MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — The Mesa County Coroner’s Office says skeletal remains found in 2019 have been identified as a man who has been missing since 1997.

In Dec. of 2019, a hunting guide discovered skeletal remains at an overlook in Gateway.

The coroner’s office and Othram, a DNA laboratory, partnered to identify the remains.

“Skeletal evidence was sent to Othram’s lab in The Woodlands, Texas, where Othram’s forensic scientists developed a DNA extract and used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown man. Othram’s in-house genealogy team used forensic genetic genealogy to produce investigative leads that were returned to Mesa County Coroner’s Office investigators,” Othram said.

Who were the remains identified as?

The skeletal remains were identified as Larry Dean Watts. Watts was last seen with his brother in Grand Junction on June 16, 1997, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said.

Watts was 48 years old at the time of his disappearance.

Watts’ cause of death has not been released. If you have any information about this investigation, please contact the coroner’s office at 970-244-1898.

Highlighting cold cases in Colorado

There are hundreds of unsolved homicide cases, long-term missing person cases, and unidentified remains cases in Colorado where at least three years have passed since the crime happened.

The Colorado cold case task force created a list of those cases dating back to 1970. The Problem Solvers are working to highlight cold cases in our state.

Here are some of the other cases we’ve highlighted:

If you ever have a cold case you would like us to feature, please fill out this form or send an email to

The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System shows there are more than 20,000 open missing persons cases in the United States and over 300 in Colorado.