He’d been wearing multiple layers of clothes and had two faded tattoos, one on his left forearm of the word “ACE” and another of a group of illegible letters between his thumb and forefinger on his right hand, police said at the time. Investigators sifted through all open runaway and missing person reports from that time and up until they identified him, police said Tuesday. But the teen had not been reported missing.
A National Center for Missing and Exploited Children forensic artist created a digital facial reconstruction of what the boy may have looked like, but it was the tattoos that led to a tip.
According to the NCMEC, someone recognized Autman’s tattoos from the poster that was distributed in specific areas in Atlanta and called police. Authorities did not say when they received that tip, but Clayton police said they ultimately couldn’t use it to positively identify the teen due to his family being unfamiliar with the tattoos.
However, investigators got further information on Autman’s identity when they were finally able to examine the contents of a phone that was in his possession at the time of his death.
“The Clayton County Police Department refused to close this case and refused to bury Mr. Autman until he had been identified,” police spokesperson Sgt. Julia Isaac said in a statement Tuesday. “With the assistance of the GBI and our other law enforcement partners, we were able to gain full access to the cellphone, which ultimately led to us identifying Mr. Autman.”
By Feb. 14 of this year, a GBI forensic odontologist confirmed the remains as Autman’s.
“He told me he loved me, and that was the last time I saw him,” his mother, Shandra, recently told the NCMEC.
Police eventually learned Autman was not originally from Georgia, but had been sent to Clayton County to live with his father, Isaac said. They were unable to determine why he was on the road at that time of night.
“The Clayton County Police Department would like to thank everyone for your support in bringing closure to such a heartbreaking case,” the department said in a statement.
In March 2019, once police located the suspect’s vehicle, it was not difficult to track down its owner and suspected driver. It was registered to Little, and her driver’s license was still inside the car attached to her cellphone lying behind the driver’s seat, the incident report states.
Little turned herself in for questioning and confessed to hitting someone and then leaving the scene in a panic, the report states.
She told investigators she “was driving down Valley Hill Road around 11 or 12 at night (when) something struck my front windshield and busted the front windshield glass,” according to the incident report. “I thought something went wrong with my car so pulled over on the side of the road to check on my vehicle when a noticed a body laying in the roadway.”
She said she panicked, called her boyfriend and asked him to pick her up, the incident report states. Neither called 911.
Little was charged with first-degree vehicular homicide and hit-and-run, according to online court records. Prosecutors later agreed to drop the vehicular homicide charge in exchange for Little’s guilty plea. She was sentenced to five years, with one year to serve behind bars, four years on first-offender probation and 200 hours of community service. She was also given a $2,000 fine.
Little was arrested again in January 2021 and charged with driving under the influence.