Spoilers ahead for Mindhunter Season 2. A large portion of Mindhunter's second season takes place in Atlanta, where black children are going missing. Holden Ford (Jonathan Groff) travels down south from Quantico to meet up with Agent Jim Barney (Albert Jones), who joins the local task force as a liaison. And while it doesn't seem like Jim Barney from Mindhunter is a real person, he represents the local officers who worked the case.
The Atlanta Child Murders occurred in 1979 through 1981, per the FBI, when about 29 people were murdered — most of whom were black boys. And while the police's main suspect was Wayne Williams, he was only convicted for the murders of Nathaniel Cater and Jimmy Ray Payne in February 1981, per the Washington Post — both of whom were adults.
In Mindhunter Season 2, Holden and Bill Tench (Holt McCallany) visit Georgia to investigate the black children who have been disappearing at an alarming rate. There, they meet up with Agent Barney, who had been up for a job in the Behavioral Sciences Department last season — which the fairly incompetent Gregg Smith beat him out for.
For that reason, Jim appeared in Season 1, Episode 8, when he interviewed at Quantico. And while Tench was eager to bring him on board, Wendy Carr (Anna Torv) pointed out, "Our list of potential subjects are 80, 90 percent white and probably racist," which she said could "incite a response that affects the study." Unfortunately, they ended up going with Gregg (and look how well that turned out).
However, in an IMDb trivia note from Mindhunter Season 1, it's revealed that the anecdote Barney gave during his interview was told by a detective named Judson Ray in real life, which author John Douglas (whom Holden Ford is based on) wrote about in his book Journey into Darkness. For that reason, Barney is likely based on this person — albeit under a different name.
Whatever the case, it's obvious that Jim is still intensely interested in what they're doing in the Behavioral Sciences Unit, meeting with Tench and Ford when they come to his neck of the woods. And it's clear that he'd be a great fit for the team, bringing the imprisoned William Pierce Mallowmars after noticing that his cell contained tons of junk food in a photo. In this way, he's able to butter Pierce up and get him talking — that, contrasted with Gregg, who's so nervous speaking with the aggressive Elmer Wayne Henley Jr. that Dr. Carr is forced to take over.
In addition to Judson Ray, there were plenty of people working the Atlanta Child Murders. The police officers who worked the Atlanta Child Murders case back in the late '70s and early '80s included Danny Agan, a now-retired Atlanta homicide detective who investigated three of the murders, per the New York Times. Attorney General William French Smith was the one who asked the FBI to join the investigation, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and in Nov. 1980, the country's top five homicide detectives became consultants, at the request of Atlanta Public Safety Commissioner Lee Brown.
Furthermore, a policeman named Bob Campbell was the one who heard the splash in Chattahoochee River while he was on a stakeout, per the AJC. Campbell consequently questioned Wayne Williams, who was driving over the South Cobb Drive bridge at the time. And, according to SPIN, a variety of law enforcement agencies formed the Special Task Force on Missing and Murdered Children in July 1980, which was the largest task force in American history at the time.
And while nothing definitive was ever discovered, it's obvious that the people of Atlanta worked tirelessly to discover who was killing their children. Then, in May 2019, current Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, announced the creation of a task force to memorialize the victims of the Atlanta Child Murders, according to the AJC. "It is important for Atlanta to acknowledge the innocent lives lost during one of our city’s darkest hours," she said. "This taskforce will determine a lasting and appropriate tribute for the victims and their families, and serve as a testament that those lives mattered. That African American lives matter."
So while Agent Barney may be a fictional character, he stands in for Judson Ray and emphasizes the tireless efforts to get to the bottom of the Atlanta Child Murders — many of which remained unsolved.
Correction: A previous version of this article mischaracterized the source of Jim Barney's character. It has been updated to accurately identify Judson Ray as the inspiration.