ATLANTA -- Some of the 22 black children murdered in Atlanta were known to frequent an abandoned house apparently used as a homosexual rendezvous, an investigator said Friday.
An Atlanta police spokesman, asked if the special task force handling the murders was aware of the house and watching it, said: 'The FBI is investigating it, to my knowledge,' and refused to elaborate. The FBI refused comment.
There was no indication why the police department would single out the FBI -- and not the task force or FBI members of the task force -- as the investigators.
But an investigator close to the case said the house in the northwest area of Atlanta was common knowledge on the streets -- 'obviously it's a hangout for homosexual prostitutes' -- and some of the victims were known to have frequented it.
Investigators have long felt that the most likely motive for the murders was sexual -- especially in the case of the last four victims, whose bodies have been clad only in underwear -- and since all but two of the victims were boys, the likelihood of homosexual involvement was strong. There have been previous reports of occasional prostitution among some of the victims. Earlier Friday, Dr. Byron Dawson, assistant director of the state crime laboratory, said it appeared Eddie Duncan, 21, a retarded black man and the latest victim in the 20-month-long series of murders, was killed the day he vanished.
'Everything I have found is consistent with his having been in the water since he disappeared,' Dawson said. Duncan was last seen in the Techwood Homes public housing area, where he lived, on the night of March 20. His body was found in the Chattahoochee river south of Atlanta on March 31, just two miles from where the remains of his friend, Timothy Hill, were discovered a day earlier.
Separate funerals for Duncan and Hill, two hours apart, will be held Saturday.
Dawson, who conducted an autopsy on Duncan, said there were no marks of violence on the remains. This, and indications that the killer slew his victim almost immediately, tended to fit the pattern of other cases, along with other factors that authorities said overrode his age, 21, five years older than the oldest child victim.
Some investigators have said the conditions of bodies found recently have indicated they were all killed soon after their disappearance, usually by suffocation or strangulation.
Dawson disputed Douglas County Sheriff Earl Lee's statement earlier in the week that Duncan had drowned.
'I never really said he drowned. I said there was evidence suggesting he might have,' said Dawson. He said the cause of Duncan's death was being listed as undetermined, pending further information from investigators.
'The guy was full of water. He had been in the river a week to 10 days. His mouth was full of sand. I don't know if the water found in the pleural cavities was water inhaled or purely a mechanical phenonema. We're waiting for more information.'
Atlanta police also were interested in a 34-year-old black man arrested in Hartford, Conn., as a suspect in a robbery and stabbing in Atlanta last month. The man, Larry Marshall, reportedly knew one of the child victims, Hill, and he was being extradited to Atlanta for questioning.
In the past 20 months, 24 young blacks, all of them children except Duncan and all but two of them boys, vanished from poorer sections of the city. The bodies of 22 have been found and two are still missing.
Douglas County Sheriff Earl Lee, in whose jurisdiction Duncan's body was found, said none of the clothes Duncan was wearing at the time of his disappearance, other than the boxer shorts on the body, have been located. He said investigators have found no areas along the river where the body may have been dropped, other than several bridges upstream. 'We don't believe that any (evidence) will ever be found where the body was found,' Lee said.