DeKalb County

Jury deliberating fate of woman accused of killing 6-year-old son 23 years ago

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — A DeKalb County jury is deliberating a cold case that has gotten national attention because of the gruesome details.

Teresa Black is accused of killing her 6-year-old son and leaving him to decompose in the woods of DeKalb County more than 20 years ago. The remains of William Hamilton were found six months after his death in 1999.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

Black admits she left the child dead in the woods and investigators said she lied to family and friends about where he was. Black claims the child’s death was due to an accidental overdose of medication and that she did not mean to harm him.

Channel 2′s Tyisha Fernandes was outside the DeKalb County courthouse Tuesday, where nearly every one of the jurors was taking notes during the five-day trial. Public defenders who are representing Black said they understand that no one has much sympathy for Black, but they asked that the jury consider that Black was young mother who was homeless, alone, and didn’t know what to do when her son got sick.


“The state’s entire case has been an attempt to make you hate Teresa Black,” her attorney said. “They were eating out of dumpsters and she gave him over-the-counter medication because he didn’t feel good.”

The state said Black gave William a lethal dose of medication, but none of the doctors who testified could say if that was the cause of death or not because William’s body was too badly decomposed.

The jury has to decide if Black is guilty of felony murder, which means she intended to kill him.

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

“You can base this whole entire case on circumstantial evidence and find her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” prosecutors said.

Jurors also have to decide if a fracture on William’s jawbone was from his mother assaulting him or animals scavenging after his death.

Several witnesses the state called believe Black is guilty because she left the state shortly after William’s death and lied about what happened for 23 years.

Last week, William’s father and aunt told the jury that Black could have given the boy to them.

Wanda Houston testified that she spoke with Black several times over the last 23 years and every time she would ask about her nephew, William Hamilton, Black would have a different excuse about where he was and why no one had talked to him.

“Where did she tell you he was?” attorneys asked Houston on the stand.

“She told me he was in Atlanta with his godfather,” she replied.

After a friend recognized an image put out by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the mother admitted to detectives that she was homeless and her son was malnourished. When she gave him some medicine that night, he never woke up and she never called 911 because she was scared and had no one to turn to.

The boy’s father says that isn’t the case.

“I used to try and come and get him all the time, but I could never see him. One time, I went to see him and she pulled out a gun on me,” he testified.

“You can hate her for these lies, but that is not what Teresa black is on trial for,” her lawyers said.