A picture of Joshua Harmon was shown at a Roswell Police press conference on Friday, July 23, 2021 when they announced that a 56-year-old man had been arrested in connection with his murder 33 years ago


Georgia police arrested and charged a man in the 1988 murder of 8-year-old Joshua Harmon after a review of DNA evidence linked him to the crime, according to the Roswell Police Department.

James Michael Coates, 56, faces numerous charges, said police on Friday, including murder, aggravated assault, aggravated child molestation, concealment of someone else’s death and manipulation of evidence.

CNN reached out to the public defender’s office and a former Coates attorney on Saturday morning to give them the opportunity to speak on his behalf, but received no response.

James Michael Coates can be seen in this undated photo released by the Roswell Police Department.

Roswell Police Department / AP

James Michael Coates can be seen in this undated photo released by the Roswell Police Department.

“Josh’s death and the fact that his killer stayed free for so long is unimaginable,” Roswell police chief James Conroy said in a press release on Friday. “I hope this arrest gives the Harmon family a sense of isolation.”

Joshua’s parents reported him missing 33 years ago in May 1988 when he did not come home for dinner, the police said on Friday. His body was discovered after a 48-hour search in a wooded area near his home in Roswell, about 20 miles north of Atlanta.

Despite investigative efforts by local police and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation – including the collection of “valuable evidence” – the case eventually went cold, police said.

“Investigators have been reviewing the case regularly over the past few years to seek justice for Joshua and his family,” police said in a statement, “and the evidence has been continually re-examined to keep up with evolving clues and advancing technology Keep up.”

Joshua’s body was exhumed in February 2021 in hopes of finding new evidence, police said. The following month, the Roswell Police Department received funding from the Georgia Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Task Force to “perform additional DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene.”

Police did not disclose the nature of the evidence, but said the results of the DNA testing linked Coates to Joshua’s murder. Coates was taken into custody on Wednesday, July 21, after police initiated a traffic control while driving an Uber, Conroy confirmed during a news conference on Friday.

The Georgia corrections record shows that Coates was convicted of another child molestation incident back in 1993.

Joshua Harmon can be seen in this undated photo.

Roswell Police Department

Joshua Harmon can be seen in this undated photo.

At the press conference on Friday on behalf of the family, Joshua’s aunt Marlene Carlisle thanked law enforcement for their commitment to resolving the case and said it was “bittersweet” for the family.

“Those bulldogs who got through it and worked 33 years to solve this for our family – we are forever indebted to you all,” she said.

“Josh was an amazing little boy who had an uncanny relationship with nature and God, so I know where he is and I know he is at peace,” said Carlisle.

Joshua’s mother Cherie Carlisle Harmon died last October.

“And my sister never gave up,” said Carlisle, adding, “I know she’s smiling down on everyone here today and thank you all so much.”

The case is still being investigated, and part of that investigation will be to make sure Coates does not harass other children, Conroy said. Anyone with additional information is encouraged to contact the Roswell Police Department.