Police arrest suspect in 1988 murder of 8-year-old Roswell boy

James Michael Coates, 56, of Woodstock, was taken into custody Wednesday and booked into the Fulton County Jail on multiple charges. Detectives arrested Coates after DNA evidence collected from the crime scene linked him to the murder, police said.

On May 15th, 1988 Joshua Harmon was reported missing by his parents after he failed to return home for dinner. Joshua’s body was discovered 48 hours later in a wooded area near the Raintree Way apartment where he lived.

Roswell and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation collected valuable evidence, but said the case eventually went cold.

In February, Joshua’s body was exhumed in hopes of finding more evidence. Additional DNA testing linked Coates to the crime, police said. Coates is charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and sodomy, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, false imprisonment, cruelty to children, concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.

“This was a tragedy that no family should endure”, Roswell Police Chief James Conroy said. “The death of Josh and the fact that his killer remained free for such a long time is unimaginable. I hope this arrest brings the Harmon family a sense of closure. The many officers, detectives, special agents, attorneys, scientists, and retirees who worked this case never gave up hope in bringing Josh’s killer to justice. They are truly heroes, and I thank each one for their dedication and perseverance”.

While an arrest has been made, police say it’s still an active investigation. Anyone with information should contact the Roswell Police Department at 770-640-4100, or provide anonymous information through Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS(8477).


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