ATLANTA - A police chief has reopened an investigation into four of the child slayings that terrorized the Atlanta area more than two decades ago, saying he believes the man suspected in most of the killings is innocent.
Altogether, 29 people - all of them black, most of them boys - were killed in the Atlanta area between 1979 and 1981.
Wayne Williams, 47, is serving a life sentence for the murders of two young men. After his conviction, authorities blamed him for 22 of the other slayings but never charged him.
Dekalb County Police Chief Louis Graham said he plans to take another look at the slayings of four boys between February and May 1981. Graham, who became chief last year, said he took an interest in revisiting the cases after looking through some old news clippings.
"After Wayne Williams was arrested, there was this decision by some people to close the cases, and I have never been one to espouse that kind of investigation or paint that kind of broad brush," Graham told The Associated Press. "I have never believed that he did anything."
The main evidence against Williams was tiny fibers found on the bodies and matched to rugs and other fabrics in the home and cars of Williams' parents. The state Supreme Court upheld his conviction in 1984 and later rejected an appeal for a new trial.
"There's no question this is a significant development, and we look forward to learning all of the facts concerning re-examination of these murders," said one of Williams' attorneys, Michael Jackson of Buffalo, N.Y.
Williams, who is black, has said that he was framed and that Atlanta officials covered up evidence of a Ku Klux Klan role in the killings to avoid a race war in the city.
The man who prosecuted Williams at trial, Joseph Drolet, said he welcomed the DeKalb police investigation but stood by Williams' convictions. He said that when Williams was arrested, "the murders stopped and there has been nothing since."