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Fiber Evidence and the Wayne Williams Trial (Conclusion)

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 53 Issue: 5 Dated: (May 1984) Pages: 10-19
H A Deadman
Date Published
10 pages
This second of two articles discusses the use of fiber evidence in the Wayne Williams case as part of an overview of forensic fiber examinations.
Before Wayne Williams became a suspect, the Georgia State Crime Laboratory located a number of yellowish-green nylon fibers and some violet acetate fibers on the bodies of victims murdered in the Atlanta area. The fibers appeared to have a common source. Shortly after Williams became a suspect, the investigators determined the source of the fibers' manufacture. The next step was to determine how much of that carpeting has been sold in the Atlanta area. Further investigation traced the fiber to a limited amount of carpeting manufactured by West Point Pepperell. To convey the unusual nature of the Williams carpet, investigators developed a numerical probability from that company's data. They determined that the chance of randomly finding a housing unit with this type of carpet was 1 in 7,792. To any experienced forensic fiber examiner, the fiber evidence linking Williams to the murder victims was overwhelming. The prosecution undertook to educate the jury about fiber evidence, using over 40 charts and over 350 photographs. In discussing the significance of an association based on textile fibers, it emphasized that the more uncommon the fibers, the stronger the association. The association becomes even stronger when multiple fiber matches become the basis of the association, which was true in the Williams case. Transferred fibers do not stay with a person long, so that the fibers on a murder victim are most likely from the scene of the crime. Expert witnesses testified that it was highly unlikely that any environment other than that present in Wayne Williams' house and car could have produced the combination of fibers and hairs found on the victims, especially when there were so many varied origins. Additional evidence linked 10 other victims to 28 different fiber types, only 1 of which was common. Nine footnotes and three charts are included.