DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — The mother now charged with murdering her son in a Georgia cold case from 1999 is accused of causing his death by striking him in the head and, in a court hearing Wednesday in Arizona, agreed to be extradited to DeKalb County.
Officials in Georgia earlier on Wednesday announced the development in the case and the identity of a boy whose remains were found more than two decades ago near a DeKalb County cemetery.
They said a tip that came in about a year after a new artist's rendering of the child was released. It helped them investigate and do DNA testing to confirm his identity as William DaShawn Hamilton.
The officials also said his mother was the suspect in his death, and that she was under arrest in Arizona. They said she arrived in metro Atlanta after pulling her son out of school in Charlotte, N.C. in December 1998 and left abruptly after William's remains were found February 1999.
Authorities are still seeking help with the case. Boston said Wednesday that the mother worked briefly at a club in Atlanta on Cleveland Avenue 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. They can remain anonymous.
11Alive's Phoenix sister station KPNX was at her initial hearing, and reported she agreed on the extradition back to Georgia. DeKalb County deputies will now have 30 days to retrieve her.
The 45-year-old was described as using a wheelchair and in a calm demeanor. She is currently being held without bail.
The mother 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 indictment for the mother now alleges that she caused her son's death by giving him "a substance or substances containing Diphenhydramine and Acetaminophen."
Diphenhydramine is the more general name for antihistamines, like Benadryl, commonly used to relieve allergy symptoms. Acetaminophen is a general pain reliver, like Tylenol.
In addition to allegedly giving her child the medication, the mother is accused of striking him in the head with an unknown object. The indictment also alleges she failed to seek medical treatment for him and concealed his death.
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," DeKalb District Attorney Sherry 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."
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.