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Police Charge Atlanta Man With Killing One Of Four Elderly Women

April 24, 1986

ATLANTA (AP) _ Police say they are investigating whether a drug addict they have arrested in connection with one of four similar slayings of elderly black women may have had accomplices.

Richard Hunter, 31, was charged with murder, rape and burglary in the death of 85-year-old Annie Rochelle Copeland, Public Safety Commissioner George Napper said Wednesday.

″We believe the same person is also responsible for the other killings that have taken place,″ Napper told a news conference. ″Within the next couple of weeks we plan to take all the evidence gathered at this point to the district attorney and seek indictments with respect to the other cases.″

Robbery to support a drug habit was the apparent motive, said Maj. B.L. Neikirk, who heads the task force investigating the slayings.

Neikirk said that until about six months ago, Hunter lived in the area where the women were slain and that he may have known the victims.

A 25-inch console television stolen from Ms. Clements’ home raised speculation that more than one person was responsible.

″We don’t know if one person is capable of removing a large TV set,″ Deputy Police Chief Beverly Harvard said. ″We have not ruled out other involvement.″

Miss Copeland, who was smothered with a pillow in her apartment at the University Homes housing project, was the first of the four victims. Her body was found March 1.

The other victims were Aretha Clements, 61, who was found March 6; Dena Mike, 61, found March 11; and Gracie Hill, 65, found April 9.

The slayings terrorized elderly residents in the area where the victims lived and brought back memories of the 1979-81 slayings in which 29 young blacks were killed in Atlanta. Wayne Williams was convicted of murder in two of those cases in 1982, and police later blamed 22 other deaths on him without charging him.

Neikirk said a tipster brought Hunter to the attention of police, and officers had been watching him since Saturday.

Napper said police reacted more quickly in this string of slayings than they did in the 1979-81 cases, many of which involved children.

″It was very clear immediately that these slayings were linked. That was not the case for the missing and murdered kids,″ he said.

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