Police here never have sanctioned the theory that a single killer is responsible for the 20 unsolved murders of black youth since, July 1979. Now, however, the local district attorney, Lewis R. Slaton, has gone further than any previous official in commenting on the number of killers that may be involved: "Eight to 10," he says.
In a Monitor interview he confirms his reported speculation that as many as half of the murders may not be related to any of the others.
Regarding those that appear related, he says: "If we solve a particular one, we might solve 6. . . 9 . . . 10 cases." Physical evidence links a number of the cases, investigators have said.
Mr. Slaton says he was "surprised" that none of the murders have been solved to date.
Atlanta Police spokeswoman Beverly Harvard says that prior to the current string of murders, the city had averaged about "six to seven" child murders a year.
But, she adds, most are solved. Says Slaton: "Our records [on past child murders] have been a little better on solutions than we are having here."
He says investigators may suspect certain individuals in some of the apparently unrelated murders among the 20. And, he adds, "I frankly have no idea of the race" of the killer or killers in the linked cases. Nor is much known about possible motives, he says.
Of the possible killers, Slaton says, "one or two of them might be involved in a group of them [murders]."
Is the investigation adequate? District Attorney Slaton says yes. Mrs. Annie Grace Rogers, mother of one of the slain youths, says no.
"It seems strange that none of them [the killers] has been found," she says. "I don't think they [police] are doing all they can." She does not agree with Slaton's estimate on the number of killers involved, saying she believes more of the crimes are linked.
Meanwhile, more than $260,000 was raised for investigation expenses from donations and ticket sales to a benefit concert this week by Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. Other donations have come from groups and individually outside the state.
As a safety measure, public schools remained open for recreation programs this week during the spring break.