Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Unidentified Remains at the Heart of 40-Year Old Mystery, Revealed to Belong to Former O'Jays Member

Photo Credits:[left/ clay model] Samantha Molnar, Ohio BCI;[right/
 photograph of Frank Little] Cleveland Metropolitan School District

Forty years after unidentified remains were found in a garbage bag behind a Twinsburg, Ohio, business —
the genealogical research of the DNA Doe Project, a nonprofit that helps identify John and Jane Does with genetic genealogy, has solved the mystery of who the dead man was, but larger questions loom.

The Twinsburg Police Department announced on Tuesday that the body belonged to Frank "Frankie" Little Jr., a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame group the O'Jays in the mid-1960s. While he was not a founding member or enshrined with the others at the hall, he joined the group as a guitarist and songwriter and wrote several songs including "Do the Jerk" and "Oh, How You Hurt Me." He is also credited for his vocals on "Down at the Corner."

"Frankie was a guitarist and songwriter in the very early O'Jays," the band said in a statement shared with Rolling Stone, acknowledging his contribution to the group. "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. That was in the mid-1960s and we had not heard from him after then. Although this sounds like a tragic ending, we wish his family and friends closure to what appears to be a very sad story."

That tale ended back in Ohio for the Cleveland native, in what authorities have determined was a homicide.

The skull of Little, who would have been 78 this year, was discovered by employees of a machine shop in the woods behind it on Feb. 18, 1982, while they were dumping shavings. Authorities uncovered more of his remains in a garbage bag during a subsequent search of the property. At the time, forensic anthropologists speculated that the remains had been there for two to four years before being discovered, but without being able to confirm an identity the case went cold.

In 2009 the case was reopened, but attempts to find a match for him in various DNA databases, as well as create a model of his face based on his skull, failed to provide any leads.

In October, the ice finally thawed, when 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.

"I'm very excited we were able to put a name to these remains and to get him back to his family and give his family that piece of closure," Kohler told the Akron Beacon Journal.

Little's cousin Margaret O'Sullivan added. "It's amazing. We're glad that we have closure now. We know he's deceased."

With one mystery solved the police are hoping to now put to bed another — Who killed Little? The vet, who served for two years in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, had a daughter who passed away in 2012, and a son who has not yet been located or identified.

Detective Eric Hendershott, who helped break the case, is hoping to trace down the son to see if he might need extra details about what may have occurred to his father.

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