New DNA find­ings in At­lanta child slay­ings

AP Exclusive: Tests show Wil­liams not ex­cluded as hair source in slay case

The Covington News - - LOCAL NEWS - By Harry R. We­ber

AT­LANTA — Con­victed killer Wayne Wil­liams can’t be ex­cluded as the source of hair found on the body of one of the vic­tims in the no­to­ri­ous At­lanta child slay­ings case, ac­cord­ing to re­cently con­ducted FBI tests de­tailed in a re­port pro­vided to The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day.

Mi­to­chon­drial DNA tests were con­ducted on eight hair frag­ments found on the body of 11-year-old Pa­trick Bal­tazar, who was found dead Feb. 13, 1981, and com­pared to sam­ples of Wil­liams’ DNA taken from a swab of his mouth af­ter a judge or­dered the test­ing in Fe­bru­ary.

The re­port said that “due to the closely re­lated se­quences ob­tained from spec­i­mens,” Wil­liams “can­not be ex­cluded as the source of the” hair.

The re­port said the DNA test­ing showed the mi­to­chon­drial DNA se­quence from the two sets of sam­ples are the same ex­cept in one po­si­tion. In that po­si­tion, the DNA se­quence has only been ob­served in 3.4 per­cent of the black pop­u­la­tion based on a data­base avail­able to the FBI, the re­port said. Wil­liams is black. The se­quence hasn’t been ob­served at all in the white and His­panic pop­u­la­tions, the re­port said.

The AP ob­tained the re­port af­ter an open records re­quest on Tues­day. The re­quest fol­lowed con­ver­sa­tions with Wil­liams’ lawyers on Mon­day in which they said they were will­ing to dis­cuss the re­sults, but would not re­lease the re­port un­til their ex­perts re­viewed it.

Wil­liams lawyer Lynn What­ley said Mon­day that he was dis­ap­pointed the tests were not more de­fin­i­tive one way or an­other.

“It would seem to me that mi­to­chon­drial should have at least said it was in his fam­ily,” What­ley said.

Mi­cro­scopic test­ing of the hair found on Bal­tazar’s body also was con­ducted by the FBI. The hairs were com­pared us­ing a mi­cro­scope to hairs taken from Wil­liams’ head and pu­bic area.

The re­port said the trace test­ing showed that the hairs found on Bal­tazar’s body had sim­i­lar char­ac­ter­is­tics to the hair sam­ples taken from Wil­liams. How­ever, in each case of the trace test­ing the lim­ited size and na­ture of the hair found on the vic­tim “pre­cludes a more mean­ing­ful as­so­ci­a­tion.” As a re­sult, the re­port said, “no con­clu­sion could be reached” from the trace test­ing “as to whether or not this hair could have orig­i­nated from Wayne Wil­liams.”

DNA test­ing is a more ex­act type of test­ing than trace test­ing.

Dis­trict At­tor­ney Paul Howard has not com­mented on the re­port since Mon­day, but his of­fice and the Ge­or­gia Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion re­leased the re­port to the AP on Wed­nes­day af­ter the open records re­quest.

Be­tween 1979 and 1981, 29 blacks, mostly boys, were killed in the At­lanta area, spark­ing fear through­out the re­gion.

Wil­liams was con­victed of mur­der­ing Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, and Nathaniel Cater, 27. Af­ter the trial, of­fi­cials de­clared Wil­liams re­spon­si­ble for 22 other deaths, in­clud­ing Bal­tazar’s, and those cases were closed.

Wil­liams has al­ways main­tained his in­no­cence, say­ing he was framed, but has lost nu­mer­ous court bat­tles. Wil­liams’ lawyers have said the DNA tests they were seek­ing were not avail­able when Wil­liams went to trial in 1982.

Be­sides the test­ing on the hair in the Bal­tazar case, a Su­pe­rior Court judge had or­dered at the re­quest of de­fense lawyers that a car seat ad­mit­ted into ev­i­dence along with the cloth­ing from two of the vic­tims be an­a­lyzed. The FBI re­port asks the two sides to con­tact the agency to dis- cuss test­ing of the re­main­ing items.

Wil­liams was or­dered to pro­vide swabs of saliva and/or blood for the DNA test­ing.

In June, re­sults from test­ing con­ducted by a lab at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Davis, showed that hairs on the bod­ies of sev­eral of the vic­tims con­tained the same DNA se­quence as Wil­liams’ dog, Sheba.

Wil­liams is serv­ing two con­sec­u­tive life terms and has al­ready spent more than 20 years in prison.

What­ley said Mon­day that the de­fense would have its own ex­perts weigh in on the FBI re­sults over the next few days.

He said he be­lieves there are still unan­swered ques­tions in the case.

Re­gard­less of the doubts, le­gal ex­perts have said that be­cause of Wil­liams’ con­vic­tion, the bur­den lies with him to prove his in­no­cence, and the test­ing con­ducted in re­cent months doesn’t do that.

“Cer­tainly, it does not as­sist him in any way in meet­ing his bur­den of per­sua­sion, that is in show­ing ac­tual in­no­cence,” said Steve Sadow, an At­lanta de­fense lawyer not in­volved in the Wil­liams case.

Sadow added, “I’m cer­tain that he will not give up and this isn’t con­clu­sive in a fi­nite way, but in the le­gal sys­tem this is about as con­clu­sive as it’s go­ing to get.”

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