Winston Hurley Maxwell III

A 15-year-old who went missing was identified recently thanks to the dogged work of Coos County Sheriff's Office investigators.

In 1971, the body of a teen was located near Snedden Creek in Coos Bay. Due to the limited technology available at the time and the condition of the body, no cause of death was determined by the medical examiner.

At the time, the sheriff's office did a thorough review by canvassing the neighborhood, asking for public help and attempting to create a timeline of events in the area. But the work failed to identify the deceased juvenile, and his body was buried in a local cemetery.

Like all unknown deaths, the case of the unidentified child remained open and sheriff's investigators would go back and look at it occasionally.

In 2017, Captain Daniel Looney decided to take another look at the case. That year, Looney and the medical examiner's office exhumed the body in order to obtain a DNA sample. Using a grant from the Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office, the DNA was registered through the NAMUS database and analyzed by Parabon Nanolabs.

In May of this year, Parabon Nanolabs provided a DNA profile of the teen. At the time, the DNA profile did not provide an identity, but Detective Jason Patterson said it provided significant information such as ancestry, eye color, skin color, hair color, a composite profile and idea of what the teen may have looked like.

That profile was then used to search through reports of missing persons as well as cold cases. It was also uploaded to ancestry sites.

In July, Parabon released a further report in which it was able to identify the family and a man from Idaho who matched the ancestry and genealogy of the teen's profile. But before closing the case, sheriff's investigators needed to confirm the identity of the dead teenager.

Investigators identified the dead teen as Winston Hurley Maxey III by verifying DNA with that of a biological sister.

Detectives learned Maxey was 15 when he left his home in Boise, Idaho in 1971. Maxey told family members there were jobs in Oregon, and he planned to hitchhike to the coast. He told his sister, he was specifically going to Coos Bay when he left his home in the spring of 1971.

Family members reported they never heard from Maxey again and were not sure he arrived in Oregon. His body was located in July 1971, but it took 50 years to verify his identity.

During the investigation, detectives learned Maxey fathered a daughter he never knew about. The child was given up for adoption, but when she turned 18, she began looking for her parents. She was able to find her birth mother and learned that Maxey was her father. Maxey's daughter created a Facebook page titled, Where in the world is Winston Maxey and officially filed a missing person's report.

When Maxey's identity was verified, investigators were able to get a death certificate for Maxey's family and return the remains to his family in Idaho.

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