In May 2022, the remains of an unidentified individual were found in Franklin County, in the city of Mesa, Washington. The remains were found near the shore of the Scooteney Reservoir by children who were fishing in the lake. The Franklin County Coroner’s Office responded to the scene and collected the forensic evidence at the scene. The Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office performed an autopsy of the individual and estimated that the man was less than thirty years old and had short black hair. He likely stood between 5’0” and 5’2”. Due to the condition of the man’s remains, no other identifying characteristics, including his possible biogeographical ancestry, could be determined. It was estimated that the man had died at least months prior to his remains being found. Details of the case were entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP91455.
In July 2023, the Franklin County Coroner’s Office and Spokane County Medical Examiner’s Office teamed with Othram to leverage advanced DNA testing to determine the identity of the unknown man. Forensic evidence was shipped to Othram’s laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram scientists successfully developed a DNA extract from skeletal remains and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive DNA profile that could be used for forensic genetic genealogy.
During the investigation, a reference DNA sample from the possible relative was collected for reference testing to compare to the unknown man. The comparison confirmed the relationship between the relative and the unknown man, allowing investigators to identify the human remains as belonging to Antonio Juanes Gaspar of Guatemala. Gaspar, a farm laborer, was in the Othello, Washington area for work. Othello is a short drive from Mesa where Gaspar’s remains were discovered.
The Othello Police Department and the family of Antonio Juanes-Gaspar had reported him missing as of 08/05/21. He was 39 years old at the time that he was reported missing.