Updated: Apr 12, 2022
Partial human remains found in a garbage bag nearly 40 years ago have been identified as belonging to Frank "Frankie" Little Jr, a member of the R&B band The O'Jays, according to police. According to a statement from the Twinsburg, Ohio Police Department, the human remains, showing signs of blunt trauma, were found on February 18, 1982, behind a now-closed business. But thanks to the DNA Doe Project and a DNA sample provided by a relative of Mr. Little, a positive identification was made nearly 40 years later. And now the local police are reopening the case in the hopes of finding the killer. Little was raised in Cleveland, according to the news release. In the mid-'60s, he was a guitarist and songwriter for The O'Jays. The band released a statement to CNN saying that he was part of the band in the early days and that they haven't heard from him since. "He came with us when we first ventured out of Cleveland and traveled to Los Angeles, but he also was in love with a woman in Cleveland that he missed so much that he soon returned back to Cleveland after a short amount of time," reads the statement. We pray that this discovery provides comfort and closure to Mr. Little’s family all these years later, and we commend those officers, justice advocates and researchers who continued to work on solving this case decades after the case appeared to turn cold. Little served two years in the US Army, which included a deployment during the Vietnam War, according to the news release. He had a daughter who passed away in 2012, according to the news release, and he has a son who has not yet been located or identified. A worker at the business discovered a skull in the snow but the identity of who they belonged to remained a mystery for nearly 40 years until a partnership with the DNA Doe Project started in October. The organization provided names of potential relatives, who gave police Little's name and a DNA sample. Police ruled the manner of death a homicide. It was also noted that the remains belonged to an African-American male, 20 to 35 years of age, approximately 5'6" tall, and that he may have had adolescent kyphosis, a curvature of the spine.
Frank played with the O'Jays in the R&B group's early days writing several songs including "Pretty Words" and "Oh How You Hurt Me." It wouldn't be until after his tenure that the group scored its biggest hits, including "Back Stabbers," "For the Love of Money" and "Love Train." The O'Jays R&B group from Canton, Ohio, formed in 1958 and originally consisting of Eddie Levert (born June 16, 1942), Walter Lee Williams (born August 25, 1943), William Powell (January 20, 1942 – May 26, 1977), Bobby Massey (born 1942, Canton) and Bill Isles (January 4, 1941 – March 28, 2019). The O'Jays made their first chart appearance with the minor hit "Lonely Drifter" in 1963, but reached their greatest level of success once Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters, signed them to their Philadelphia International label in 1972. With Gamble & Huff, the O'Jays (now a trio after the departure of Isles and Massey) emerged at the forefront of Philadelphia soul with "Back Stabbers" (1972), and topped the US Billboard Hot 100 the following year with "Love Train". Several other US R&B hits followed, and the O'Jays were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005, and the Rhythm and Blues Music Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2003, the trio co-starred in the film The Fighting Temptations, which starred Cuba Gooding Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles. In the film, they played three barbers with incredible vocal harmony who joined the local church choir to help out the film's protagonists: Darrin (Gooding) and Lilly (Knowles), who were the choir director and lead singer, respectively.
In 2005, the O'Jays were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Original members Eddie Levert, Walter Williams, Bobby Massey and, posthumously, William Powell, were inducted. In a note of controversy, Sammy Strain was also inducted with the group, while original member Bill Isles was not. (Strain is one of the few artists in popular music history who is a double RRHOF inductee: with the O'Jays in 2005, and Little Anthony and the Imperials in 2009). In 2006, the O'Jays performed at the ESPY awards, hosted by Lance Armstrong. "For the Love of Money" was the theme song to the hit reality TV show The Apprentice, starring Donald Trump, and the group once performed the song live on the show.