With the help of DNA and genealogical research, investigators in Ohio have identified the remains of a man whose body was found nearly 40 years ago as Frank “Frankie” Little Jr., the Akron Beacon Journal reported. The discovery turned out to solve a mystery that was part of soul music history.
Little was a songwriter and guitarist in the 1960s for The O’Jays, the iconic R&B group responsible for numerous classic songs including “Back Stabbers,” “Love Train,” “Give the People What They Want” and “For The Love of Money.”
"It's amazing. We're glad that we have closure now. We know he's deceased," Margaret O'Sullivan, Little's cousin, said.
For decades, his whereabouts were unknown. Little, who would be 78 if alive, was a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War. It’s believed that he was living in Cleveland around the mid-1970s when he disappeared.
This missing person cold case has now become a murder investigation, according to the Journal. Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler plans to rule the musician’s death a homicide, citing blunt-force injuries and an attempt to hide his remains, which were found in February 1982.
Employees of a machine shop in Twinsburg, Ohio discovered what turned out to be Little’s skull when they were disposing of shavings in the woods. They reported it to the police who later found a garbage bag with more remains during a search of the property. A forensic anthropologist estimated the remains had been there between two and four years.
It remained a cold case until Twinsburg detective Eric Hendershott contacted the DNA Doe Project in September 2019. The nonprofit organization specializes in genetic genealogy research to help families, law enforcement and medical examiners identify John and Jane Does.
The organization constructed a family tree that led to O’Sullivan as a relative. She told Hendershott that Little was missing for years.
Hendershott is trying to track down Little’s son, whose whereabouts are unknown, to find out if he has any information that could help solve the homicide case, according to the Journal.
Little has a brother in Georgia who hasn’t been in touch with his nephew or even knows his nephew’s name. Little also had a daughter who died in 2012.
The O’Jays, emerged out of Canton, Ohio, beginning in 1958 and had a series of chart-topping successful albums through the late 1960s and 1970s, led by lead singer Eddie Levert along with Walter Lee Williams, William Powell, Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. Little was not a founding member, but played with the group in the mid-1960s. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005.
Speaking with Fox News on Wednesday, Levert and Williams described Little as "sentimental, loving and passionate."
"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 who he missed so much that he soon returned to Cleveland after a short amount of time," the two men said. "That was in the mid-1960s, and we had not heard from him after then. Although this is a tragic ending, we wish his family and friends closure to what appears to be a very sad story."