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News >  Crime/Public Safety

Idaho hitchhiker vanished 50 years ago. DNA helped his daughter find closure.

UPDATED: Fri., Oct. 22, 2021

Winston Arthur Maxey III, 15, went missing after hitchhiking from Boise to the Oregon coast in 1971. A DNA analysis identified his remains 50 years later.  (Courtesy of Coos County Sheriff's Office)
Winston Arthur Maxey III, 15, went missing after hitchhiking from Boise to the Oregon coast in 1971. A DNA analysis identified his remains 50 years later. (Courtesy of Coos County Sheriff's Office)
By Helena Wegner Charlotte Observer

A 15-year-old boy set out for the Oregon coast from Idaho in the spring of 1971, looking for “job opportunities.”

His family never heard from him again.

Winston Arthur Maxey III hitchhiked to Oregon and did end up in Coos Bay, the Coos County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release.

But a few months after leaving his home in Boise, his remains were discovered in the Englewood area near Snedden Creek in Coos Bay.

Fifty 50 years later, thanks to DNA, his body has been identified.

In July of ‘71, when the remains were found, deputies asked the public for help with the unknown body, followed the leads and canvassed neighborhoods.

The sheriff’s office lacked technology and the medical examiner could not identify or determine Maxey’s cause of death due to the condition of his remains, the news release states.

His body was then buried in a local cemetery.

Maxey also fathered a child, but he never knew it.

His daughter, who was adopted, hired a private investigator to find her family when she was 17, according to a Facebook page she created in 2016 to find her father – called “Where in the world is Winston Maxey.”

The investigator found her family in less than 24 hours. She soon connected with her mother, half-brother and aunt.

She also met her father’s family, who had not heard from Maxey since before she was born, the post says.

In 2017, the sheriff’s office and the medical examiner exhumed the body to take a sample of his DNA. Parabon Nanolabs analyzed the sample and created a profile of the person’s ancestry, skin, eye and hair color, “face morphology and a composite profile.”

The lab provided another report this year, including a match to his family, one being in the Idaho area.

In August, Maxey’s identity was confirmed after his daughter’s DNA was run and it matched, according to a Facebook post from her on Friday.

“Today, the press release went out, the John Doe had now been identified. It brings me and my family some closure but we still do not know what happened,” the daughter wrote.

“Winston’s daughter finally had answers about her father, and an understanding at least of where he had gone,” the sheriff’s office said in the news release.

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