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.