Cold case solved: Georgia officials accuse convicted sex offender with raping, killing 8-year-old in 1988

Source: Roswell police

Jul. 25 2021, Published 4:47 p.m. ET

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A convicted sex offender has been charged for the rape and murder of an 8-year-old boy in 1988, police in Georgia announced last week.

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The Roswell Police Department announced they made an arrest in the 33-year-old murder investigation of 8-year old Joshua Harmon. Harmon was reported missing by his parents after not returning home for dinner on May 15, 1988.

The child's body was discovered in the woods near the apartment where he lived about 48 hours after he was reported missing, according to WSBTV. 

Roswell detectives, partnered with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, investigated and gathered evidence, but the case went cold.

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Investigators regularly revisited the case over the years, re-examining evidence to keep pace with evolving leads and changes in technology, according to local news reports.

Joshua’s body was exhumed, with his parents' permission, in hopes of identifying further evidence in February.


The Georgia Sexual Assault Kit Initiative task force reportedly provided the Roswell Police Department with funding to conduct DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene. Recently, investigators received the test results performed by an independent laboratory, CyberGenetics Inc., which identified a suspect.

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James Michael Coates, 56, of Woodstock, Georgia, was taken into custody July 21 and booked into the Fulton County Jail on multiple charges, including murder, felony murder, aggravated assault, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, enticing a child for indecent purposes, false imprisonment, cruelty to children, concealing the death of another and tampering with evidence.

He was taken into custody without incident at a traffic stop on July 21.

Coates was previously arrested for child molestation and was charged with false imprisonment in 1990. He was in prison from 1993 to 2013, according to the reports.

“Our family has been through this for 33 years, and to be able to be relieved of this, it’s bittersweet for us,” Joshua’s aunt, Marlene Carlisle, told

“Josh was an amazing young boy who had an uncanny relationship with nature and God. So I know where he is and I know he’s at peace.”


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