Remains found by rafters in 1989 identified as man missing since 1964, Oregon cops say
DNA testing recently identified skeletal remains found by a group of rafters in 1989, authorities in Oregon said.
The remains were identified as David West Jr., who disappeared during a flood in 1964, the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office said in a Monday, Feb. 6, news release.
On March 27, 1989, rafters found skeletal remains on the bank of the John Day River in Sherman County, deputies said. Some bones had been “half-buried” in the silt.
The remains, including a skull, were examined by the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office, but an identification was not made, deputies said.
Authorities then searched the area on March 28 and April 8 of that year, and found small bones and teeth.
Multiple people reported to authorities that they believed the remains belonged to West.
They said he vanished after crossing the John Day River during a flood in 1964, authorities said.
West lived on a ranch near Bridge Creek and often crossed the river to feed cattle near Ashwood, which is what he was believed to be doing on the day of the flood.
He used a makeshift cable car he and a friend built to cross the river, deputies said.
When a friend went to check on him, they saw the cable car had been washed away and his dog was “injured and agitated” on the riverbank.
No one saw West after the flooding, deputies said.
Investigators contacted West’s dentist about the remains, but they were not able to make a “conclusive identification.”
In 2010, the medical examiner’s office sent a bone sample to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.
A DNA sample was created and a profile was added to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a DNA database run by the FBI. But a genetic association wasn’t made, deputies said.
The medical examiner’s office then sent another sample to Othram, a private DNA lab, in April 2022, deputies said.
The lab used a genome sequencing technique and named two of West’s relatives.
Investigators then reached out to another family member for a DNA sample.
They were able to confirm the remains belonged to West in September 2022.
“We are very excited that such an old case was able to be solved. This was a case that was a mystery for generations here at the Sherman County Sheriff’s Office. I’m happy that the family of the deceased finally has closure,” Sheriff Brad Lohrey said in the release.
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