MS Office of the State Medical Examiner and Mississippi Bureau of Investigation Team with Othram to Identify 2017 John Doe

The unknown man is now known to be Michael Len West, born on Mar 1, 1959 in Wichita, Texas

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Published December 27, 2022 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In 2017, skeletal remains were submitted to the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office, without background context, and an unidentified persons case was opened as case ME17-0139. Little could be done to work this case, as there were no leads or clues to the identity of the unknown man, and as such, the case quickly went cold.

In August 2021, as part of an ongoing collaboration with Othram, the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office sent a portion of the skeletal remains to Othram’s laboratory to attempt advanced DNA testing. Othram’s scientists developed a suitable DNA extract from the skeletal remains, but it required multiple rounds of extraction and processing, because the remains were substantially degraded. Once the DNA extract was developed, Othram used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile. The funding to support this case was provided by Mississippi native and philanthropist, Carla Davis. Carla also executed the genealogical research necessary to generate investigative leads for the agency.

Once the genealogical research was completed, investigative leads were returned to the Mississippi State Medical Examiner's Office. Working alongside the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, investigators contacted a candidate family member. Familial DNA testing confirmed the relationship between the family member and the unknown man. The unknown man was Michael Len West was born on Mar 1, 1959 in Wichita County, Texas. He was the son of Leonard Lee West and Phoebe Jo Custis. His dad died in 1965 and his mom in 1982. No pictures of West could be found, not even a school picture.

Mystery surrounds the circumstances of West’s death. Cause of death is undetermined and there was no noted trauma to the remains. His family doesn’t know how he might have ended up in Mississippi. West was not reported missing as he was known to have a nomadic lifestyle.

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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.