Remains of Larry Dean Watts, missing person from 1997, identified

The Mesa County Coroner’s Office announced Sunday night that skeletal remains discovered in 2019 had been identified through advances in DNA technology as belonging to a man who disappeared a quarter-century ago.

The remains, discovered at an overlook in Gateway, were identified as those of Larry Dean Watts, who was 48 when he was last seen with his brother in Grand Junction on June 16, 1997, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation’s Cold Case Files and Othram Inc., a Texas-based DNA lab that worked with the Mesa County Coroner’s Office on the case.

A hunting guide found the human remains in December 2019, and although personal belongings were found in the area, including clothing, eyeglasses and a .38-caliber revolver, investigators weren’t able to identify the man or the cause of death, according to Othram.

The Mesa County Coroner’s Office earlier this year partnered with Othram, which built a DNA profile of the unknown man and used forensic genetic genealogy “to produce investigative leads” for the coroner’s office, according to the DNA lab.

The coroner’s office was able to follow up on those leads and identify Watts. Investigators now are asking that anyone with information about Watts’ disappearance contact the Mesa County Coroner’s Office at 970-244-1898 and reference case number C19-743.

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