6-Year-Old Found Dead Near Church Cemetery Finally Identified 23 Years Later
In 1999, a boy was found deceased in DeKalb County, Georgia. For over two decades, the child remained nameless until July 2022, when police announced the child’s identity as William DaShawn Hamilton.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the DeKalb District Attorney's Office confirmed the identity of a child found in 1999 in Decatur, Georgia as William DaShawn Hamilton. In addition, according to authorities, the 6-year-old's mother, Teresa Ann Bailey Black was arrested in Phoenix, Arizona for his murder. Black was put behind bars on June 29, 2022 and is awaiting extradition to Georgia.
This is all in part because of a loved one who never gave up looking for William.
NCMEC spoke to the brave tipster who called their hotline directly with vital information after recognizing the image they released. Ava, who did not want to publish her last name, said she came into contact with William and his mother in 1998.
Ava reportedly helped take care of the child and described William as a "fun, witty, adventurous, and intelligent little boy who loved to dance." One day, without any notice, she said Black vanished. Black abruptly left North Carolina, and when she returned, William was not with her.
DeKalb County District Attorney's Office said in a press release, Black (who went by the last name Bailey at the time) was living in Charlotte, North Carolina, withdrew William from school in December 1998, and moved to Atlanta, Georgia. When she returned to North Carolina the next year, Black allegedly gave conflicting information about where her son was.
Not a day went by when Ava wasn't researching, calling, or looking for William, NCMEC said. Ava had hope every time her phone rang, "Every call I answered... hoping and praying it was him or information saying he was okay. Sometimes I went to sleep with the phone and the computer on me, papers on me, papers in the bed. Pens. Everyday. That was like my job to find him."
Angeline Hartmann, Director of Communications at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said, “This case is a perfect example of why we never give up.“
Hartmann, who has tracked every update over the years and produced a story for her podcast "Inside Crime" added, "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. A huge thank you to the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office, and DeKalb County Police for their hard work that brought us here today.” Bode Technology also stepped up to the plate to help make this positive identification.
According to the District Attorney's office, Black is charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children, aggravated assault, and concealing the death of another.
District Attorney Sherry Boston added, "Justice has no time limit. When my team actually got going on this case, it only took that one tip. Now that we have an identity, we can follow all of the bread crumbs, and they did, and here we are. It is truly a memorable moment for William."
Ava concluded, "This was God's plan. Maybe give him the love and attention he needed and be the one to pick up these pieces for him after she scattered him and thought they couldn't be put together. Maybe that was my purpose for coming into his life... to make sure that once his life was taken that I could get him justice and I have."
If you have any additional information about this case, or if you had any contact with William or his mother during that time period or after, please contact the DeKalb County District Attorney tipline directly: (404) 371-2444.