After 3 Decades an Arrest is Made in the Cold Case Murder of Joshua Harmon

The child went missing while playing near his home in 1988 and the cold case was solved in 2021 using new DNA technologies

Megan Ashley


Joshua Harmon (image courtesy of Roswell Police Department)

On May 15, 1988, Eight-year-old Joshua Harmon was playing in the woods behind the Roswell, Georgia, apartment complex. He was still exploring the area. The family had only moved in three weeks ago. It was a warm evening, and many children were playing in the area. He loved nature, and his favorite place to play was in the woods.

Joshua was expected to come home for supper, and when he failed to show up, his mother looked for him, calling out his name in the neighborhood. Joshua had a learning disability, and he was easily frightened and wasn’t comfortable around strangers. He never strayed too far from home and certainly never out of earshot. His mother called the Roswell Police to report him missing, and though they responded quickly, it wasn’t initially thought to be concerning.

While canvassing, they discovered Joshua had last been seen around 7 PM. He had gone over to a neighbor’s house and asked if a little boy could come to play, but the family was having supper, so the boy wasn’t allowed out. Joshua told them that he would be out playing in the woods if he wanted to join him after supper, and that was the last encounter anyone had with the child.

As night crept closer, the search began to take a more concerned tone. Officers even searched the area between their old house and the new apartment in case he might have gotten confused or lost, but there was no sign of the child.

The search continued for forty-eight hours, and officers combed the sixty-acre forest in the surrounding area. On May 17, an officer entering the scene tripped and saw Joshua’s body under a log, with dirt and pine straw hiding him from view. Joshua had been struck on the head and strangled to death.

Despite an extensive investigation, the case went cold. Joshua’s mother, Cherie, spent decades keeping Joshua’s investigation alive. Cherie passed in October 2020.

In February 2021, cold-case detectives had decided to reopen the investigation and decided to start from…