CHARLOTTE, N.C. — More than two decades after a boy was found dead in a Georgia cemetery, investigators say they have made a crack in the cold case that now has a tie to Charlotte.
In 1999, WCNC Charlotte's partner station WXIA 11 Alive in Atlanta reported the boy was found dead in a small cemetery in Dekalb County, Georgia. He was likely found anywhere between three to six months after he had died.
He went unidentified for more than 20 years, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). In 2019, new forensic technology was able to create a facial reconstruction of the boy in the hopes that someone would recognize him.
Three years after the facial reconstruction was shared, a break in the case came from a woman who told investigators she knew the boy and his mother.
On Wednesday, the NCMEC shared the Dekalb County District Attorney's Office had a name for him: William DaShawn Hamilton. He was 6 years old when he died, and his mother now faces charges in his death.
The NCMEC said they got a tip called in by a woman sometime after Hamilton's facial reconstruction renderings were released. The woman, identified only as Ava, knew the boy and his mother when they lived in Charlotte. The center said Ava took care of Hamilton often, describing him as a fun and intelligent boy who loved a good joke.
Hamilton's mother, 45-year-old Teresa Ann Bailey Black, left Charlotte with the boy in 1998. But when she came back without him, the NCMEC said she shared different stories about where he was.
The center said Ava had a feeling something wasn't right for more than 20 years. And she didn't give up her own search for the answers.
“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," Angeline Hartmann, the NCMEC's director of communications, said in a blog post on the center's website.
Now, Black is facing two counts of felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children, aggravated assault, and concealing the death of another. WXIA reports the indictment alleges she caused Hamilton's death by giving him "a substance or substances containing Diphenhydramine and Acetaminophen" and by striking him in the head with an unknown object.
She was taken into custody near her home in Phoenix, Arizona and is awaiting extradition to Georgia.
The NCMEC said the Dekalb County DA's Office is now seeking more information about Black and Hamilton's time in the metro Atlanta area, between 1998 and 1999. According to WXIA, Black worked at a now-defunct Atlanta club called Pleasers, and may have obtained assistance from the Atlanta Day Shelter for Women and Children.
Anyone with information can call the office's cold case tip line at 404-371-2444.