O’Jays guitarist’s remains identified almost 40 years later
TWINSBURG, Ohio – Thanks to the genealogical research of the DNA Doe Project, the human remains discovered at Twinsburg in 1982 have now been identified as those of Frank “Frankie” Little, Jr., who was guitarist and songwriter for R&B group The O’Jays.
The partial remains were collected in a garbage bag behind a now closed business on Cannon Road in Twinsburg, police said. A worker found a skull in the snow behind the company. The police then discovered the other body parts in the garbage bag.
The mode of death was ruled as homicide.
“It’s really nice that we can give the family answers and I hope they have a sense of closure,” Twinsburg Detective Eric Hendershott said. “He had a life, and eventually he ended up here in Twinsburg, with his life taken by another.”
Little was born in Cleveland in 1943 and raised in northeast Ohio. In the mid-1960s, he was guitarist and songwriter for The O’Jays. He also served in the United States Army for two years, including a deployment to Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
“Frankie was a member of the band in the 1960s,” Hendershott said. “He played guitar with the band in the studio and on tour.”
Little had a daughter who died in 2021 and a son who has yet to be located or identified, police said.
Not many people were known to reside in Cleveland, and it is believed that he was last alive in the mid-1970s. Not much is known about his disappearance or death.
The identity of the remains has been a mystery for nearly 40 years. In October, the DNA Doe Project provided the names of potential living relatives who may have provided Little’s name, according to a press release.
A brother from Georgia provided a DNA sample, which was analyzed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation Crime Lab. Little’s identity was confirmed by Dr. Lisa Kohler of the Summit County Medical Examiner’s Office.
Kohler said data given to him through DNA testing revealed probabilities that the two men were 398 million times more likely to be brothers.
“It was clear that there was a game here, that we finally got to put a name on those leftovers,” Kohler said. “I feel comfortable saying that he died of unknown injuries and that this is a homicide.”
Kohler said the remains are the oldest in storage at the Summit County medical examiner’s office. Arrangements will eventually be made to hand over the remains to relatives for a proper burial.
The connection between the ancient remains and the O’Jays was an unexpected twist for everyone involved in the affair.
“The fact that he’s a musician, and it seems like he had some notoriety at one point, it’s nice to have that training,” Kohler said.
Elias Chan, a volunteer with the DNA Doe Project, worked on the case for over two years.
Chan said the investigation was “far from a slam dunk” and encountered numerous roadblocks along the way as the team searched for potential relatives, but the DNA link ultimately provided the answers the non-profit organization was looking for.
“The goal is to hold on, to engage with it, to keep checking those matches, to keep moving forward and to keep thinking innovatively,” Chan said.
Hendershott said that with the remains identified 39 years later, the focus now is on who killed Little.
“We’re trying to figure out how he got there and who could have put him there. That’s what we don’t know, ”he said.
This story was originally posted by Bob Jones and Ian Cross on Scripps Station WEWS in Cleveland.