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

National News

(Roswell Police Department)

ROSWELL, Ga. (WRBL) – Police in Georgia have made an arrest in a cold case involving an 8-year-old boy who was brutally sexually assaulted and murdered.

Michael Coates, 56, was arrested by the Roswell Police Department on Wednesday in connection to the 1988 murder of Joshua Harmon, according to authorities. Police said DNA evidence linked Coates to child’s murder.

The Roswell Police Department shared news of the arrest on its Facebook page.

Joshua was reported missing by his parents on May 15, 1988, after he failed to come home for dinner. After two days of searching, the little boy’s body was found in a wooded area near the apartment complex he lived in with his family.

Despite efforts by Roswell detectives and the Georgia Bureau of Investigations following the murder, the case went cold. Over the years, detectives have revisited the case with the hope of bringing Joshua’s murderer to justice, though their efforts had little success until recently.

“This was a tragedy that no family should endure,” said Roswell Police Chief James Conroy. “The death of Josh and the fact that his killer remained free for such a long time is unimaginable.”

Determination from investigators and advancements in science and technology finally led to a break in the case.

“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,” said Conroy.

Police said Joshua’s body was exhumed in February 2021 with the hope that more evidence could be collected.

According to police: “In March, the GA Sexual Assault Kit Initiative taskforce, a subset of the GA Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, provided the Roswell Police Department with funding to pursue additional DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene. Recently, investigators received the results of that testing performed by an independent laboratory, CyberGenetics Inc., which linked Coates to the crime.”

Coates was taken into custody at a traffic stop on Wednesday. He was booked into the Fulton County Jail.

“I hope this arrest brings the Harmon family a sense of closure,” said Conroy.

Coates was charged with the following:

  • Murder -Felony Murder
  • Aggravated Assault – Aggravated Sodomy
  • Aggravated Child Molestation – Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes – False Imprisonment
  • Cruelty to Children, 1st Degree
  • Concealing the Death of Another
  • Tampering with Evidence

Police said while an arrest has been made in the case, it still remains under 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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