One evening in December 1985, Curtis Brown, a 21-year-old
black man, left his home in Atlanta, Georgia, to purchase a package of
cigarettes. Five hours later, when an unidentified corpse was discovered
in Dean Rusk Park, no connection was made. Stripped of I.D., his pants
pulled down, the victim had been shot several times in the head, and
.38-caliber bullets were recovered in fair shape for ballistic
Curtis Brown's body was not identified until four days
later, when his girlfriend filed a missing person report with police.
With confirmation in hand, detectives examined his final hours, tracing
the victim as far as a neighborhood tavern. Employees remembered him
there, on the night of his death, and they thought he had left with
another black customer, known -- for the sake of his 300 pounds -- as
From there, the trail went cold, and homicide
detectives had no time to spare for chasing shadows. Six years earlier,
Atlanta had been "honored" with the title of America's murder
capital, boasting the nation's highest per capita homicide rate, and
matters had scarcely improved in the meantime. Three sensational
outbreaks of serial murder had captured the national spotlight from 1980
to 1984, and overworked police had many "ordinary" slayings on
their hands, as well.
Ten months elapsed before authorities resigned
themselves to yet another monster in their midst. In mid-October 1986,
the decomposing body of a young black man was discovered in an abandoned
building; he had been shot several times in the back of the head, the
body left with pants pulled down around his knees. It took several days
to identify the victim as Daryl Williams, a 21-year-old drifter from
Ohio. Last seen alive in a bar, on October 5, there was no trace of his
movements from that night on.
Ballistics tests confirmed a link between the Williams
murder weapon and victim George Willingham, a local family man who left
his home on an errand, October 5, and never returned. Found the next day
in an alley, he had been shot in the back of the head, execution style,
with the same pistol used on Daryl Williams.
The connection of two
similar cases sent detectives back to their files. In short order, they
compiled a list of further victims. Curtis Brown was added, on the basis
of his killer's M.O., along with Richard Williams, of South Carolina;
Alvin George, 31, from Columbus, Ohio; and 18-year-old Jason McColley, a
native of Atlanta. The last three all had reputations as street hustlers
or male prostitutes; all had been slain execution-style, with a pistol
or knife, during the past year.
There were other striking similarities between the
unsolved murders. Five of the six victims were found with their pants
down, apparently slain after sex. George and McColley were murdered a
month apart, but in the same alley, each stabbed in the neck with a
Two unrelated victims named Williams, the first and last,
had each been killed in abandoned buildings a short distance apart.
Richard Williams and Curtis Brown had been shot with the same pistol,
but not the one used to kill Daryl Williams and George Willingham. Brown
and Richard Williams had each suffered post mortem wounds from a short,
If further connections were needed, a witness recalled
seeing Jason McColley with a hulk matching "Big Mike's"
description on the night he died. Renewed investigation led detectives
to the rooming house where Michael Terry had lived for the past year,
collecting numerous guns and pawning a few when he ran short of cash.
Arrested at work, in a tire-capping shop, Terry was relieved of a hidden
.357 magnum and hauled in for questioning.
In his eventual confession, Terry stated that he met
his several victims in saloons, adjourned to other sites for homosexual
relations, after which the smaller men allegedly had threatened him with
robbery or worse.
The killings, he alleged, were simply self-defense.
"I didn't want to hurt anyone," Terry insisted, "but they
took advantage of me." A jury thought otherwise, and on February
22, 1987, Michael Terry was convicted of murdering Richard Williams and
Curtis Brown. He was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment without
parole, four other cases held in reserve, against the possibility his
sentence might be shortened on appeal.
Michael Newton - An Encyclopedia
of Modern Serial Killers - Hunting Humans
SEX: M RACE: B TYPE: T MOTIVE:
MO: Shot/stabbed gay men after
DISPOSITION: Life without parole
en two counts, 1987.
Michael D. Terry