GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) — When a body washed ashore on the west end of Galveston Island, police put out a sketch asking: do you know this man? That was two years ago. Today, his face is still a mystery. But now, forensic genealogists say: they will identify him.
The 911 calls came in on Mother’s Day 2020 in the middle of the afternoon.
“Uh, yes,” stammered the man calling. “I want to report a body on Kahala Beach in Galveston, Texas.”
“Do we know if it’s male or female?” a woman dispatcher asked a second caller.
“I don’t know,” replied the woman, who said she was calling from her beach house. “I really didn’t want to look and people are walking up now and taking pictures.”
The man had no identification on him. He was wearing black, generic swim trunks and black Calvin Klein briefs underneath. Galveston police officer Dannie Simpson shared crime scene photos with the Unsolved team, not seen by the public until now.
But perhaps the most telling detail of all were the men’s size 11 Under Armour slides strapped to the man’s hands.
“He had been swimming and maybe tried to use those as a flotation device,” Simpson said.
The autopsy later revealed the man had indeed drowned. He was 5’5″ tall, likely in his twenties, but who was he?
The current that day may have brought him in from the direction of the Bolivar Peninsula, Simpson says the U.S. Coast Guard suggested to him.
Investigators waited for a call from someone who might be looking for this man. But no such call came in. Months passed, then two years. The case went cold. Then, the phone finally rang.
“(I thought) this possibly could help me solve this case,” Simpson said.
It was a scientist from Othram, the private genetic testing lab in The Woodlands, saying they could build a DNA profile for this John Doe – and do it fairly quickly. Once the profile was built, forensic genealogists would start working to track down his family.
Simpson figured it was worth a shot.
Othram posted the case on its crowdfunding website: DNAsolves.com. They’d need to $5,000 to do the testing. Over the past year, people from all over the country donated. Now, the case has been funded.
“I know for a fact that within a few weeks, we’ll have a profile for this man’s DNA,” says Kristen Mittelman with Othram.
Othram can’t say how long it could take those genetic genealogists to find this John Doe’s family.
“He will be identified and we’ll figure out what’s going on,” Mittelman says. “I can’t tell you the number of cases we’ve solved that the Jane and John Doe case turned into an investigation that led to an arrest and sentence for someone.”
Simpson is hopeful that by next Mother’s Day, a grieving family will have answers: “Somewhere there’s a mother looking for a son and we would like for – to at least give her some closure with that.”
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