DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Authorities in DeKalb County announced Wednesday they had finally identified a boy whose remains were found near a cemetery more than two decades ago - and that his mom, now 45, was being charged with murder.
DeKalb District Attorney Sherry Boston announced that with the help of a tip, made by someone who saw an artist's rendering after it was released three years ago, they were finally able to begin testing and investigating the identity the boy.
That boy, Boston said, can now be identified as 6-year-old William DaShawn Hamilton.
Hamilton's mother, Teresa Ann Bailey Black, is under arrest in Phoenix, Arizona and awaiting extradition back to Georgia. She was indicted by a DeKalb County grand jury last month and faces two counts of felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children, aggravated assault and concealing the death of another.
The mother never reported her son missing, nor did anyone else, resulting in the inability to connect the remains found in 1999 to William.
"For too long, this precious little boy had no name and no story," Boston said in a statement. "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."
Boston said William was removed from school in Charlotte, N.C. in December 1998 by his mother, with the pair relocating to metro Atlanta.
William's remains were then discovered in a wooded area at the corner of Clifton Springs Road and Clifton Springs Church Road on Feb. 26, 1999. Boston said Wednesday they believed at the time his remains had been there for about three to six months.
A manner and cause of his death was not determined at the time. The indictment for the mother now alleges that she caused her son's death by giving him "a substance or substances containing Diphenhydramine and Acetaminophen" and by striking him in the head with an unknown object.
It also alleges he failed to seek medical treatment for him and concealed his death.
Archived 11Alive footage from 1999 shows the search for answers after someone discovered the boy’s body.
“The condition of the body precludes a facial identification, finger prints … things we usually use to identify someone,” DeKalb County’s assistant chief Medical Examiner Dr. Gerald Gowitt said in 1999.
A tip on William's identity came through in May 2020, after the release more than a year earlier of an updated artist's rendering of the boy by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
A true crime writer and podcaster who was involved in the case, Angeline Hartmann, said at Wednesday's press conference a woman named Eva recognized the artist's rendering of William when she finally saw it. She had known William and had long been working to try to figure out what happened to him.
Hartmann said that woman "always felt that something wasn't right." She shared a statement from Eva, which said William "was like a shining star" who liked to draw and read books - not normal children's books, but books like the dictionary and encyclopedia.
"William was going to grow up to be somebody," Eva's statement said. "I so wanted him to be alive. I wanted William to know that I never stopped looking for him. I loved William."
Authorities are still seeking help with the case. Boston said Wednesday that the mother worked briefly at a club in Atlanta on Cleveland Ave. called Pleasers, which is no longer in business. She said the mother may have also been obtaining assistance from the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children.
Anyone who might have known the mom or William at that time in late 1998 and early 1999 is asked to call the DeKalb County cold case tip line at 404-371-2444. You can remain anonymous.
11Alive's sister station in Phoenix, KPNX, reported late Wednesday afternoon that Black had agreed to be extradited to DeKalb County. Deputies will have 30 days to get her and transport her back to Georgia.
The 45-year-old was described as using a wheelchair and in a calm demeanor. She is currently being held without bail.