SOLVED: Body discovered on Galveston beach on Mother's Day 2020 identified, officials confirm

Courtney Fischer Image
Sunday, April 16, 2023
John Doe's body discovered on Galveston beach 3 years ago identified
ABC13 first brought you this story the day after Mother's Day in 2020, but now officials have confirmed the identity of the 24-year-old exchange student from Tanzania

GALVESTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The answer to investigators' question: do you know this man, has finally been solved. Officials have identified the body of a John Doe that washed ashore west of Galveston Island on Mother's Day 2020.

According to the Galveston Medical Examiner's Office, the man was identified as 24-year-old Calvin Mbwambo, an exchange student from Tanzania.

ORIGINAL REPORT: Man's body found washed up on Jamaica Beach, police say

On Sunday, May 10, 2020, Mbwambo's body washed up on Jamaica Beach in the middle of a sunny, cloudless day.

Several 911 calls came in that day regarding the body found.

At the time, there was no identification located on Mbwambo. He only wore generic swim trunks and black Calvin Klein briefs underneath seen in photos shared with the Unsolved team.

But the most perplexing detail was the men's size 11 Under Armour slides strapped to his hands.

Galveston police officer Dannie Simpson shared crime scene photos with the Unsolved team, not seen by the public until now.

"He had been swimming and maybe tried to use those as a flotation device," Galveston police officer Dannie Simpson said.

The current that day may have brought him in from the direction of the Bolivar Peninsula, Simpson says the U.S. Coast Guard suggested to him.

13 UNSOLVED: Body discovered on Galveston beach in May 2020 remains mystery

For two years, it's been a mystery - who is the man whose body washed ashore along Kahala Drive in Galveston? Scientists are about to get his DNA profile - a development that could finally give police some long-awaited answers.

The autopsy later revealed Mbwambo had drowned. He was recorded as 5'5" tall and in his twenties, but the question remained for years as to who this man was.

Investigators waited for a call from someone who might be looking for this man. But no such call came in. Months passed, then two years. The case went cold. Then, the phone finally rang.

"(I thought) this possibly could help me solve this case," Simpson said.

It was a scientist from Othram, the private genetic testing lab in The Woodlands, saying they could build a DNA profile for Mbwambo - and do it fairly quickly. Once the profile was built, forensic genealogists would start working to track down his family.

It would take almost a full year to fully identify Mbwambo due to officials having to use thousands of genetic markers to do a biographical analysis.

On Monday, ABC13's Courtney Fisher, who has followed this story since the beginning, will speak to the Othram CEO about how this case was initally solved.

For more on the Unsolved series, follow Courtney Fischer on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.