Hunting guide discovers remains of CO man missing since 1997

Hunting guide discovers remains of CO man missing since 1997

A man was last seen in June of 1997. DNA testing identified his remains in 2022 after a hunting guide found them in Gateway, Colorado, in 2019, officials said.

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A 48-year-old man disappeared in 1997, but more than two decades later a hunting guide stumbled across his remains on a Colorado overlook.

DNA testing identified the remains as Larry Dean Watts 25 years after he was last seen, according to a Dec. 16 news release from DNASolves, which was sent out by the Mesa County Coroner’s Office.

A hunting guide was scouting an area in Gateway in December 2019 when they discovered the skeletal remains, the release says.

Personal belongings were found near the remains, including a revolver, a leather holster, a red flashlight with blue and white rope, a red and black fabric bag with a strap, a white metal Camel cigarette zippo-style lighter and a Camel cigarette pack.

Other clothing items were also found nearby, but investigators didn’t recover anything that identified the man, the release says.

That same month, his information was registered into the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

His remains were sent to the University of North Texas and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, but he was never identified.

Then in 2022, the Mesa County Coroner’s Office partnered with Othram, a company that specializes in forensic genealogy.

Once his skeletal remains were sent to Othram’s lab in The Woodlands, Texas, the company was able to create a DNA profile, the release says.

“Othram’s in-house genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to produce investigative leads that were returned to Mesa County Coroner’s Office investigators,” the release says.

These leads were used by investigators to confirm the remains belonged to Watts, who had last been seen on June 16, 1997.

Gateway is near the Colorado-Utah border, about 300 miles southwest from Denver.

Hunting guide discovers remains of CO man missing since 1997

Helena Wegner is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter covering the state of Washington and the western region. She’s a journalism graduate from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s based in Phoenix.