Friday, December 3

victim receives his tombstone 40 years later

(CNN) — For more than 40 years, the body of a boy killed during a series of homicides that threatened Atlanta has lain in an unnamed grave on a grassy knoll approximately 90 kilometers southwest of the city.

That situation changed this Sunday when a group of activists, family members and local business owners came together to unveil a tombstone in the name of Anthony Bernard Carter, who was found stabbed to death in July 1980 when he was 9 years old.

The headstone, which is made of granite and features small engraved flowers, was placed near where the family believe Carter was buried, in a cemetery in his hometown of Hogansville, Georgia, to provide closure for his family, who he hopes the reopening of the investigation into the murders of children in Atlanta definitively solves the case of Carter.

Authorities reopened the investigation in March 2019 into the murders that took place between the 1970s and 1980s to reexamine the evidence, in the hope that technological advances may point to a definitive killer in cases, most of them which were never resolved.

Carter’s death has taken on special significance for Hazel Jenkins, his 85-year-old aunt. Carter stayed with Jenkins often after her mother Vera left for Atlanta for an unknown reason in the late 1970s, Jenkins, who is Vera’s older sister, told CNN by phone.

“He didn’t have a good life. He never had a chance,” Jenkins said, crying. “He was a sweet boy.”

Rearming history

Carter was born on Aug. 31, 1970, in Hogansville, Troup County, which in 1980 was home to about 50,000 people, according to U.S. Census data published by the Associated Press.

Nicholas Burnston remembers playing with his younger cousin when they were children. “Anthony was a muscular, smiling young man who was very smart and had just passed the fifth grade,” Burnston told CNN. “He was a smart kid. He was fast. He had a speed that nobody could match, nobody. He always smiled.”

Carter liked to eat bologna and spiced ham sandwiches, along with fried chicken, his favorite food, Burnston said.

“I think he would have been a soccer player,” Burnston said. Carter lived primarily with his grandmother, but moved between the homes of other family members and, on more than one occasion, was caught sleeping on a Hogansville baseball field, Burnston said.

This photo shows missing and murdered children in Atlanta. Anthony Bernard Carter is the one seen next to the letter N

One of the houses where Carter lived belonged to LaTunya Bright’s great-grandmother. Bright is also Carter’s cousin.

“Anthony was a very nice and smart kid. He was a little shorter than everyone else, he was stocky. He was very fast when it came to sports,” Bright told CNN by phone.

Part of the reason for Carter’s nomadic life was because his mother lived in Atlanta, Burnston said.

“His mother didn’t give him the attention he needed. His father … didn’t love Tony; he wasn’t there,” Burnston said.

In an attempt to give Carter some stability, he left Hogansville in the summer of 1979 for Atlanta to reunite with his mother.

About a year later, on July 7, 1980, Carter was found “dead, decomposed, face down on a grassy bench in the back of a warehouse,” according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s report.

Carter had been stabbed multiple times in the chest and back, according to the report.

In a written account of the details surrounding Carter’s death, which was signed by former State Representative Mildred Glover, Vera described the moment she saw her son in the morgue.

“I saw a horror that will never leave my mind,” said Vera Carter. “I fainted from the shock of my son’s mutilated body.”

Carter was the eighth victim in what would become known as the Atlanta child murders. His body was transported back to Hogansville where he was buried on July 12, 1980, Vera said in her account.

Vera Carter was never the same again, said Glover, who was also the founder of an organization of parents of murdered children, who spoke to the newspaper.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, now defunct.

“A lot of the other parents could get involved in conversations about other things. But Vera’s conversations would be about Anthony,” said Glover, who held meetings at his home with the parents at the time, according to the newspaper. “She was talking about the moments that had passed and how she found him so mutilated. She only cried when she got to that part.”

Vera Carter was shot and killed in late September 1986 after having an argument with her neighbor, the newspaper reported. He was 34 years old.

Commemorative months in the making

Relatives of Anthony Bernard Carter during the presentation of the tombstone (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage / Getty Images)

An artistic representation of Carter was placed in front of the Springfield Baptist Church this Sunday, where more than three dozen people gathered to remember the boy and “honor his legacy and his life,” said Pastor Collier Starks from the pulpit.

“Anthony Carter was a child. Anthony Carter’s life mattered,” Collier said. “We came to finish unfinished business.”

Sitting in the back of the church was Burnston who, after watching a television special about the Atlanta child murders a few years ago and noticing how little attention Carter received, was determined to make sure his cousin was not forgotten.

“They only talked about him for five seconds,” Burnston said, recalling the television special. Burnston connected with Amie Davis, a private benefactor, this summer after she joined a Facebook group for missing and murdered Atlanta children that he was a part of.

“When he came to see me in July, I asked him specifically if he wanted me to step in and try to do something. He said absolutely yes,” Davis said, recalling his conversation with Burnston about creating a tombstone for his cousin. “The reason I finally asked was because there was something different about the way Nicholas was talking about it. A different sadness.”

Davis worked with Sunshine Lewis, founder of Grace and Mercy Concierge Bereavement Services in Atlanta, William Murray, owner of William Gayleano Murray and Son Funeral Home, and others to coordinate and create the headstone.

In tribute to Carter, Hogansville Mayor Bill Stankiewicz declared October 24, 2021, a day of remembrance.

“All the inhabitants of this city are asked to pause and reflect on a tragically truncated life,” Stankiewicz said Sunday, reading the proclamation he presented to Jenkins.

In search of a closure for the case of the murders of children

Hazel Jenkins, Anthony Bernard Carter’s aunt, is embraced by Pastor Collier Starks and Bill Stankiewicz, Mayor of Hogansville.

While the monument’s unveiling helped provide closure for the Carter family, it’s not enough, Bright said.

“We don’t have a person who actually killed Tony,” Bright said. “We all feel that Wayne Williams wasn’t the one who killed Tony. And it’s not just me, it’s every member of the Carter family except one or two.”

Wayne Williams, the man implicated as the prime suspect in the murders and convicted in two of the deaths, was sentenced to life in prison in 1982. Williams claims he is innocent and said Atlanta was “in a panic” over the murders and She was determined to convict a black man because arresting a white man could have sparked a race war, according to an interview she did with CNN in 2010.

Bright’s sentiment was shared by other family members, including Burnston, who hope Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ effort to identify a new suspect will pay off.

On October 18, Bottoms tweeted that investigators were traveling to Salt Lake City to provide a private laboratory working with ancient DNA with “evidence from the missing and murdered children.”

“It is my sincere hope that there are concrete answers for families,” Bottoms tweeted.

The fiber evidence was retested in all 30 cases, and investigators have also extended the timeline from 1970 to 1985, to see if there are additional children or victims who may have been overlooked, the mayor said.

CNN’s Hollie Silverman, Madison Park, and Eliott C. McLaughlin contributed to this report.

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