The Art of Identifying the Deceased
One of the more unusual skills I have as a forensic artist is my ability to draw from morgue shots and autopsy photos. While this is not a pleasant job, I believe everyone should be identified at the end of their life. Many John and Jane Does are found and sent to the morgue, where they remain in the coroners office indefinitely. Many are never identified. People with no families, or those who have become estranged from loved ones, often are unidentified because no one knows they are even missing. Since you cannot put a deceased individuals photo on the news for obvious reasons, I can come in to help.
I am not an artist that can work from skeletal remains. That is a whole scientific process I was not trained to do. But, if someone still has recognizable soft tissue, I can recreate their features from my knowledge of facial anatomy.
The following are two examples of this type of case.
Both are cases I worked in Kansas City. The first example is a case the police called “Precious Doe”. This is the story of Erika Green. Her decapitated body was found in a wooded area. Her head was later found in a separate location. No one had reported this little girl missing, and no one came forward to claim her. She was unidentified for more than two years.
Many attempts were made to identify her. A computer generated image was created, as was a clay rendition of her face. Neither gave the police the leads they needed to make an arrest.
I offered my services, and created these drawings from her autopsy photos. While decomposition was clearly a problem, I was able to correct some of this to create these drawings. These were much more accurate than the previous renditions, for it was really “her”, not a creation. Within a few days after the drawings were publicized, a family member identified Erika. Unfortunately, Erika was murdered by her own mother, who had taken her to a new city. No one knew she was even missing. The photo of her is the only one known to be taken of her. We now have an actual face to go with the name “Precious Doe”.
The second example was of a man who was found floating in a local creek. Somehow he fallen in and had drowned. Again, no one had reported him missing, and he was not claimed. After we publicized this drawing, family members were able to identify him, and give him a proper burial.
It is a wonderful feeling to give families closure, and to give someone a name at the end of their life.
I encourage any police department to contact me if they have unidentified individuals in their morgue. I would be honored to create their portrait, and give them back their name and dignity.