Mesa County Coroner's Office Teams with Othram to Identify 2019 John Doe

The unknown man found in Gateway, Colorado is now known to be 48-year old Larry Dean Watts, who went missing in 1997

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Published December 16, 2022 by Michael Vogen
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In December 2019, skeletal remains from an unknown man were discovered at an overlook in Gateway, Colorado. The discovery was made by a hunting guide scouting the area. The man was found with personal belongings scattered throughout the area but none of the items assisted in the identification of the man. Investigators initially estimated that the unknown male was between 30 and 60 years old at the time of his death, and that he was between 5’7” and 6'2” in height. Investigators were unable to determine the man’s weight, hair color, or hair length. Additionally, the man's cause of death was not clear.

Several pieces of property were recovered, including a 0.38 caliber revolver, a leather holster, a small red flashlight with a blue and white rope attached, a red and black fabric bag with a strap, a white metal Camel cigarette zippo-style lighter, and Camel cigarette pack. Additionally, several items of clothing were also recovered, including two blue extra-large Acorn socks, a pair of size 36 Pacific Crest shorts with a belt, a piece of black and white patterned blanket or clothing, as well as a pair of Chaco sandals. Investigators also recovered two Diplomat Optical 140 brand metal frame eyeglasses, one pair of which had a prescription of -1.00 DS for both eyes, and part of a string eyeglass holder attached to it.

In December 2019, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) as UP62500. Skeletal remains were sent to University of North Texas for identification, as well as to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation. Despite the exhaustive efforts of law enforcement, the man’s identity remained a mystery. With few leads for investigators to pursue, the case eventually went cold.

In 2022, Mesa County Coroner's Office partnered with Othram to determine if advanced forensic DNA testing could help establish an identity for the man or a close relative. Skeletal evidence was sent to Othram's lab in The Woodlands, Texas, where Othram's forensic scientists developed a DNA extract and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. Othram's in-house genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to produce investigative leads that were returned to Mesa County Coroner's Office investigators.

A follow up investigation using these leads determined that the unknown man was in fact, Larry Dean Watts, born March 6, 1949. Larry was reported missing and according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation's Cold Case Files website, he was last seen on June 16, 1997. Anyone with information that could be helpful in this investigation should contact Mesa County Coroner's Office at 970-244-1898 and reference agency case number C19-743.

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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.