Georgia man arrested in 1988 murder of 8-year-old boy after DNA evidence links him to crime

ROSWELL, Ga. (WRBL) – Georgian police have arrested a cold case in which an 8-year-old boy was sexually assaulted and brutally murdered in 1988.

Michael Coates, 56, was arrested by the Roswell Police Department on July 21, 2021 in connection with the 1988 murder of Joshua Harmon, 8, in 1988. Police say DNA evidence links Coates to the murder of the child .

The Roswell Police Department shared news of the arrest on their Facebook page:

Harmon was reported missing by his parents on May 15, 1988, after he failed to come home for dinner. After two days of searching, the boy’s body was found in a dense forest near the apartment complex where he was living with his family.

Despite the efforts of detectives Roswell and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation after the murder, police say the case has cooled down. Throughout the years, detectives have revisited the case in hopes of bringing Harmon’s killer to justice, although their efforts have been unsuccessful until recently.

Roswell Police Chief James Conroy said: “This is a tragedy that no family should have to endure. “Josh’s death and the fact that his killer has remained free for such a long time is unthinkable.”

The determination from the investigators and advances in science and technology eventually led to the case being solved.

“Many of the officers, detectives, agents, lawyers, scientists and retirees who have worked on this case never gave up hope of bringing Josh’s killer to justice,” Conroy said.

Police said Harmon’s body was exhumed in February 2021 in the hope that more evidence could be gathered about the boy’s murder.

According to police: “In March, the GA Sexual Assault Toolkit Initiative task group, a subgroup of the GA Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, provided the Roswell Police Department with funding to pursue additional DNA testing of evidence from the crime scene. Recently, investigators received the results of that test conducted by an independent lab, CyberGenetics Inc., which linked Coates to the crime.”

Coates was arrested at a traffic stop on July 21. He was booked into the Fulton County Jail. “I hope this arrest gives the Harmon family a sense of closure,” Conroy said.

Coates was charged as follows:

  • Murder – Murder for a crime
  • Aggravated Attack – Worse Condition
  • Heavier for children – Seducing children for indecent purposes – Wrong imprisonment
  • Cruel treatment of children, degree 1
  • Hiding someone else’s death
  • Forging evidence

Police said while an arrest has been made, it is still being investigated. Anyone with information should contact the Roswell Police Department at 770-640-4100, or provide information anonymously through Crime Stoppers Atlanta at 404-577-TIPS (8477). | Georgia man arrested in 1988 murder of 8-year-old boy after DNA evidence links him to crime


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