MARIETTA, Georgia (AP) – A convicted sex offender was arrested for more than 30 years after an 8-year-old boy was found dead in the woods of suburban Atlanta.

James Michael Coates, 56, faces multiple charges, including murder and aggravated child abuse in the 1988 murder of Joshua Harmon, Roswell police said on Friday. He was arrested on Wednesday after a traffic stop while driving in an Uber.

Woodstock’s Coates was arrested after DNA evidence gathered at the scene linked him to the killing, police said.

Detectives, police officers, scientists and others who have worked on the case over the years “never gave up hope of bringing Josh’s murderer to justice,” Roswell Police Chief James Conroy said at a news conference.

“It was a tragedy no family should endure,” said Conroy. “Josh’s death and the fact that his killer stayed free for so long is inconceivable.”

“When you have something as tragic as the kidnapping and murder of an 8 year old, it sticks in your heart and that’s something you don’t want to give up,” added Conroy.

One of the longtime investigators, former Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Keith Howard, said that “bringing this case together is a miraculous feat.”

“Everyone I’ve met in my 20+ years of involvement has always been passionate about solving this case,” said Howard, who is now the deputy director of the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office.

Joshua was reported missing by his parents on May 15, 1988 after failing to return home for dinner. After several hours of searching, his body was found in a wooded area near his home. Coates lived in the same apartment complex at the time, investigators said.

Police said the case had gotten cold, but they had re-examined the clues over the years and improved law enforcement technology.

With his family’s permission, police exhumed the boy’s body in February 2021 in hopes of finding more evidence. Additional DNA tests were done on evidence from the crime scene, and police say the tests linked Coates to the crime.

Coates was convicted twice of child molestation for crimes in 1990 and 1993, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. After the 1993 conviction, he spent two decades in prison and was released in August 2013, according to Georgia Department of Corrections records.

Coates remained jailed Friday on murder and other charges, including sodomy, child abuse, and inducing a child for indecent purposes. It was not known if he had an attorney available for him to comment.

Joshua’s aunt Marlene Carlisle got emotional when she turned to investigators at the press conference on Friday and thanked them. They “always took everything we had to say to heart and ran off with it,” 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.