ATLANTA - Lawyers for convicted killer Wayne Williams, blamed for the murders of two dozen boys and young men in the Atlanta area during the 1970s and '80s, are casting suspicion on a child molester they say lived or worked near where many of the bodies were found.
In court papers made public Friday, the defense asked a federal judge for access to police files on the molester.
The papers do not identify the man by name but say he is a multiple child molester serving time in a Georgia prison. They also allege that investigators knew the man was a viable suspect in the child murders but never told defense attorneys.
Most of the victims died from asphyxiation without ligature marks, and this suspect has described to police his knowledge and skill as to how to accomplish that act, the court papers say. They don't elaborate on the man or his methods.
Evidence about the man resurfaced within the last year after a police chief in DeKalb County, near Atlanta, reopened the investigation into five killings, according to the court papers.
"A profound miscarriage of justice has occurred in this matter, which not only has kept (Mr. Williams) behind bars for a majority of his adult life, but also which kept a blind eye to bringing the real killers of these many victims to justice," the lawyers wrote.
A spokeswoman for the state attorney general's office, Kelley Jackson, declined to comment on the defense allegations or on whether her office would oppose the release of the materials the defense is seeking.
Between 1979 and 1981, 29 black boys and young men were killed in the Atlanta area, spreading fear throughout the region.
Mr. Williams was convicted in 1982 of murdering two young men and sentenced to two consecutive life terms. Evidence of a pattern of conduct in 12 of the killings was used in his trial.
Afterward, officials declared Mr. Williams responsible for 22 other deaths, and those cases were closed.
Mr. Williams, who is black, has contended that he was framed. He has maintained that Atlanta officials covered up evidence of Ku Klux Klan involvement in the killings to avoid a race war in the city - a claim investigators have denied.
The court papers also allege that a former medical examiner who conducted autopsies on all the victims planted fiber evidence on the bodies to test whether such fibers are too common to link to only one person. Mr. Williams' lawyers said the examiner now acknowledges that "50 percent of those fibers that were presented were fibers that could have been on all of us as well."
In an April telephone interview from prison with The Associated Press, Mr. Williams said he is confident about his prospects after more than 20 years in prison.
"I'll say this 100 times. It should be obvious right now of my innocence," he said.