Denver Government

Seventeen Bodies Denver Is Trying to Identify

A suitcase found near a man whose body was discovered in June 2021 near the Pecos exit on Interstate 70.
A suitcase found near a man whose body was discovered in June 2021 near the Pecos exit on Interstate 70. denvergov.org
Tragedies can be even more poignant when they're cloaked in mystery. Denver's Office of the Medical Examiner is trying to put names to the seventeen bodies included on its online list of unidentified persons: sixteen men and one female infant, found between 1970 and 2021. In many instances, the listings include personal details and photos — some showing items in the individuals' possession at the time they died and others depicting the victims themselves. Yet their identities remain unknown.

Despite the passage of years or even decades, breakthroughs are possible. In April, the Denver Department of Public Health and Environment announced that one of its staffers, Hanah Shimeall, had successfully ID'd a man who'd died of natural causes 31 years earlier:  Antonio Macias, a sixty-year-old Arizona resident whose body was found in a parking space at 723 West Seventh Avenue on September 9, 1990 — and was working to inform his next of kin. On Facebook, the DDPHE wrote: "Thank you, Hanah, for the difficult but important work you do to bring answers to families dealing with tremendous grief."

Each of Denver's seventeen unidentified persons has been assigned a case number with NamUs.gov, which "provides technology, forensic services and investigative support to solve missing person and unidentified remains cases," and that website provides perspective on the size and scope of the challenge. As of now, 14,146 unidentified persons across the country are listed in the system.

The information provided by the Denver medical examiner's office is often heartbreaking. A June 8, 1990, comment about the only child on the city's rundown reveals: "This unknown female infant was found in a dumpster behind a house located at 2860 North Ivanhoe Street."

The office was recently awarded a grant for a rapid DNA processor that could help with the identification of these bodies, which weren't identifiable through fingerprints, visual identifiers, dental profiles or any other tools. While that technology is particularly helpful in cases of mass casualties, the office could also use it to work on these older, individual cases, creating a DNA profile from the remains and uploading it into Family Tree or GEDmatch PRO, public-source DNA databases, to try to build out a family tree. But in the meantime, work continues to put names to the nameless.

Here are all seventeen cases, in reverse chronological order, with details from each listing, starting with the date the body was found.

June 16, 2021 (see photo at the top of post)
Male (race cannot be determined)
Age: 25-plus years
Height: Five-eight
Weight: Cannot be determined
Hair: Brown
Features: Wisdom teeth present. Found wearing a Broncos sweatshirt
Comments: This unknown male was found by a land surveyor during an inspection of the area located near I-70 & North Pecos Street. The decedent was believed to be undomiciled. A multicolored suitcase was located near the decedent
Location: 4735 North Pecos Street
click to enlarge A watch worn by a man found dead in Bear Creek Park on August 29, 2019. - DENVERGOV.ORG
A watch worn by a man found dead in Bear Creek Park on August 29, 2019.
August 29, 2019
Hispanic or Native American male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-one
Weight: 177 pounds
Hair: Black
Features: Brown eyes. Left ear is pierced three times. No tattoos.
Comments: This unknown male was found by a passerby walking her dog in Bear Creek Park. The decedent was believed to be undomiciled.
Location: 3550 South Raleigh Street (Bear Creek Park)
click to enlarge Clothing worn by a man found dead on February 22, 2002, near the Denver Waste Management building. - DENVERGOV.ORG
Clothing worn by a man found dead on February 22, 2002, near the Denver Waste Management building.
February 22, 2002
Possibly Hispanic or Native American male
Age: Fifty-plus years
Height: Five-eight
Weight: 110 pounds
Hair: Gray with stubble on the face
Features: No front teeth. No tattoos or scars
Comments: This unknown male was found along the west bank of the South Platte River by a cleaning crew. The decedent was believed to be undomiciled.
Location: Sixth Avenue near the Denver Waste Management building

December 16, 1999
Caucasian, Hispanic or Native American male
Age: 35-plus years
Height: Cannot be determined
Weight: 105 pounds
Hair: Cannot be determined
Features: N/A
Location: 4600 National Western Drive near South Platte River

February 25, 1999
Caucasian male
Age: 45-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: Slight-medium build
Hair: Light brown with stubble on the face
Features: Evidence of previous dental work, found wearing a green shirt with the word "MEXICO" on the front.
Location: 1135 Broadway

January 8, 1997
Hispanic male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 160 pounds
Hair: Brown with a thin mustache
Features: Brown eyes. A name tattooed on the upper-left arm. A scar on the left forearm
Location: Alley located at the 2400 block between South Julian Circle and South Irving Street

January 26, 1996
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Five-five
Weight: 150 pounds
Hair: Cannot be determined
Features: Degenerative bone disease. Antemortem tooth loss
Location: Storm drain at 5050 Humboldt Street

November 5, 1990
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 120 pounds
Hair: Brown with stubble on the face
Features. Brown eyes. The decedent did not have any tattoos, scars or identifying marks
Location: I-70 and I-25

June 8, 1990
Black female
Age: Newborn
Height: N/A
Weight: N/A
Hair: Black curly hair
Features: Cannot be determined
Location: 2860 North Ivanhoe Street

September 17, 1988
Caucasian male
Age: Sixty-plus years
Height: Five-eleven
Weight: 138 pounds
Hair: Gray with frontal balding
Features: Hazel eyes, edentulous [lacking teeth]
Location: Rio Grande West Railroad yard at 6th Avenue and Navajo

June 7, 1987
Black male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Six-one
Weight: 183 pounds
Hair: Black with short, black beard
Features: Possibly known as "Kinky." Has several tattoos on lower right leg, including "GEMINI" and an outline of a wine glass. Found wearing a red, yellow, green and black beaded necklace
Location: 1350 Columbine Street

January 30, 1987
Caucasian, Asian or Hispanic male
Age: Cannot be determined
Height: Six-one
Weight: 157 pounds
Hair: Black or brown
Features: Brown eyes
Location: Platte River near West 13th Street and Zuni Street

October 16, 1983
Hispanic or Native American male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 136 pounds
Hair: Black with goatee
Features: Brown eyes. Multiple tattoos including: "Mary Jane" and "Rebelo E Causa"
Location: 2300 block of West 32nd Avenue

March 21, 1981
Hispanic male
Age: Twenty-plus years
Height: Five-two
Weight: 111 pounds
Hair: Long, black hair with black mustache and sideburns
Features: Brown eyes
Location: 2600 block of West 17th Street

April 25, 1980
Hispanic or Native American male
Age: 35-plus years
Height: Five-ten
Weight: 123 pounds
Hair: Black with gray and a mustache
Features: Brown eyes and a tattoo of a female on left arm
Location: Under the 23rd Street viaduct

May 21, 1979
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Five-seven
Weight: 117 pounds
Hair: Black
Features: Brown eyes
Location: 728 28th Street

September 8, 1970
Caucasian male
Age: Thirty-plus years
Height: Cannot be determined
Weight: Cannot be Determined
Location: Alley behind 2205 Larimer Street.

Click to access contact information for the Denver Office of the Medical Examiner
.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts