Galveston Medical Examiner's Office Partners with Othram to Identify 2020 John Doe Found on the Beach

After three years of investigative effort, the young man found on the beach was confirmed to be 24-year old Calvin Mbwambo, an exchange student from Tanzania.

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Published April 14 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In May 2020, Galveston Police investigators responded to the discovery of young black man found on the beach near Kahala Drive in Galveston, Texas. The young man had drowned but the the circumstances of his death are not clear.

Working with the Galveston Medical Examiner's Office, the Galveston Police Department was unable to establish an identity for the young man. There was no identifying information found at the scene, and he did not match records of missing individuals. The case was entered into NamUs as UP69355. Investigators described the man as African American and likely between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five, with a height of five feet seven inches and a weight of about 150 pounds. He was wearing black shorts, grey Calvin Klein boxers, and his hands were fitted through white Under Armour sandals. A forensic facial reconstruction was commissioned by the Houston Police Department but no one recognized the man. With all leads and traditional avenues exhausted, the case soon when cold.

Later that year, the Galveston Medical Examiner’s Office and the Galveston Police Department partnered with Othram to see if advanced DNA testing and forensic genetic genealogy might produce new leads to the identity of the young man. A DNASolves® crowdfund was established to cover the costs of Othram's testing and investigative research. We are grateful to everyone that helped crowdfund this case so that we could assist law enforcement in working this case.

Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile and then Othram's in-house genetic genealogy team used the DNA profile in a genealogical search. Initial analysis of the DNA profile revealed that the young man's biogeographical ancestry was substantially East African. Further analysis suggested that the individual might be Somali Bantu or Kenyan Bantu. These leads were returned to law enforcement and through a follow investigation, a hypothesis was developed that the young man might not be American and that he might have been visiting from overseas.

In 2023, investigators were able to confirm that in fact, the young man found on the Galveston beach was 24-year old Calvin Mbwambo, an exchange student from Tanzania.

Help fund another case Your contributions pay for lab supplies and research tools


Preliminary DNA Analysis

September 04

From initial DNA analysis we suspect a substantial part of the victim's ancestry is East African. Analysis suggests that genetically, this individual could be Somali Bantu or Kenyan Bantu.

Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit to learn how we can help you with your case. With anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.