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Exclusive: New attorney for Wayne Williams demands answers in Atlanta child murders

Attorney Janis Mann recently sat down with Williams in prison. She said they talked for three hours about his case. Here's what he said.

ATLANTA — Wayne Williams has a new attorney - and she's talking exclusively with 11Alive.

Williams has spent the last 40 years in prison convicted of murdering two men, while being presumed guilty of murdering 22 children, also famously known as the Atlanta Child Murders, from 1979 to 1981.

The investigation into those killings was reopened a year-and-a-half ago. But his attorney told 11Alive's Kaitlyn Ross they still don't have any answers. 

Attorney Janis Mann recently sat down with Williams in prison. She said they talked for three hours about his case and the only time he cried was when he told her the families of the children murdered in Atlanta in the '70s and '80s still don't have closure.

Mann hadn't heard much about Williams at all when she was asked to represent him. 

"I was absolutely stunned at the lack of evidence that convicted him," she told 11Alive. "And it took me a little while to understand the theatre in the community. The political and social atmosphere that existed at that time."

In 1981, Williams was convicted of murdering two grown men but at trial, prosecutors told the jury he was responsible for the deaths of 22 children even though he was never charge with the death of a single child.

"We start with the facts. Where are that facts? Where is the evidence?," asked Mann.

Meanwhile, those who knew Williams, such as Jimmy Howard - who started an R&B group with the man in the months before he was arrested, said the accusations against his friend and mentor are an old tune.

Howard told 11Alive he looked up to Williams in the 1980s and said today, he still does. 

"He is the guy who you would want to be your brother, your uncle, he's a great guy," Howard explained. 

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms reopened the investigation into those child murders in 2021.

RELATED: Investigators take evidence from Atlanta Child Murders to lab in Salt Lake City

Atlanta Police sent two DNA samples to a specialized testing facility in Utah. But 16 months later, Mann explained she can't get answers about what they found.

"We have absolutely no evidence as to what has been uncovered, what came of those DNA samples, we have no answers from the city of Atlanta or Fulton County DA," Mann stated. "I asked the city, Atlanta Police, and the District Attorney's office about the samples and they told me so far, no official report is available." 

She added she thinks Williams and the families of those kids have already waited too long. 

"My goal is to make sure that the truth comes out," she said. "That these families get answers, they deserve answers. And that he doesn't die in prison waiting for his name to be cleared."

As for Howard, he said he wants Atlanta to rewrite what they know of Williams, adding, "[He is] very strong. He's the type of person that he's not going to give in."

Williams was denied parole in 2019. He'll next be eligible in November of 2027 - that's five years away.

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