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Mesa County Coroner’s Office, forensic genealogy company identify John Doe case from 2019

Posted at 11:53 AM, Dec 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-25 13:13:20-05

MESA COUNTY, Colo. — Human remains found in 2019 in Gateway have been identified as a 48-year-old man who went missing in 1997.

In December 2019, a hunting guide who was scouting the area discovered the skeletal remains of an unknown man near an overlook in Gateway, according to, which helps law enforcement with human identification investigations.

The Mesa County Coroner's Office confirmed the following information from

Larry Dean Watt

Investigators found the man's personal belongings scattered around him, though none helped identify who he was. Those items included 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, according to DNA Solves. He also had 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, and a pair of Chaco sandals. Lastly, they found two Diplomat Optical 140 brand metal frame eyeglasses, one of which had a prescription.

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They estimated he was between 30 and 60 years old when he died and was between 5 feet, 7 inches, and 6 feet, 2 inches tall, but could not determine his weight or hair color.

The cause of his death was not clear at the time.

The same month he was found, the case was entered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. The man's remains were sent to the University of North Texas and also to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, according to DNA Solves.

Despite these efforts, authorities were not able to identify the man.

The case then went cold.

In 2022, the Mesa County Coroner's Office partnered with Othram, a Texas-based company that specializes in forensic genealogy to solve unsolved murders and identify deceased individuals.

Othram received the skeletal evidence and developed a DNA extract. It then built a DNA profile for the man, according to DNA Solves.

The company's in-house genealogy team came up with investigative leads that it passed along to the coroner's office investigators.

Using those leads, investigators were able to determine the man was Larry Dean Watts. He had been reported missing and was last seen on June 16, 1997. Watts would have been 48 years old at the time he went missing.

Anybody with information on this case is asked to contact the Mesa County Coroner's Office at 970-244-1898 and reference case number C19-743.