Missouri State Highway Patrol has Partnered with Othram and Southeast Anthropology to Identify Vernon County John Doe

Unidentified for decades, investigators hope advanced DNA testing can identify Vernon County John Doe
Funding complete
Help fund another case Your contributions pay for lab supplies and research tools

Would you like to help solve cases like this one?

You can help by contributing your DNA data here:
Contribute DNA
Published March 11, 2021 by Michael Vogen
Media Inquiries


In January 2000, hunters came across the skeletonized remains of Vernon County John Doe near the town of Nevada, MO. Preliminary analyses provided some important clues that investigators hoped would lead to an identification: he was a biological male, likely of European ancestry, and was 26-36 years old at the time of his death. His death was determined to be a homicide although the post-mortem interval (PMI) is unclear. Louisiana State University’s FACES Lab produced a forensic approximation of what Vernon County John Doe may have looked like and a DNA profile was developed and uploaded to CODIS. Despite these efforts, his identity remains a mystery over 20 years later.

In December of 2020, Dr. Jennifer Bengtson and her anthropology students at Southeast Missouri State University reached out to the Missouri State Highway Patrol to offer their assistance with this case. Dr. Bengtson and her team will inventory the remains and create new reports on age-at-death, biological sex, and ancestry estimates, applying more recently developed forensic anthropological techniques in their reassessment. Students will examine weathering patterns on the remains in an attempt to refine the PMI and prepare material for specialized microscopic and isotope analysis to augment the age at death estimate and uncover chemical clues about where Vernon County John Doe may have lived as a child.

The Southeast Missouri State University Anthropology team has partnered with Othram to use advanced DNA testing and forensic genealogy to establish an identification of, or to find the closest living relatives to, the decedent. Thanks to a faculty research grant from the University, $3000 has already been contributed toward funding the identification of Vernon County John Doe. Anyone with information that could aid the investigation is encouraged to contact Sergeant Travis Hitchcock of the Missouri State Highway Patrol at 417-359-1500. A fund has been established to cover the remaining costs of testing for this case. This case is logged in NamUs as #UP8023.

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

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.

Similar cases

Read More
Read More
Read More
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 Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.