Synopsis by Hal Erickson
The Atlanta Child Murders is a five-hour, two-part dramatization of one of the most tragic and controversial homicide cases of the past twenty years. From 1979 through 1982, some 28 African-American children and young adults disappeared from Atlanta--some without a trace, but others to later turn up as murder victims. Part One (which debuted February 10, 1985) details the beginning of the manhunt conducted by the Atlanta Chief of Police (James Earl Jones). Screenwriter Abby Mann uses the actual events as a springboard for his thesis that the case and its outcome revealed many uncomfortable truths about the still-fragile state of race relations in the New South. Both parts of The Atlanta Child Murders were later combined into one 245-minute "feature film." The second part of the five-hour TV docudrama The Atlanta Child Murders originally aired February 12, 1985. After 28 African-American children and young adults have either disappeared or been murdered, the Atlanta police finally have a suspect in custody: Small-time show business entrepreneur Wayne Williams (Calvin Levels). Scriptwriter Abby Mann utilizes actual court transcripts of Williams' trial, which results in a conviction on one count of murder. This decision in essence leaves the cases of the other 27 victims unresolved--and in so doing, Mann opens the door to speculations that Williams, a black man, was a "convenient" suspect, who might possibly have been railroaded in the authorities' haste to find a solution to the sordid case. Whatever Mr. Mann may have felt concerning Williams' guilt or innocence, the fact remains that the murders and disappearances stopped cold once Williams was in custody (as of this writing, Williams persists in his efforts to reopen the case, claiming that he was framed by the white power structure). Morgan Freeman served as narrator for both installments of The Atlanta Child Murders.
Black [race], child-murder, missing-person, murder-trial, racial-tension, serial-killer