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Remains found in garbage bag in 1982 identified as former O'Jays member, thanks to DNA from brother in Atlanta

His brother, Johnny Little, currently lives in Atlanta. His DNA helped identify Frank, who was a guitarist and songwriter for the music group the O'Jays.

ATLANTA — A four decade mystery has come to an end. Partial human remains found in 1982 in Ohio have finally been identified by police as Frank Little Jr., a former songwriter and guitarist for music group the O'Jays.

They were able to make that discovery thanks to his brother, Johnny Little, who lives in Atlanta, and other family members, who sent in their DNA.

Frank's cousin, Ross Little, tells 11Alive he did a DNA kit this year to trace his ancestors. He got a call from a detective not too long after.

“The detective - they found that the John Doe they discovered years ago, matched my DNA," Ross said.

From there, Johnny says the detective then called the Atlanta Police Department to get ahold of him.

"The detectives came to my home and swabbed my mouth," Johnny said. "A couple of weeks went by and then they called and said it's confirmed that he was your brother. Oh, I broke up crying."

Johnny says he last saw his brother in 1976 after starting a brand new job for a plastic machinery company.

"I got my first check, so I run into him and I showed him my check. He said, 'Oh, man, that's a nice book. Congratulations on your new job', And then we parted," Johnny recalled.

Johnny says Frank had two children and served in the U.S. Army, deploying to Vietnam.

He also spent a few years playing guitar and writing songs for the O'Jays. After his death, the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. 

"I used to go watch him play at different times," Johnny remembered. "He tried to teach me how to play the guitar. He wanted us to be like to Everly brothers. 

Johnny was the youngest of the family of five brothers and three sisters. Frank was just one year older than him. 

"He used to draw, paint, and he wrote songs. He could he could pick up a tree trunk and carve it and sell it. He used to make his own clothes. Yeah, a lot of talent," Johnny added.

Their mother died giving birth to what would've been a fourth sister when Johnny was only 3 years old.

"They called me and asked me, 'Does the name Laverta mean anything?' And I burst out crying too because that's my mother's name. And that's an odd name: Laverta," he added.

Johnny says he last saw his brother in 1976 in Cleveland, Ohio, and moved to Atlanta a few years later.

In 1982, the partial human remains were found in a garbage bag behind a business southeast of Cleveland.

“The detective told me that they found the head behind an abandoned building, and 50 feet further is where they found the plastic bag," Johnny said. He was inside the plastic bag. Cut up."

According to the Twinsberg Police Department in Ohio, his identification was made through the collaborative efforts of the department, the DNA Doe Project, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.

It adds that: "Frank’s partial remains were recovered in a garbage bag behind a now-closed business on Cannon Road. The remains were that of an African-American male, 20 to 35 years of age, approximately 5’6” tall, and he may have had adolescent kyphosis, a curvature of the spine."

His manner of death has been ruled a homicide by Dr. Lisa Kohler of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office. 

"I’m grateful that DNA proved that it was him because we always wondered where he was. I used to worry about him," Johnny added.

Few details were known about the circumstances of his disappearance or death, the department said.

According to NBC News, a representative for the O'Jays said Wednesday morning, "we wish his family and friends closure to what appears to be a very sad story."  

“I used to go watch him play at different times. He tried to teach me how to play the guitar, but your fingers get real sore when you start out. When my fingers got like that, I quit. He wanted us to be like the Everly brothers and play guitar," Johnny said while laughing.

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