Detectives identify remains 50 years later using DNA

A woman now has closure about what happened to the father she never knew.

Posted: Oct 22, 2021 11:38 AM
Updated: Oct 22, 2021 4:40 PM

COOS BAY, Ore. -- Fifty years ago, a teen left his Boise home for Coos County and was never heard from again. Now, thanks to DNA analysis, the daughter he never knew existed has some closure.

The Coos County Sheriff’s Office said they have confirmed the identity of remains found back in July 1971 in the Engelwood area of Snedden Creek as Winston Arthur Maxey III.

Maxey had left Boise at the age of 15 that spring after a friend told him there were job opportunities in Oregon. He shared his plans of hitchhiking to the coast with his sister.

What he didn’t know was that he had fathered a child before leaving Idaho. That child was adopted and grew up in Idaho. When she turned 18, she hired a private investigator to locate her birth parents and got her father’s name from her biological mother.

In 2016, the woman started a Facebook page called Where in the world is Winston Maxey to share her search for her biological father. Deputies said she also filed a missing person report and was working with local law enforcement officials.

Maxey’s case left detectives in 1971 stumped, with leads and canvassing going nowhere. Deputies said limited technology and the condition of the body made it difficult to build a timeline and identify the youth. He was buried in a local cemetery, still unidentified.

However, the case stayed open over the years, and in 2017 his body was exhumed to obtain a DNA sample with technology having advanced significantly in the decades after his death.

A laboratory provided a DNA profile of the youth in May this year, providing information about ancestry and eye, skin and hair color, as well as face morphology and a composite profile. Detectives took this and hit the ground running, searching through missing people, cold cases and ancestry sites.

Additional information rolled in from the laboratory in July, identifying the youth’s family and someone from the Idaho area that matched the genealogy and ancestry history from the initial profile.

Coos County detectives then contacted family members, and Maxey’s sister provided DNA, allowing authorities to confirm the youth’s identity in the 50-year-old case.

Maxey's family can now rest a little easier, knowing where he ended up. Moving forward, the sheriff’s office is working with the family to produce a death certificate and return the remains to Idaho.

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