Undisclosed: Body found on Galveston beach in May 2020 remains a mystery

GALVESTON, TX (KTRK) — When a body washed up on the shore on the west side of Galveston Island, police released a sketch asking: Do you know this man? It was two years ago. Today, his face is still a mystery. But now forensic genealogists say they will identify him.

Emergency calls came in on Mother’s Day 2020 at midday.

“Oh yes,” muttered the caller. “I want to report a body on Cahala Beach in Galveston, Texas.”

Do we know if it’s a man or a woman? the woman dispatcher asked the second caller.

“I don’t know,” replied the woman, who said she was calling from her beach house. “I really didn’t want to look and people are now coming up and taking pictures.”

The man did not have an identity card with him. He was wearing regular black swimming trunks and black Calvin Klein briefs underneath. Galveston police officer Danny Simpson shared with the Unsolved team photos from the crime scene that have not yet been released.

But perhaps the most revealing detail was the size 11 men’s Under Armor flip flops attached to the man’s arms.

“He swam and may have tried to use them as a life-saving aid,” Simpson said.

An autopsy later showed that the man had indeed drowned. He was 5 feet 5 inches, probably in his early twenties, but who was he?

According to Simpson, the US Coast Guard suggested that on that day it could have been carried by the current from the Bolivar Peninsula.

Investigators are waiting for a call from someone who might be looking for the man. But there was no such call. Months passed, then two years. Things have cooled down. Then, finally, the phone rang.

“(I thought) this might help me solve this case,” Simpson said.

It was a scientist from Othram, a private genetic testing lab in the Woodlands, who said they could build a DNA profile for this John Doe – and do it pretty quickly. Once a profile has been created, forensic genealogists will begin work to find his family.

Simpson decided it was worth a try.

Othram posted information about the case on their crowdfunding website: DNAsolves.com. They need $5,000 to test. Over the past year, people from all over the country have donated. The business is now funded.

“I know for sure that in a few weeks we will have a DNA profile of this person,” says Othram’s Kristen Mittelman.

Outram can’t say how long it took genetic genealogists to find this John Doe’s family.

“His identity will be established and we will find out what is going on,” says Mittelman. “I can’t tell you how many cases we solved that the Jane and John Doe case turned into an investigation that led to someone being arrested and sentenced.”

Simpson hopes the grieving family will have answers by next Mother’s Day: “Somewhere a mother is looking for a son and we’d like to at least give her some completion on that.”

For more on the Unsolved series, follow Courtney Fisher at facebook, Twitter as well as Instagram.

Share your loved one’s story with ABC13’s Courtney Fisher here.

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