Cherie Laws had the dollar ready for her 8-year-old son when the ice cream truck bell rang. But he never came for it.
That was 7 p.m. on May 15, 1988. Knowing something was wrong, minutes later she called police and reported her only son Joshua Harmon missing. His 55-pound body was found two days later covered by pine straw in a wooded area a few hundred yards from the Roswell apartment where they lived. He had been struck in the head and strangled.
The case remains unsolved.
On the 31st anniversary of Josh’s disappearance this week, Roswell police asked for the public’s help to find the killer. Detectives are reaching back out to witnesses.
It appears nothing specific triggered the re-opening of the investigation. “We are looking for anything,” Roswell police spokeswoman Sgt. Britney Rodgers said Friday.
She said that, though there’s no indication of this in Josh’s case, killers often tell someone about their crime at some point over the decades.
“Maybe this will help jog somebody’s memory,” Rodgers said.
The department still has some evidence from the initial investigation, and acknowledged in a press release how far forensic technology has come. It isn’t clear if DNA will play a role in this renewed effort, “but science is not all that can be used to catch this killer,” the department said.
Josh had been outside the entire sunny Sunday afternoon before he went missing, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage at the time. Josh’s stepfather described the boy as a “nature nut” who loved finding ducks and turtles behind their apartment complex, today called River Crossing at Roswell, near Holcomb Bridge Road and Ga. 400.
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Roswell officers searched the 60-acre wooded area surrounding the apartments but missed his body on their first search.
The Fulton County medical examiner at the time said Josh’s body was found in a nearby gully and appeared to have been purposefully concealed.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Analysis Unit worked with the FBI Behavioral Science Unit to create a profile, which said the killer was probably a white male, between 25 and 35 years old, of average to above-average intelligence who probably lived nearby. They figured he was married to his second or third wife, in a “strained relationship” and possibly had financial problems coupled with an explosive personality.
Besides going door to door at the apartment complex, police talked to students at Roswell Elementary. With parents and children scared, students at Mimosa and Kimball Bridge elementary schools were encouraged to express feelings about the death in poems, paragraphs and drawings.
“The thing that concerns the majority of our children is the fear of what could happen to them,” Linda Markwell, Mimosa principal, told the AJC at the time.
About a week after Josh’s death, a Roswell police lieutenant said they were still making progress and hadn’t “run into a stone wall.”
By the next month, the police got quiet. Parents in the apartment complex said they weren’t sleeping well. Children didn’t play outside like before. The cops had no new leads.
“It’s looking like it might be a long-term investigation,” said Moses Ector, head of GBI’s metro Atlanta office, at the time.
That was 1,613 weeks ago.
Anyone with information can contact Roswell police’s Detective Jennifer Bennett at at 770-640-4380 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was written by Ben Brasch, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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