Mesa County Coroner's Office and Othram Partner to Identify 2011 John Doe

Human remains found at the Umcompaghre Plateau have been identified a decade later as Michael John Alonzi, born December 10, 1961.

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Published October 21, 2023 by Michael Vogen
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In October 2011, a Colorado Mesa University instructor and a group of students discovered a skull near the Umcompaghre Plateau wilderness area in rural Mesa County. The students were environmental science majors performing a fire management field project on the plateau just a few hundred yards off Divide Road near the town of Whitewater, Colorado. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office was able to determine that the skull belonged to an adult male, but there few other insights that could be gained from the partial remains. No determinations could be made about the unknown man’s height, weight, or outward appearance. It is also unclear how and when the unknown man died.

For the past decade, investigators have diligently pursued various leads in an attempt to identify the man. Initially, the skeletal remains were transferred to forensic anthropologists who determined that the skull was not related to any missing person cases in the county. In December 2011, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation conducted DNA testing and were able to produce an STR profile but a search in law enforcement databases did not return a match. In 2020, the unsolved case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs). The case was entered as UP64014. Despite exhaustive investigative efforts, law enforcement was not able to identify the man and the case eventually went cold.

In September 2022, the 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 remains were sent to Othram, located in The Woodlands, Texas. Othram's costs for processing the casework were provided by a DNASolves crowdfund. The Othram team is grateful to everyone that helped fund and share this case.

With evidence in hand, Othram scientists developed a DNA extract from the forensic evidence and then developed a comprehensive DNA profile for the man, using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®. Once the profile was succesfully built, Othram’s in-house forensic genetic genealogy team produced new investigative leads that were provided to law enforcement.

Using the leads, Mesa County Coroner's Office investigators reached out to a potential family and eventually confirmed that the unknown man was in fact Michael John Alonzi, born December 10, 1961. The circumstances surrounding Alonzi's death are unclear and an investigation continues.

Anyone with information that could aid in this investigation is encouraged to contact the Mesa County Coroner's Office by calling 970-244-1898 and referencing agency case C19-787.

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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.