Atlanta's Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children S1E5 Script

Part 5 (2020)

WOMAN: Natalie Wood falls into the category of an icon.

NATASHA GREGSON WAGNER: By the age of 25, my mom had been nominated for three Oscars.

The focus on how she died has overshadowed her life's work.

In a town where women were not always respected, she was an exception.

She had a big heart and that showed up in her work.

NATALIE WOOD: I've enjoyed the part where you act, not the stardom that follows it.


WOMAN: Almost overnight, 23 cases were boxed up and it's like Wayne did that.

Once Atlanta was provided an out, they took it.

♪ (DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ MAN: There were so many things that just pointed directly at Wayne Williams.

It was all fake math.

And they presented it to the jury as hard fact.

Almost every key witness against Wayne Williams committed perjury or gave misleading testimony.

How do you defend against what we did not know?

WOMAN 2: Some of these children should not have been attributed to Wayne Williams.

MAN: The person identified to police had a scar down his face.

WOMAN 3: The investigators think that there was at least one other killer.

[TV static drones]

[bright tone]

["Save Me" by Joan Armatrading playing]

♪ ♪

♪ Sinking ♪

♪ Caught up in a whirling motion ♪

♪ Such a strange sensation ♪

♪ ♪

♪ The currents uncertain ♪

♪ Like sails of a mill, I spin ♪

♪ Like wheels, I move in a circle ♪

♪ While you stand ♪

♪ On the bank ♪

♪ Immune or evasive ♪

♪ Throw me a lifeline ♪

♪ Save me ♪

♪ Save me ♪ Everybody, please stand and join hands.

Father God, oh, I ask that you would bless each and every one that is here, Lord.

Bless every parent, Lord, that lost a child, Lord.

In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. all: Amen.

Yeah. [laughs]

I stayed with the mothers for a long time.

Oh, we gonna get started, and y'all gonna have a chance to tell y'all's story, okay?

All right.

Bless you. Bless you.

We had a little group going on till about '85.

This lady called Mildred Glover, we would go to her house every Saturday.

She helped us through a whole lot.

[somber music]

It was very important that we all stick together as a group, the ones that were still alive.

♪ ♪ I came in with a 35-millimeter camera and just started shooting pictures.

♪ ♪ I remember I was at Miss Mildred Glover's.

While a handful of parents and Miss Glover was talking in the home, me as a child, I'm on the porch, playing around.

This blue car pulls up.

This guy, tall white guy, took a brick, and he slung it through that window, and I remember Miss Glover's husband come running out of the door and asked me, "Ron, what'd you do?"

I said, "I ain't do anything, Mr. Bill.

That man did it."

And he jumps in his car, and he turns around, and he did a gesture like that out of the window.

♪ ♪ That brick had a note on it.

It said, "We gonna kill all you niggers."

That's what that note said.

"We gonna kill all you niggers."

I'll never forget that day.

♪ ♪ All these strange things happen related to the case.

Wayne was in jail... might've been a couple of years.

And I'd been working to get the next appeal ready when something new come into the mix.

[suspenseful music]

So my offices was on Ralph McGill.

I remember coming up on my doorstep, there was a package that was left for me.

I don't know who brought it.

Maybe I do know who brought it, but I can't say.

[laughs] But man, it was incredible.

♪ ♪ There was page after page.

Some of it was hand-written longhand.

Some of it was typed up.

Every bit of it was about an undercover investigation which took place in early '81.

♪ ♪ The Georgia Bureau of Investigation had opened up an entire investigation focusing on Ku Klux Klan involvement in the killings.

♪ ♪ It had been kept completely secret, and indeed, separate and apart from the task force that was investigating the murders, separate from the prosecuting authorities.

That evidence had never been presented to the defense at any time.

I was excited, man.

I was excited because I thought these files, the anonymous package, was overwhelming violation of the Brady Law.

The United States Supreme Court, in a case called Brady versus Maryland, held that the prosecution is required to provide to the defense any and all evidence that tends to exonerate or exculpate a defendant.

Because the prosecution and the police tend to have the ability to collect far more evidence than the defense does, they have to disclose it.

In this case, they didn't do it.

It was a no-brainer that this would give Wayne a new trial.

Wayne Williams is being represented in this hearing for a new trial by his former attorney, Lynn Whatley, and two of this country's most prominent attorneys, Bobby Lee Cook of Summerville, Georgia, and William Kunstler of New York.

I'm here in my antiquity, hoping to do some good in the world.

I had always admired William Kunstler, even as a very young person.

I watched his work in the Chicago Eight, which later became the Chicago Seven trial.

He fought the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

He represented Dr. King.

He represented the Black Panthers, the anti-war movement, the American Indian movement, and it's like, "Wow.

That's who I want to be when I grow up."

Civil rights specialist William Kunstler and Harvard Law School's Alan Dershowitz say they have proof that police withheld evidence of a possible Ku Klux Klan suspect out of fear.

We're asking to have an opportunity to see all the files.

Let's have a fair fight.

Let's have a true scientific test, and let the chips fall where they may without any loaded dice.

And, of course, we had the amazing Bobby Lee Cook.

He was already a legendary figure in Georgia legal circles.

♪ ♪ There's no other way to talk about Bobby Lee Cook other than brilliant.

They say the "Matlock" television series was based on Bobby Lee Cook.

We've heard some pretty confusing testimony around here lately.

First, Lucas perjures himself, and then your wife perjures herself.

What's going on?

♪ ♪ So we had a pretty all-star team.

The hearings were down in Butts County, about an hour outside of Atlanta.

That's where the electric chair is, down there, Butts County.

♪ ♪ The hearings are set in this old courtroom.

The press was there.

The courtroom was full, and it played itself out pretty big.

You ladies and gentlemen ready to proceed now?

Yes, we are.

Judge, we'd like to begin this proceeding with a short overview.

We will present a plethora of undisclosed documents and evidence that we have collected since the trial.

We do expect to show that Williams, in fact, was denied his constitutional rights in a very abundant fashion.

The first witness today, Billy Joe Whitaker, says he worked as a police informant during the missing and murdered investigation.

Why did you come to see me?

I believe you called me, did you not?

Yes, sir. And why did you do that?

I figured, "Well, "here's a man in a penitentiary, "been there eight or ten years, "and I know he's not guilty of what-- the ones they convicted him of."

He might've killed the rest of them.

I don't know about that.

But I knew in my own mind, and the GBI knew it, that this man didn't-- he didn't kill those two people.

That's the reason you came to me?

Yes, sir.

Billy Whitaker was a confidential informant who had infiltrated the Klan.

Hail victory. all: Hail victory!

Hail victory. all: Hail victory!

The first I heard of potential Klan involvement was a detective with Atlanta named Aubrey Melton.

♪ ♪ Melton came forward to the GBI with a confidential informant.

Melton was a good street cop, but we had the capacity to bring more resources to the table.

We took the informant's information very seriously.

My boss detached me to head up the Klan investigation.

[marchers chanting]

The Klan was engaged in a lot of activity at the time.

They were marching on weekends, and they were very disruptive.

[marchers chanting]

The Klan clearly had every right to march and protest...

Go home, nigger!

But when you enter criminal activity, they crossed the line to bring our attention to them.

♪ ♪ The GBI investigation focuses on the Sanders family.

There are six brothers, and the Sanders brothers are involved in an offshoot of the Klan called the National States' Rights Party, or the NSRP.

It was initially founded by J.B. Stoner.

Only way Forsyth County can have law and order and peace and tranquility... both: Is keep the niggers out.

And they basically said the KKK were not radical enough.

One of their earliest recruits was Joseph Paul Franklin, who was going around the country shooting any integrated couple that he saw.

So that's just--you know, give you some idea about the NSRP.

White power! all: White power!

One of their chief officers was Donald Willard Sanders.

He's a third-ranking officer under J.B. Stoner

[foreboding music]

He was one of the six brothers in the Sanders clan.

♪ ♪ They were notorious drug addicts.

I mean, they shot every drug in the book, and they sold every drug in the book.

The main suspects were the older brothers, Don Sanders, Jerry Sanders, and Charles Sanders.

♪ ♪ How long had you known Charles T. Sanders?

Well, at that time, I'd probably known him ten years.

Charles said-- he was always trying to get me to join the Klan, you know, and... they said they had a lot of money behind them, people I didn't know, and people even he didn't know, he said.

Charles took me downstairs in the garage.

They had bazookas, they had--


Bazookas, yeah.

They had hand grenades.

They had C-2 and C-4 explosives.

Well, they had police uniforms, Atlanta police uniforms. They had...

The Sanders brothers had all these different uniforms.

Had DeKalb County uniform.

Coca-Cola, Purolator.

They had sanitation uniforms.

So maybe this let them be in certain places undetected.

[suspenseful music]

One of the theories was that the perpetrator had to be somebody that was gonna walk around that neighborhood almost invisible, so like a postman or a police officer.

♪ ♪ It's possible that these children are being captured by the Klan dressed in law enforcement uniforms.

You know, everybody, everything evolves, and the Klan had evolved.

They had this idea where we're going to start a race war.

We're convinced that there's a race war that is inevitable in this country.

We feel that there will be so much shooting and burning and looting and rioting that literally, the authorities will not be able to cope with it.

So what will Klansmen do?

Well, we're gonna defend ourselves and our property and help assist other people in doing the same.

At the time, there was a lot of uncertainty about who was going to control the political structure, who was going to control the economic resources, and the Klan was empowered.

They were making their presence felt.

It was like this was a plan to diminish Atlanta's and Maynard Jackson's success.

♪ ♪ These were not people who were simply play-acting at being bad guys.

And so Aubrey Melton persuaded the GBI to apply for wiretap warrants, which can only be made on the showing of probable cause to believe the people involved had committed a crime, in this case, the child murders.

They wanted me to wear a bug.

Did you agree to that?

I didn't care what they did. You know, I was trying--

You agreed to it. I was trying to help them catch the people doing that.

How did they wire you up?

They just put it on me and taped it around me.

While the wiretap was in progress, we also conducted physical surveillance.

[machine clicking]

There were, to the best of your knowledge, dozens, if not hundreds, of those tapes.

Isn't that right?

There were several reel-to-reel tapes made.

When you monitor, you monitor 24/7, from when they get up to when they go to bed, hours and hours, days and days of tapes.

Was there ever any conversation that you had that was recorded with reference to what Charles Sanders and his group were doing with children?

They was killing niggers. That's what he said.

He told me, "We're killing niggers.

We're gonna start killing females too."

[disquieting music]

♪ ♪ He said, "We killed a lot of these fucking niggers."

♪ ♪

When a man is charged with the killing of 29 people, and they charge him for two, there's a lot of unanswered questions.

Like what?

Like what happened to the other 27?

There was 29. He was convicted on 2.


I'd be interested to know what happened--

John, you ain't rolling that, are you?

Hmm? Yes.

You're not rolling this, are you?

Yes. I'm rolling.

I would think there's a lot of unanswered questions.

You don't? I mean... there's 27 unsolved mysteries out there.

And your name is surfacing in connection with...

[paper rustling]

In connection with this quote that...

"Yeah, we damn sure did.

We killed a lot of them niggers."

That's a blatant lie.

That's a blatant lie from Mr. Bill Whitaker, and that's a blatant lie from the defense.

You reported all of this to Mr. Melton.

Well, I told him I knew about-- about one of those kids getting killed, who it was that did it, and he had told me he was gonna do it, and it happened.

I read it in the paper, so I called Melton.

All right. What'd you tell Mr. Melton?

Well, I told him that I believed Charles Sanders of the Ku Klux Klan killed this one kid named Geter.

This little kid run into his van.

What little kid?

Geter, on a go-cart.

He lost control of it, and he run into the side of that van.

Geter ran into Sanders's car with the go-cart?

Yeah, and he said, "I'm gonna"-- well, I don't want to say that. Use the words that he said.

This is a court, court of law, and use the words that he said.

Well, you got ladies in here.

That's all right. You go ahead.

Well, he said, "I'm gonna kill

"that little black bastard, "and I'm gonna choke him to death with my dick and put him on Martin Luther King's grave."

You reported all of this to Mr. Melton.

To Melton, yeah.

Whitaker was able to link one of the Sanders to the case of Lubie Geter, whose death was ultimately used against Wayne Williams as one of the ten pattern cases.

That's significant, because that actually ties a member of the Klan directly to one of the children that Wayne was credited with murdering.

[somber music]

♪ ♪ I had known Lubie probably from the sixth grade.

Lubie and I were friends and classmates.

He was a good kid.

You know, he got in trouble like I did in school a few times, talking in class, maybe talking back to teachers here and there, but normal, fun, loving kid.

♪ ♪ He was one of the few kids in our community that still had both parents active in his life.

♪ ♪ I remember, like, before Christmas break, Lubie was talking to us.

He was telling us about these car care product that he was selling.

But close to when school opened back up again after the Christmas break, we saw on the news that Lubie was missing.

14-year-old Lubie Geter went to a South Side Atlanta shopping center on Saturday to sell air fresheners for automobiles.

He never came home.

Police say, so far, they're stumped.

A month afterwards is when they found his body.

♪ ♪ After he was found dead, there were some nights I didn't sleep.

♪ ♪ There was always a ringing bell in the back of my head, like, normal, you know, Atlanta teenager.

How could he get caught up in the middle of this?

♪ ♪ This Mr. Whitaker says that he asked Sanders specifically about 14-year-old Lubie Geter.

♪ ♪ Well, I can remember this very clearly.

Uh, Mr. Whitaker had brought this to my attention a couple days after Lubie Geter was killed.

And he was telling me that he was gonna kill boy because he run into my car.

Well, that's what he's saying you said.


He's turning it around.

That's not the way it happened.

Did there come a point in time in which they sent you to Charles Sanders's house and wanted you to ask specific questions about the Geter boy?


I said, "Well, you killed that damn Geter kid, didn't you?"

He said, "Yeah, I damn sure did.

I killed the little black bastard."

Was that recorded?

I assume it--I don't know why it wouldn't have-- if they didn't get it, I don't know why they didn't get it.

Charles T. Sanders admitted killing Geter.

The next witness, former Atlanta police chief George Napper says he does not remember his officers ever telling him about possible Klan involvement.

He had told them about the Klan being involved in the child murders?

No, I don't recall that at all.

Well, you say "I don't recall."

That's your answer to a lot of questions here today.

Does that mean you don't recall, he might have told you, or you have no memory now, or it didn't happen?

I don't know whether it happened or not.

You have a black man testifying.

I don't think so, no.

You mean to tell me that the Klan is involved in the missing and murdered children case, and you don't remember?

They knew about it.

I don't recall that happening.

You know, they gave a lot of disingenuous answers.

Have you ever seen that document before?

Not that I know of. I don't recall, so.

I don't remember. I--you know, I'm sure he said something, I just don't remember that the-- that there was anything said other than that, if there was information pertaining to our investigation, that they would let us know what was going on.

I'm afraid that at this time, I'm not clear on exactly what to report.

Push the mic up a little bit. There.

I don't know. I do not know.

I don't recall that. I don't recall.

My answer is, I don't recall.

I don't recall that I remember exactly that it said Lubie Geter.

I don't know.

You ever had any discussion about that?

I don't have a recall, sir.

♪ ♪ But that would be bad, now, wouldn't it?

Well, it's getting to the point.

It's right lunchtime. All right.

We're hearing about some lapses of memory here.

Do you believe these gentlemen when they say they don't--

No, I don't.

These are convenient lapses of memory.

Can you imagine the chief of police can't recall anything that happened in the most major investigation in the history of Atlanta, if not of Georgia?

And he can't remember anything?

I can't recall this, I can't recall that.

He can't recall that someone confessed to the murder of Lubie Geter?


Because of the nature of the case, the sensitivity of the case, we went far above and beyond.

It is very uncommon that you would run multiple electronic surveillances, multiple physical surveillances.

[machine clicking]

The GBI looked for anything associated with the case.

They looked for fiber.

They looked for dogs.

Trace evidence in the case included dog hair that most likely belonged to a husky or a malamute.

The Klansmen had a dog.

Did anyone ask you to check and see if Charles Sanders had a dog?

Yes, sir.

And what did they want to know?

Well, they wanted some hair off the dog, and I--

Hair off of what dog?

Charles Sanders' dog.

What kind of dog did Charles Sanders have?

Alaskan husky.

A husky? Yes, sir.

Did you ever own a dog?


A Alaskan malamute?

No, I never had a...

And a Siberian husky.

Well, my dog Trigger, sh--she was pretty close to a Siberian, but it was a German shepherd.

I had a German shepherd.

She was pretty close to a Siberian.

But had a little shih tzu puppy, and I had a German shepherd, and I also had a pig by the name of Sausage.

Did Mr. Melton and the GBI officer ask you to get anything else?

Well, he said, "Well, will you get me something out of the house?"

I said, "Yeah, if I can."

He told me just reach down on the carpet in the living room and get a little-- you know, just a speck or something-- you know, just whatever I could pull out.

What kind of carpet was it?

Uh, this old green fuzzy carpet.

So okay, there's a green fiber here as well.

And then there's a conversation in April that was recorded.

Terry Sanders says, "Hey, where you going?

Out to get another little kid?"

And Don Sanders said, "Well, yeah, scope out some places."

A few weeks later, the GBI brought in Jerry Sanders, Don Sanders, and Charles Sanders.

Were you ever picked up? Yes, I was.

Can you tell me about that?

Uh, Mr. Joe Jackson, GBI investigator, took me to GBI headquarters and interrogated me.

I was accused of distributing explosives.


I was accused of killing a young man by the name of Lubie Geter, which I don't know nothing about.

[suspenseful music]

♪ ♪ You know, they questioned me extensively.

Uh... and then they took me back to my house.

♪ ♪ I think Mr. Jackson realized that I had no knowledge of his investigation.

♪ ♪ Anyway, there came a point in time in which you ceased working for the GBI and Mr. Melton.

What blew up this investigation?

When did it stop?


Must be something that happened.

Well, this man's not gonna like it, but I'm gonna tell it like it is.

A agent named Jackson, a GBI agent.

Jackson? Yeah, which-- when Melton told me about it, he said a goddamn idiot GBI agent blowed it, blowed everything.

I said, "Who is it?" He said, "That son of a bitch named Jackson."

[mic scraping] State your full name, please.

Joe Bledsoe Jackson, Jr.

Did you ask either Terry or Don Sanders about a conversation about scoping out some children?

Mr. Cook... Finding another kid?

Judge, I'd like the opportunity to discuss this matter with counsel.

I'd like for him to answer the question.

The question is, did you ask either of the Sanders that during interviews?

Yes, sir. Okay.

Now, Judge, if you don't mind, could you and I go into chambers?

No, no, I'm not going into chambers.

Mr. Jackson, let's just simplify this.

Answer his question now.

Yes, sir.

[clears throat] Well, what did Terry or Don Sanders say about that?

They stated-- That they were just joking?

That's correct, sir.

They related to me that it was a joking type of conversation.

Talking about killing little kids being a joking conversation.

Did you laugh with them?

Mr. Cook, the conversation that you refer to took place on April Fools' Day.

Oh, I see. That was their explanation, that the conversation took place on April Fools' Day?

That's correct, sir.

And you accepted that as being a good faith reply?

That, along with the other surveillance techniques that we were utilizing during this time period.

And then there's a matter of the tapes.

This case generated a number of cassette tapes.

Yes. What became of those?

The tapes, to my knowledge, have been destroyed.

[suspenseful music]

♪ ♪ Wayne Williams was arrested on June 3, 1981.

It says "destroyed 7/31/81."

Yes, sir. And whose initial is that?

Those are my initials.

GBI agent Jackson destroyed the tapes while Wayne's original trial was pending, which looks very suspicious.

Why would they destroy the evidence?

Did you listen to all of the tape recordings?

I don't remember listening to each of them, no, sir.

Well, wouldn't you have listened to all of them?

I don't know that I heard them all.

I may have.

I don't remember.

You say you may have heard all of them?

That's correct.

And no record was made of it.

No transcript.

I don't think so.

And you were investigating the missing and murdered children.

What I was investigating was whether or not this particular group had anything to do with it...

Right. And they did not.

And they did not, and you concluded that.

Yes, sir. And you don't remember what was on the tapes

'cause you don't even know that you listened to all of them.

Well, sir, Mr. Cook, what I do recall for certain is that there was no mention in any form or fashion in which these people were killing any children.

Well, how would you know that if you don't remember hearing the tapes?

Uh, it just--that's the way I recall it.

There's no tie whatsoever to any murders.

[uneasy music]

♪ ♪ You know, these are Klansmen, rednecks, who spewed racial rhetoric every day, just people running their mouths.

Sanders was brought in and polygraphed, which was negative.

As a result of the searches, examination of the fiber...

There was no indication that the Sanders family had killed any of those children.

The information was determined to be unfounded.

As a result, the investigation was closed.

All right, we'll be in recess, and if there's nothing else, until 9:00 in the morning.

I think Mr. Cook, Mr. Kunstler, Mr. Whatley, should really look at what they have.

If you have a case against Charles Sanders or his family, put it up, or else shut up.

You know, other than him boasting that he was going to do this, there was no evidence he had done it.

Anything else? The end.


And the evidence on Lubie Geter, none of it pointed to Charles Sanders.

In other words, there was nothing there other than a Klansman bragging, apparently, to another Klansman about something that... didn't happen.

If had been the Sanders, I would've been the first to put the handcuffs on them.

Uh, it wasn't the Sanders, and we moved on.

♪ ♪ I was never willing to go so far as to say that members of the Sanders family were guilty, but we will never actually know for sure, because the tapes were destroyed.


What I do think: there was at least as much reliable evidence against the Sanders family for one or more of those killings than there was against Wayne Williams, and I also believe beyond any possible doubt that had the jury learned of the Sanders family involvement, of the threats against Lubie Geter, Sanders' husky, I do think the jury may have come to a very, very different conclusion.

Were these people simply incompetent, or was there some-- Was who incompetent?

The police investigation.

Well, I don't--

I don't want to characterize it as that.

I don't know what they were. I think I know what it was.

You know, I'll let them speak for themselves.

All right. I'll speak, not being from Georgia.

This was a device to a keep a race war from happening, and if they indicted someone from the Klan, that's what was gonna happen, in their opinion, and if they indicted someone who was black, it would not happen.

And they made a calculated choice.

They wanted to sacrifice Wayne Williams in order to keep the peace.

[uneasy music]

After Wayne Williams became a suspect, all of these other investigations were closed.

Anything that suggested Wayne could be innocent was simply cast aside because Wayne Williams solved a lot of problems.

Not saying that Wayne did it or didn't do it.

I don't know.

But had they pinned this on somebody white, especially somebody related to the Klan, there would have been riots all over America.

America would have been upside down.

The fact that they pinned this on somebody black shut it down.

♪ ♪ They are killing little children in the city!

They did not want a second Atlanta burning.

♪ ♪ Maynard Jackson had gotten the airport, and he had gotten all this business.

They did not want it to be destroyed.

♪ ♪ All rise.

Court is now in session, Honorable Judge Hal Craig presiding.

The appeals became a very long process.

Be seated.

And I remember thinking enough time had gone by, the passions had cooled, the Klan evidence all came out in open court, and there was no race war.

I thought, "Maybe now we can have a sensible reckoning."

♪ ♪ Williams, in fact, was denied his constitutional rights.

It was a tremendous effort on our part to show the injustice, and I think we showed it.

Well, what has happened today is this.

A Superior Court judge, Harold Craig, has denied Wayne Williams' plea for a new trial.

♪ ♪ The judge found for the prosecution.

He upheld the conviction, said no violation of Brady had been made of any significance.

The judge said there was nothing here that could've been useful in any way to the defense except the sort of red herring that you could throw out, saying "the Klan was involved," which we still hear about today, as if they were involved, and there was no evidence they were involved.

So the judge on the habeas corpus said there's nothing they could've used.

Eh... it's the worst trial I've ever seen.

It's the worst situation of unfairness and the deprivation of fairness that I've seen in 43 years of law practice.

You know, it's a damn disgrace.

When the decision came out, Bill Kunstler said, talking about white people, quote, "They're all such bullshitters when it comes to a black man's life."

Close quote.

[melancholy music]

♪ ♪ It was that dashed expectation that sort of gave rise to my motto of the ensuing years, which is, "I have no expectations.

I only have hopes."

Because disappointment is a function of expectations, and mine, now, pretty low from the legal system.

♪ ♪

It's this enormous injustice.

For the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to say that they found no evidence of the Sanders brothers being involved is hogwash.

♪ ♪ There were a number of cases where they found Caucasian pubic hairs and other hairs on the kids.

They should have known at that point that they were looking for a white man.

When I'm going through the GBI file, certain elements struck me about Don Sanders.

Again, he's secretary of the National States' Rights Party, who's trying to start a race war.

Now, this is a 1975 mug shot of Don Sanders.

You will notice a scar on his cheek and a long scar on his neck.

This, of course, brings me back to the FBI file along with the Atlanta Police Department files.

Then you have these eyewitness accounts.

For example, in the Christopher Richardson case, you've got a eyewitness saying they saw this white man kidnap Richardson, this witness describing the scar like an arrow on his face.

♪ ♪ And then you see Don Sanders.

Right by his mouth, he has a cut scar on his left cheek.

♪ ♪ A very noticeable scar.

It fits Don Sanders.

♪ ♪ And I sort of just compare the GBI file with the FBI file to find out what else could be a match.

Is there another nexus between those two files?

This is an example of an FBI file on the investigation.

As you can see, they are heavily redacted, where names, basic descriptions are taken out.

As compared to these files, which is from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

There is no redactions.

And you can then put the two together, you know, synthesize the data that you're looking at.

This is from the FBI file.

In February of 1981, this white male chases this ten-year-old kid home from school.

The boy runs under the bed and locks the door.

The guy breaks the door down, tries to the find the kid, but the kid is hiding under the bed, so he leaves.

A few hours later, this guy comes back.

The kid and his mother see this white male staring through the window.

He's got blue eyes, and he has a scar.

This suspect in question had no facial hair.

On March 1st, the same ten-year-old goes into the FBI headquarters, and he's shown a photo lineup, picks out--he says this is definitely the man who chased him about a month earlier, but in this photograph, he's wearing a full beard.

"When he chased me, he was clean-shaven."

♪ ♪ Now, at the same time, in February of '81 into early March, the agent in charge of the GBI investigation of the Sanders notices that he's changed his appearance completely.

He's cut his hair a little bit, and he has a well-manicured beard now, whereas he had been clean-shaven a few weeks before.

This matches up with a suspect here in the FBI document, whose name is redacted.

Again, he had a full beard in March, and so did Don Sanders in this GBI file.

♪ ♪ The dots are connected.

The beard changing at the same time and then the scar-- it all adds up.

I think Don Sanders has to be the man whose name is blacked out in the FBI file.

[suspenseful music]

I said, "Oh, my God, they've been trying

"to cover this up for 40 years, and they slipped up."

I think the file shows very clearly that the Sanders were involved.

I'm speculating, but seems like the Atlanta police investigator Aubrey Melton was the origin of how all those files got to me.

He knew they were sweeping it up under the rug, and he put his career on the line for the truth.

Aubrey Melton ought to be commended for that.

You know, that's what Shakespeare said about murder.

Murder always leaves a silent witness.

To me, those documents are a silent witness showing the Sanders brothers are involved in killing those kids.

♪ ♪ Look at the whole record, and it seems like there's several strands of killings.

You have the Sanders and the Ku Klux Klan.

You had pedophilia going on:

Wilcoxen and Tom Terrell, convicted pedophiles.

You have witnesses to Jamie Brooks with Clifford Jones.

They didn't follow those leads.

They chose Wayne.

♪ ♪ You know, I always felt that this is one of those mysteries that will remain a mystery because we blew it from the beginning.

There were just all these questions, and we never got good answers.

♪ ♪ The questions kept coming up.

The case had been so much about fiber evidence, and just a few years back, the Justice Department sent me a letter.

They said there was a problem with the whole process by the FBI crime lab.

♪ ♪ FBI lab evidence in some of this country's most high-profile criminal cases and a whole lot more could be called into question now, this months after an FBI whistleblower accused the FBI crime lab of shoddy and sloppy work.

The FBI laboratory was in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, and that building was not built to hold a laboratory.

Immediately upon walking into the laboratory in 1986, I saw it was a filthy environment.

Some of the equipment was way outdated.

A lot of it was rusty-- literally rusty.

I was working in a trace analysis unit where we were looking for tiny, tiny, tiny amounts of material.

The air system that was in the laboratory-- the air ducts were lined with fiberglass, and fiberglass started breaking down.

And when the air system came back on, all this stuff would rain down on our equipment, and we referred to it as black rain.

I took Scotch tape, and I put it around on surfaces and I put it under the microscope, and it literally took my breath away.

I was looking at countless-- and I'm not talking about 100 or 1,000.

I'm talking about-- if there was such a thing as a zillion, there were just fibers everywhere, and it was coming down into areas that we were doing fiber analysis, and we had no idea whether they came from crime scenes or whether they came from the laboratory itself.

We're gonna put human beings in cages and death chambers based upon that environment? No, sir.

I hadn't been there long when I talked to my training agent.

I said, "You know, this is gonna come out in court sometime," and his response was, "Before you embarrass the FBI, "you'll commit perjury in court.

We all do it."

Then I go to his boss, and I took that go-to-boss up over about... oh, six years, whatever, from boss to boss to boss to boss, and about 1995, the media got hold of it, and then it got a life of its own.

For years, the FBI lab has been world-renowned for coming up with clues that break cases.

Now a new investigation shows that for years, the lab may have been turning out mistakes.

Scientifically flawed testimony, inaccurate testimony, testimony beyond the laboratory examiner's expertise.

It just ballooned.

The FBI and the U.S. Department of Justice reopened thousands of cases.

♪ ♪ In April of 2015, the FBI announced that 26 of 28 hair examiners had provided misleading testimony

95% percent of the time over a 30-year period of time in court.

26 of 28.

Whitehurst is now cataloguing the files and offering his opinions on mistakes made in cases ranging from the World Trade Center bombing to Oklahoma City and hundreds of local murders in between.

Wayne Williams' case was worked on by the same group of people in the same processing areas under the same black rain.

♪ ♪

It wasn't just the fiber evidence.

Based on victim type, where the bodies were found, and the eyewitnesses that saw Wayne Williams with victims...

I'm 100% certain that Wayne Williams is the killer.

[suspenseful music]

♪ ♪ Keep in mind, the pattern of juvenile and young adult homicides stopped after the arrest of Wayne Williams.

The killings stopped. He can't do this anymore.

He's done.

No, I don't think the killings stopped because of Wayne Williams being arrested.

I think what happened is that the most probable suspects went to jail around the same time as Wayne's arrest.

When the Sanders brothers were taken into custody, they were told point-blank, "We have information that you are connected to some of the murders."

Well, of course then, they're on notice, so they have to stop.

Now, at the same time, the prime Clifford Jones suspect, Tom Terrell, David Wilcoxen, they were all arrested and thrown in jail, and that's why the killings stopped.

No, these were outlandish rumors with no substance to back them up.

There was nobody identified as a viable suspect other than Wayne Williams.

♪ ♪ The evidence in this case is airtight in my opinion, and I think, if somebody looks at it objectively, it should prove it to them that Wayne Williams is guilty.

But some of the parents are still not satisfied with the investigation.

This is one of the favorite pictures.

We had just left church that Easter.

Patrick would be married with kids and probably went on to the service like his rest of his brothers.

[somber music]

Just broke my heart.

♪ ♪ You know, it's--probably was a time that I said that, you know, in my heart, I really do believe that Wayne Williams killed Patrick Balt--

I remember saying that.

And then there's a time, you know, I don't believe Wayne Williams killed nobody.

And then it was a time, yeah, maybe he did kill Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne, because I have been put in a situation that, you know, you don't know what to believe, so that means that you just believe every damn thing.

You know, so to hell with that.

I don't know.

I wasn't there.

♪ ♪ If you look at Wayne Williams' case and say, "I don't know what happened,"

"I don't know" connects to "not guilty" in our system of law.

That does not mean he's an innocent man.

♪ ♪

Wayne has grown up in jail.

♪ ♪ If Wayne got out of jail, where would he go?

Um, I don't--his mother's dead. His father's dead.

I don't know what kind of life he would have.

But I think he's entitled to find out.

♪ ♪ His parents were supportive of him to the end.

I just hate that they had to die not knowing what had become of their son.

♪ ♪ I don't think Atlanta wants him released.

I don't think they want the case regurgitated, brought back up again, and I think Wayne is-- is gonna be in prison for the rest of his life.

♪ ♪ Growing up in America, I thought it was the land of opportunity.

I thought that my people, black people, had made our strides during the Civil Rights era.

We had made progress.

But after years of this nightmare, I have found out that there is no justice in the criminal justice system in the United States of America.

Nobody's concerned about whether you're innocent or whether you're guilty.

♪ ♪ He's truly an evil person because he presents himself now as being so innocent and he's victimizing the families again.

He killed their kids. Now he's using them again to put himself out there and say, "Hey, I'm innocent. I didn't do it.

It's not me." And, you know, it's just...

They were throwaways.

You know, their families didn't want them or they're out on their own.

It was sad, you know.

They're just kids, but they didn't have a chance, most of them, and they fell prey to this lunatic.

[high piano music]

♪ ♪ I don't want this investigation to become a "Free Wayne Williams" campaign.

To the extent that there's evidence that shows that it was not him, I think that justice will take its course.

But I really want this to be about the children and the unanswered questions for many of the families.

♪ ♪ I'm hopeful we find some evidence.

You know, it's a long shot.

This is really about being able to look at the families, the moms, the dads, and say, "We have done everything possible."

And so we are just very methodically pulling in the boxes of evidence, looking at the cases chronologically.

It's gonna take time.

2020, it'll be 40 years.

They should've did that 40 years ago, not 40 years...

They should've been did it.

They should've been done something.

Come on. 29 to 30 kids, and you mean to tell me nobody had an answer for 30 kids?

[mournful music]

We're not worth it, is what you're telling me.

I want my brother, and I want all the other children, to be worth something so they can sleep.

It's 40 years ago.

How many people have handled this over the years?

I don't think they're gonna find anything.

♪ ♪ You think that this is really trying to get to the bottom of all this?


♪ ♪ No.

This reinvestigation is about cleaning up, just trying to clean up the legacy of Atlanta.

♪ ♪ The man considered the main suspect in the Atlanta child murders will stay in prison.

The state denied Wayne Williams' appeal for parole.

His next opportunity will be in 2027.

Atlanta's a city of images.

It's a PR place.

It's what looks good and what we can project to the world-- "World's busiest airport."

♪ ♪ When this took place, Atlanta was on the rise.

They felt like Atlanta was being attacked by us defending Wayne Williams.

♪ ♪ Everything we brought out, people thought about it as a reflection on Atlanta.

♪ ♪

It's a very different Atlanta now because there was a plan of what Atlanta was gonna be.

♪ ♪ It's kind of crass.

We want to have the clout and the class, but none of the public housing projects remain at all.

They've all been torn down, black folks pushed out.

♪ ♪ And few, if any, of the people who lived there found homes there again.

♪ ♪

After Clifford passed away, we moved across town, and then we moved back to Chattanooga.

I would never move to Atlanta again.

I'm mad at Atlanta.

I'm pissed off at Atlanta, for real.

I just feel like they did our family wrong.

[somber music]

When Clifford passed away, I almost tried to, like, block it out like it was a bad dream.

♪ ♪ I guess I went into a deep depression.

♪ ♪ Clifford was buried at the National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I've never been back over there since we buried him.

I got past it, and...

♪ ♪

Just holding onto this, it was mentally tearing me down.

♪ ♪ I finally felt like it was time to come and see him.

♪ ♪

I just want the world to know we love Clifford.

♪ ♪

Me, personally, myself, nothing would give me a peace of mind or closure.

Just want to know who and why.

♪ ♪ I think that the notion of closure is something that people who are not directly involved make up.

I don't know what constitutes closure for a murdered child.

♪ ♪ People always talking about closure

I can't get with this thing about closure.

I don't think I'll ever have peace about that, about my son.

♪ ♪ It's been an emotional kind of afternoon because a lot of families are seeing each other for the first time in almost 40 years.

♪ ♪ Good afternoon. all: Good afternoon.

My name is Catherine Leach Bell.

I'm the mother of Curtis Walker.

Curtis was very important.

He was a black America child.

And someone took him from me.

Now, that's a pain that no one will ever forget.

[up-tempo music]

'Cause seemed like nobody cared nothing about what I was going through, not nobody.

♪ ♪ But I didn't give up.

I kept going.

♪ ♪ It hurts.

You're losing a child and being killed like that, and you don't know why he being killed like that.

It hurts.

You don't know why would anybody do something to a child like that.

That's a sick maniac. Come on now, come on.

That's right. We went through it

40 long years, but guess what.

We can go through it 40 more long years.

That's right.

Until the end.

Till the end. Till the end.

Until he be caught.

Say it!

We can't give up.

When we die, we can't do nothing about it.

But long as breath is in our body, we got our rights to find out who did this.

[dramatic music]

♪ ♪

[emotional string music]

♪ ♪

[bright tone]