NEW YORK -- A man who persuaded jurors that Wayne Williams committed Atlanta's child murders lied when he said Williams secretly hated poor members of his own race, ABC's 'Nightline' news show reported Wednesday night.
The news show said evidence it uncovered after months of investigation discredits testimony of some key witnesses against Williams and shows the city's police may have ended their search for a killer of 28 young blacks too soon.
Williams, a self-styled talent scout, was convicted of the first-degree murder of Nathaniel Cater, 27, and Jimmy Ray Payne, 21, two of the victims of what became known as Atlanta's 'Missing and Murdered Children.' He was sentenced to two life terms.
Police also implicated him in 10 of 22 more killings. The rest of the cases -- committed from July 1979 to May 1981 -- remain unsolved.
Bobby Toland was the man who gave jurors a motive for the slayings, testifying Williams hated 'lower class blacks,' 'Nightline' reported.
'But that's not the truth,' said Michael Burnhardt, co-owner of an ambulance service Williams used to visit and Toland's boss, upon learning of Toland's testimony.
Burnhardt moved before the 1982 trial, but told 'Nightline' he learned one of his employees, Robert Lee Toland, testified at the trial by watching the news show '20-20.'
'It stated (the '20-20' account) that Wayne Williams had made the statement that if a person were to kill one black child how much it would reduce the black population,' Burnhardt said.
He said Toland was the man who really made that statement, not Williams.
He said investigators never questioned him, adding, 'Why wasn't I called?'
Burnhardt said Toland said he 'was a member of the Klan' and that he had a nickname for Williams -- 'the little nigger.'
'Nightline' also echoed claims Williams made last year in his latest plea for a new trial -- that state investigators had wiretaps of Ku Klux Klan members indicating they were involved in some of the killings to start a race riot. The state never followed up the lead, possibly afraid of sparking a race riot, 'Nightline' said.
The program said all the tapes of the wiretaps were destroyed after Don Sanders, a Klan leader, denied involvement. However, sources knew that one of Sanders' brothers, Carl, was on bad terms with Lubie Geter, 14, one of the 22 victims prosecutors suggested Williams killed.
Although Williams was not charged in other murders, prosecutors linked him in his trial to the other murders.
'Nightline' said two witnesses who testified they saw Williams with one of the 22 victims gave police descriptions of possible killers that did not fit Williams. One of them, Ruth Warren, told the show, 'I'd never seen Wayne Williams before in my life until I saw him in that courtroom.'
The show also said witnesses told police another man killed one of the 22 young blacks, but police dropped that case when Williams was arrested.
Robert I. Henry testified at the trial he saw Williams and Cater leaving a theater the night Cater disappeared. Henry is in a Georgia jail, and officials would not allow him to be interviewed.
According to 'Nightline,' Henry said in an affidavit that he insisted to interrogating officers, 'if my life depended on it, I could not say the man I saw with Cater was Wayne Williams,' Laura Wessner, a 'Nightline' spokeswoman said.
Henry told 'Nightline,' 'I was told I had to testify that I was positive' in naming the person as Williams. He also claimed investigators told him 'to forget the fact I saw Cater again that evening by himself.'
'Nightline' also has interviewed mothers of the slain children, the jurors, and members of the Ku Klux Klan, but all principal officials in the case have refused to be interviewed on camera.