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'Mystery' human remains found 40 years ago identified as former O'Jays guitarist Frank Little Jr

'It's definitely nice that we can give some answers to the family and hopefully they have some sense of closure.'

'Mystery' human remains found 40 years ago identified as former O'Jays guitarist Frank Little Jr
Cover Image Source: American R&B group The O'Jays during a recording session in New York City, June 1968. (Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Skeletal remains found in a garbage bag nearly 40 years ago have been identified as belonging to Frank "Frankie" Little Jr, a guitarist who once played with the R&B group The O'Jays. The Twinsburg Police Department in Ohio announced the news in a press release Tuesday, revealing that DNA from relatives was used to help identify the remains found in a wooded area behind a business in Twinsburg on February 18, 1982. According to CNN affiliate WEWS, a worker at the business discovered a skull in the snow, leading the police to other body parts in a garbage bag about 40 to 50 feet away.


In a statement to CNN, The O'Jays said Little—who also co-wrote a few of their songs was part of the band in the early days. "He came with us when we first ventured out of Cleveland and traveled to Los Angeles, but he also was in love with a woman in Cleveland that he missed so much that he soon returned back to Cleveland after a short amount of time," the band says in the statement, adding that they "wish his family and friends closure to what appears to be a very sad story."


In the press release, the Twinsburg Police Department credited the DNA Doe Project for helping solve the mystery of the unidentified bone. "His identity remained a mystery for almost 40 years. In October, 2021, the DNA Doe Project provided the names of potential living relatives, who were able to provide Frank’s name. A close relative provided a DNA sample, which was analyzed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab. His identity was then confirmed by Dr. Lisa Kohler of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office," it states. Dr. Kohler ruled the manner of death a homicide. It was also noted that the remains belonged to an African-American male, 20 to 35 years of age, approximately 5'6" tall, and that "he may have had adolescent kyphosis, a curvature of the spine."


Little served two years in the US Army, which included a deployment during the Vietnam War, according to the news release. "Frank had a daughter who passed away in 2012, and he has a son who has not yet been located or identified," it adds. "It's definitely nice that we can give some answers to the family and hopefully they have some sense of closure," said Twinsburg Detective Eric Hendershott. "He had a life, and ultimately he ended up here in Twinsburg, with his life taken by another... Frankie was a member of [The O'Jays] in the 1960s. He played guitar with the band in the studio and on tours."


Recalling the time he knew Little, Eddie Levert—the lead singer of the O'Jays—remembered him as sentimental, loving and passionate. Levert confirmed that Little moved with the band to California in the 60s, but added that he did not stay on the west coast. "He could have been a great entity in the music business, but he was in love and love drove him back to Cleveland," Levert said, admitting that he lost track of Little over the years. "I never would have thought this would happen to him. I don't know why anyone would do him like that."


Elias Chan, a volunteer with DNA Doe Project, reportedly worked on the case for more than two years. Chan revealed that the investigation was "far from a slam dunk" and that it hit many roadblocks as the team searched for potential relatives. "The goal is to kind of hang in there, commit to it, keep checking those matches, keep going down the lines and keep thinking innovatively," Chan said. Hendershott said the focus now is on trying to figure out who killed Little. "We're trying to figure out how he got there and who could have put him there. That's what we don't know," he said.

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