Photo: Clay model of Frankie Little | By Stephanie Warsmith, Akron Beacon Journal | Investigators have identified a man whose skeletal remains were found nearly 40 years ago in Twinsburg. And who he is might surprise you.

His name is Frank “Frankie” Little Jr. and he was a songwriter and guitarist for The O’Jays in the 1960s. The R&B group started in Canton and made it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Investigators discovered Little’s identity with the help of DNA and genealogical research. The breakthrough followed years of failed attempts that included the state crime lab making a clay model of the man’s skull.

“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,” said Summit County Medical Examiner Lisa Kohler, who assisted Twinsburg detectives with the investigation.

The next step will be trying to figure out who killed Little and how his remains ended up in a garbage bag behind a Twinsburg business in February 1982. Kohler said his death, originally deemed “undetermined,” will be ruled a homicide.

Little, who would be 78 if he was still alive, was born in Cleveland in 1943. He was with the O’Jays in the mid-60s, writing several songs, including “Do the Jerk” and “Oh, How You Hurt Me.” The band is best known for its hits that include “Love Train.”

Little served in the U.S. Army for two years, including in the Vietnam War. He was last known to live in the area of East 105th Street and Superior Avenue in Cleveland and it is believed he was alive into at least the mid-1970s. Not much is known about his disappearance.

Remains are found
Employees of a now-closed machine shop on Cannon Road in Twinsburg found a skull in February 1982 when they were dumping shavings in the woods. They weren’t sure what they’d found.

“When they saw the skull, they didn’t believe it was human,” Twinsburg detective Eric Hendershott said. “They showed it around.”

The employees alerted police and a search of the property turned up a garbage bag with more remains.

The remains, which weren’t a complete set, were determined to be those of a Black male, 20 to 35 years old, about 5-foot, 6-inches tall who may have had adolescent kyphosis, which is a curvature of the spine.

A forensic anthropologist estimated the remains had been there between two and four years. The remains had nothing with them that would help police identify the man.

“There wasn’t even clothing – just bones in a garbage bag,” Hendershott said.

Detectives issued a press release and appealed to the public and other local law enforcement agencies for assistance. They ruled out a few leads and the case went cold for more than 20 years.

Sgt. Greg Feketik reopened the case in 2009, researching the idea of using DNA to determine the man’s identity.

The man’s DNA was put into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the FBI’s DNA database, but this produced no hits.

A Kent State professor made a sketch of the skull to show what the man looked like. In 2016, Samantha Molnar, a forensic artist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), made a clay model of the skull.
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Genealogy research is tried
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Anyone with information on Frank “Frankie” Little’s disappearance and murder is asked to contact Twinsburg Det. Eric Hendershott at 330-405-5679 or ehendershott@twinsburg.oh.us.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Twinsburg remains identified through DNA, genealogy research
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Photo: Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, Summit County Medical Examiner Dr. Lisa Kohler, and Twinsburg Police Chief Christopher J. Noga today unveiled the forensic facial reconstruction of a man whose skeletal remains were found more than 30 years ago. The clay model was created by a forensic artist with the Attorney General’s Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation to help Summit County authorities identify the man.

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