwelder: That metal part-
Paul: We’re good up here. We’re ready on your call.
Dr. Blackwelder: This metal part was not there.
Payne Lindsey: That was not there.
Dr. Blackwelder: No. It wasn’t there.
Dr. Blackwelder: It was just concrete of about this height probably. You would think that sounded like a … I would think that if I was out there to listen, that I could tell the difference between a beaver and a body, but I’ve never heard a beaver hit it, so I don’t know what they sound like, but a beaver’s tail wouldn’t be near as big as the body of a man, and you would think you could probably tell.
Payne explores theories of Klan involvement within the case.
What car did Wayne really drive? Where did the reward money go? And was Wayne scouted by the CIA?
Trial by trace evidence.