Fact check: Police, mayor say there is no active serial killer in the Atlanta area

·3 min read

The claim: A serial killer is targeting women in Atlanta

Misinformation is spreading online about a purported serial killer targeting women in Atlanta, where police are investigating two separate slayings of parkgoers.

A July 31 Facebook post with more than 600 shares urges women to be cautious of their surroundings, claiming there is a "leak" from the Norcross Police Department in Georgia about an active serial killer.

"You've all heard about the Piedmont park murder surely, but now FBI is stepping in on this case pointing to the possibility of a serial being on the loose in ATL and surrounding areas," reads the text inside of a screenshot included in the post. "Crime in Atl is not uncommon, but these are."

The post continues on to claim that a Norcross police officer said a female body was found dismembered in the Atlanta suburb, citing an unnamed source.

Over the past few days, other users across Facebook have shared similar versions of the claim, prompting local authorities to dispute the inaccurate information.

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USA TODAY reached out to Facebook users who shared the claim for comment.

Police refute the rumors

The Atlanta Police Department issued a statement on July 30 saying there have been "many rumors and much speculation" surrounding a recent slaying.

Katherine Janness, 40, was found stabbed to death July 28 at about 1 a.m. in Piedmont Park in Atlanta, where she had been walking her dog.

On the same day, police found 18-year-old Tori Lang shot to death in Yellow River Park in Gwinnett County, about 20 miles from Piedmont Park.

Authorities say there is no evidence the two killings are related.

"Detectives have found no connection between the Piedmont Park case and the Yellow River Park case," Cpl. Ryan Winderweedle of the Gwinnett Police Department told USA TODAY via email.

At an Aug. 3 news conference, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said there is no evidence the death of Janness was committed by a serial killer or that it was a hate crime.

Meanwhile, Norcross Police Chief Bill Grogan told USA TODAY claims that a female body was found dismembered in the city "are only rumors, and there is no validity to them."

The FBI isn't providing details about its involvement in the Piedmont Park case, but Atlanta Police Chief Rodney Bryant told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution the department asked the agency to get involved to add resources.

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This is not the first time an isolated incident or the FBI's participation in a murder case has sparked false claims on social media of an active serial killer.

USA TODAY has debunked claims about serial killers in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Our rating: False

The claim that a serial killer in the Atlanta area is targeting women is FALSE, based on our research. Atlanta police said there is no evidence that two recent deaths are connected. Norcross police said they are not investigating a killing in that city.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Posts make false claims of active serial killer in Atlanta