One apparently consistent factor in the murders of black youths here is that investigators have found no evidence that the young persons were taken by force.
Two theories have emerged from this: (1) that the killers might have been known to the victims; (2) that the killers somehow enticed the victims to go with them. The most obvious lure, given the low-income background of the victims, would seem to be money, according to police.
although police investigators cannot be certain there were no struggles, no witnesses have come forward saying they heard a victim shout or saw him resisting.
A number of the victims were last seen while trying to earn money -- collecting recyclable cans for a few pennies, running an errand, or selling some product on the streets. Many of the victims were described as eagerly looking for ways to earn money.
So police are scrutinizing the lives of young victims, hoping to see if somewhere in their pattern of acquaintances and activities there is a clue that might lead to a killer.
The police want to question any adult who was known to a victim in any way, looking for anyone who might have won a child's confidence enough to lure him away.
One line of investigation focuses on an activity little-reported either in Atlanta or nationally: possible sexual links between some of the victims and male adults.
For years authorities have known that some male Atlanta youths, both blacks and whites, have been involved insuch activities with older men for money, says Robert Aberle, an investigator for the Fulton County Solicitor's Office. Even the murders have not stopped it, he says.
In addition, police have investigated the visits by at least one murder victim to a couple of run-down houses on Gray Street, near downtown Atlanta. A resident at one of the houses says at least two of the victims came to meet girls -- and men.
The mother of a teen-age friend of one of the victims says her son and the slain youth used to talk frequently about going to Gray Street -- a short, dead-end street in a poor, black neighborhood.
Within the last few days, police arrested an elderly male resident of one of the two ramshackle houses on Gray Street and charged him with a sexual offense involving a minor.
Atlanta public Safety Commissioner Lee Brown will say only that there is no evidence to date that any of the murders are the work of a homesexual, but that all possibilities continue to be investigated.
A black member of the "gay community" here agrees that black adults have picked up black youths in wooded areas of Piedmont Park. He says the black gay community here is beset with anxieties, fearing that one of them may be a killer. He says gays deplore the killings and want the killer to be caught as much as anyone else.
Capt. Roy Baker, aide to the director of public safety for adjoining DeKalb County, says, "the possibility of a tie-in [between such acti vity and the murders] is certainly being looked at."