DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (WRBL) – A little boy who was murdered and found in a DeKalb County, Georgia has his name back after being known as a John Doe for more than 20 years.
On July 13, 2022, the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office announced the mother of the child, whose body was dumped in a wooded area near a small church cemetery on Clifton Springs Road in 1999, is being charged with his murder.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the little boy has been identified as six-year-old William DaShawn Hamilton.
Teresa Ann Bailey Black, age 45, has been charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children, aggravated assault, and concealing the death of another in connection to the death of Hamilton.
“For far too long, this precious little boy had no name and no story,” said District Attorney Sherry Boston. “Through the tireless efforts of several individuals and organizations who were determined not to let this boy be forgotten, William has been identified, and justice will be served in his memory.”
Hamilton’s body was found on Friday, Feb. 26, 1999 in a wooded area at the corner of Clifton Springs Road and Clifton Spring Church Road. The six-year-old boy would spend the next 23 years without a name, as investigators worked to solve his murder.
According to the NCMEC, a major break in the case came when a tip was called into to the organization. It was from an individual who said she had known both Black and the little boy back in 1998 when they lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. The individual named Ava, who preferred to keep her last name private, said she had been searching for William ever since.
“This case is a perfect example of why we never give up hope,” said Angeline Hartmann, Director of Communications at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “For more than two decades, a woman in Charlotte followed her gut feeling that something wasn’t right. She made phone calls, scoured the internet and talked to anybody who would listen. We’re grateful she never stopped until she found that rendering of William online and gave investigators the missing piece to help solve this 23-year-old mystery.”
According to NCMEC, Ava said she was very close to the mother and son when they lived in Charlotte. Ava often took care of Hamilton. She described the little boy as a fun, witty, adventurous and intelligent little boy who loved to dance.
“He liked to crack jokes,” said Ava. “He did like to draw a lot, color, mainly read books. He didn’t want you to read to him…he wanted to read to you!”
According to the district attorney’s office, the investigation revealed in December 1998, Black abruptly withdrew her son from school in Charlotte and moved with him to Atlanta. When Black returned to Charlotte in late 1999, Hamilton was not with her. Investigators said when Black was asked about Hamilton, she had several different stories she would tell people about his whereabouts.
NCMEC said Ava’s tip gave investigators a new direction to follow in the case. The NCMEC team followed up, researching, analyzing and trying to connect the pieces to help investigators track down Hamilton’s family. With DNA work provided by NCMEC partner, Bode Technology, Hamilton’s identity was officially confirmed.
Black was taken into custody near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She is currently awaiting extradition to Georgia, according to the DeKalb County district attorney’s office.
The case remains under investigation. The district attorney’s office is seeking the public’s assistance. According to officials, Black briefly worked at the establishment known as “Pleasers” and may have been obtaining assistance from the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children for a short time.
Anyone who may have known or interacted with Black (then Teresa Ann Bailey) and her son during their time here in the metro Atlanta area in 1998 and 1999 is encouraged to call the office’s Cold Case Tip Line at 404-371-2444.