ATLANTA – A prosecutor Tuesday rebutted defense claims that DNA testing of animal hairs found on some of the bodies in the notorious Atlanta child killings case are inconclusive, and he insisted the evidence links Wayne Williams to the slayings.
District Attorney Paul Howard said at a news conference that seven dog hairs from five of the murder cases were compared to hairs that had been gathered a quarter-century ago from Williams' dog, Sheba.
"All seven hairs tested are the same as Sheba's, the dog of Wayne Williams," Howard said. "The test was not inconclusive as some have already started to spin."
He added, "This testing finally settles the debate over whether Wayne Williams was the Atlanta child killer. He is."
But the director of the University of California, Davis, lab that conducted the testing, Elizabeth Wictum, told The Associated Press that while the results are "fairly significant," they don't conclusively point to Williams' dog as the source of the hair.
"We didn't individualize," Wictum said.
The report said the hairs on the bodies contained the same DNA sequence as Williams' dog. It said the DNA sequence occurs in about 1 in 100 dogs, based on DNA records on more than 1,200 dogs in a database kept by the UC lab.
Williams' attorneys said the findings of the report mean the results are inconclusive.
"It surprises me that you're trying to do the same thing as back in 1982, and that is use incomplete evidence," a Williams attorney, Lynn Whatley, told Howard at the news conference Tuesday. "Justice has not been done in this case."
In February, a Superior Court judge ordered the testing of hairs and other evidence at the request of lawyers for Williams, who was convicted of killing two people and blamed for 22 other murders in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He is serving two consecutive life terms and has already spent more than 20 years in prison.
The UC lab conducted the animal hair testing, while the FBI was involved in the testing of the other evidence, officials involved in the case said. The other tests were pending.
Williams was convicted of murdering Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, and Nathaniel Cater, 27. After the trial, officials declared Williams responsible for 22 other deaths, and those cases were closed.
Williams has always maintained his innocence, saying he was framed, but has lost numerous court battles. Williams' lawyers say the DNA tests they were seeking were not available when Williams went to trial in 1982.
The UC lab conducted a type of testing on the dog hairs called mitochondrial DNA testing. Wictum noted that there wasn't enough chromosomal DNA in the samples to conduct a more definitive type of testing called nuclear DNA testing.
Ideally, the lab would want its database on dog DNA to include dogs from the time period and location of a murder, but that isn't always possible, Wictum said. The murders Williams was blamed for occurred more than 25 years ago, while the UC database was assembled over the last 10 to 15 years.