A Georgia man has been arrested in connection with the cold case death of an 8-year-old boy who was found more than 30 years ago in a wooded area near his Atlanta-area home.
James Michael Coates, 56, faces multiple charges, including murder, assault, aggravated sodomy, child molestation and tampering with evidence, the Roswell Police Department announced Friday.
Coates, of Woodstock, was taken into custody after DNA evidence linked him to the 1988 killing of Joshua Harmon, police said. He was arrested during a traffic stop while he was a passenger in an Uber.
"This was a tragedy that no family should endure," said Roswell Police Chief James Conroy. "The death of Joshua and the fact that his killer remained free for such a long time is unimaginable."
"When you have something as tragic as the kidnapping and murder of an 8-year-old, that locks into your heart and that’s something you don’t want to give up," he added.
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Harmon was reported missing May 15, 1988 after he didn't return home for dinner. He was found in a wooded area near his home. At the time of the murder, Coates lived in the same apartment complex.
In February, his body was exhumed with permission from his family in hopes of finding more evidence. Additional DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene was done and linked Coates to the slaying, police said.
Marlene Carlisle, Joshua's aunt, thanked detectives for solving the case, saying they "took anything and everything we had to say to heart and ran with it."
"Josh was an amazing young boy who had an uncanny relationship with nature and with God, so I know where he is and I know he’s at peace," Carlisle said.
Authorities said investigations into whether Coates is linked to other murders are ongoing.
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Coates has twice been convicted of child molestation for crimes that happened 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.