Remains Found in Garbage Bag Almost 40 Years Ago Now Identified as Former O'Jays Guitarist

Remains that were found in a garbage bag in a wooded area in Twinsburg, Ohio in 1982 have been identified as former guitarist Frank "Frankie" Little Jr., who played with and co-wrote a few songs for the R&B group The O'Jays.

The group started in Canton, Ohio in the late 1950s, and Little, born in Cleveland in 1943, joined the group in the mid-1960s. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in 2005.

Authorities used DNA testing and genealogical research to identify Little, according to The Akron Beacon Journal.

Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler said Little's death will be ruled a homicide, and detectives will continue to investigate when Little died, who could have killed him and why, and how the remains ended up in the woods near Twinsburg.

The Beacon Journal reported that Little, who would be 78 if he were still alive today, was last known to be living in Cleveland up until the mid-1970s and not much information was ever discovered about his disappearance, as the remains weren't found until 1982.

His case reopened in 2009 because DNA technology had progressed. In the early 1980s, authorities determined the remains belonged to a Black man aged 20-35. After the case was reopened, uploaded DNA to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) did not lead to a match.

Twinsburg detective Eric Hendershott knew similar cases were solved through DNA and genealogical research, so in Sept. 2019 he requested assistance from the nonprofit DNA identification group the DNA Doe Project.

They built possible family trees for the man, and eventually saw the name Little as the most likely result. The family tree included Margaret O'Sullivan, believed to be a cousin of Little's who still lived in Cleveland.

Authorities reached out, she said she knew she had a cousin that disappeared decades ago but didn't know much about him, and pointed them in the direction of Little's brother, who now lives in Georgia.

DNA from the brother was eventually obtained and matched with the remains, confirming Little's identity.

"It's amazing," O'Sullivan said, according to the Beacon Journal. "We're glad that we have closure now. We know he's deceased."

O'Jays, Twinsburg Remains, Frank Little
The O'Jays performing on Soul Train, 1974. Remains found in 1982 in Twinsburg, Ohio were recently identified as former guitarist and co-writer of a few songs for the O'Jays, Frank Little. Michael Ochs/Getty Images

Little served in the U.S. Army for two years, including in the Vietnam War.

Walter Williams, one of the original members of the O'Jays, said Little wrote songs with Eddie Levert, another one of the band's founders, according to Hendershott, who helped revive the investigation into the remains.

"Part of the mystery is over with, but we have no idea how he got there, how he disappeared or where he lived toward the end of his life," Hendershott said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.