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After 3 decades, Georgia sex offender charged with killing 8-year-old boy

Published: Jul. 25, 2021 at 1:57 AM CDT
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MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) - A convicted sex offender has been arrested more than 30 years after an 8-year-old boy was found dead in the woods of an Atlanta suburb.

Roswell police said Friday that 56-year-old James Michael Coates of Woodstock is charged with murder and aggravated child molestation in the killing of Joshua Harmon. He was taken into custody Wednesday after a traffic stop.

Police say Coates was arrested after DNA evidence collected from the crime scene linked him to the killing.

James Michael Coates, 56, is charged with murder and aggravated child molestation in the...
James Michael Coates, 56, is charged with murder and aggravated child molestation in the killing of Joshua Harmon. He was previously convicted of child molestation for a 1993 crime.(Source: Roswell Police, WGCL via CNN)

On May 15, 1988, Joshua was reported missing by his parents after he didn’t return home for dinner. After several hours of searching, his body was found in a wooded area near the apartment where he lived.

Police said the case went cold, but they revisited leads over the years, and law enforcement technology improved.

With the permission of his family, police say they exhumed the boy’s body in February 2021 in hopes of finding more evidence. Additional DNA testing was done on evidence from the crime scene, and police say the testing linked Coates to the crime.

Joshua Harmon, 8, was reported missing in 1988. His body was later found in a wooded area near...
Joshua Harmon, 8, was reported missing in 1988. His body was later found in a wooded area near his family’s apartment.(Source: Harmon Family, WGCL via CNN)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Coates was convicted of child molestation for a 1993 crime and served nearly 20 years behind bars for that offense.

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