Forensic reconstructions are a very important part of identifying remains. From an enhanced
autopsy photo to a complete skull reconstruction, these drawings and clay molds give us the
only insight to what a person may have looked like in life. Unfortunately, many police
agencies do not have the resources available to reconstruct all cases, and this leaves
some unidentified for many years.
Here at The Doe Network we offer a service to
those agencies who don’t have the resources to have their own forensic artists,
(Everyone Deserves A Name). Members of project EDAN are Doe Network volunteers with the talent and training to do these reconstructions. On a limited budget, or free of charge, they volunteer their time to give a body a face, and hopefully a name. This has become invaluable to us recently, with the Clark County, Nevada coroners office posting autopsy photos of many of their unidentified dead. We do not post autopsy photos on “Doe”, so we asked our EDAN members to make drawings of the faces so we can add them to the site.
This week, one of our EDAN drawings was involved in a positive match made by Doe Network member, Daphne. The drawing, done by EDAN artist Charlaine Michaelis was a “dead ringer” for the autopsy photo and the missing man. Thanks to the coroner’s site, Charlaine’s drawing, and Daphne’s good eye, this man’s family will finally be able to have closure after almost 16 years.
A picture speaks a thousand words, and this rings so true when matching missing persons to a “Doe”. Many of us scroll through faces when browsing for a potential match. A description of what the person may have looked like doesn’t give you that same picture in your mind. Unfortunately, many unidentified remains still have no “face” or a photo to catch someone's attention. We offer the EDAN service to any Law Enforcement agency that may want to give their “Doe” a face, no matter how much time has passed.
EDAN artists, and other forensic artists work from many angles to recreate what a person may have looked like in life. From a photo of the face to the actual skull, a reconstruction can be done. Even from a bare skull, artist like our Wes Neville can “recreate” the layers of muscle and skin on the skull, exactly the same shape and thickness as it would have been in life. Adding the teeth from the skull, eyes and similar hair, these reconstructions can be amazingly lifelike. With the advances in computerized graphics, a reconstruction can be done that looks like a portrait of the victim. These reconstructions have become very recognizable to those who may have known the “Doe” in life.
In an ID we had last fall, Wes was asked to do a skull reconstruction by Florida authorities. The remains were thought to have been there several years, and belonged to a teenage girl. After he finished the reconstruction and was very comfortable with what the girl looked like, Wes looked himself for a potential match. It was then that the face of Tara Esposito, a 14 year old thought to be a runaway, jumped out at him. He knew in his heart that even though Tara was only missing for a few months that this was her face. Going from a bare skull, he had created an identical likeness of this missing girl. After a few months of testing, Wes was notified that this indeed was Tara’s skull. Due to the hot Florida sun, the body had become skeletal rather quickly and the time of death was estimated to be years before Tara went missing. Without Wes’ amazing likeness, this may have never been considered a match.
As we spread the word about EDAN and the importance of the forensic reconstruction we hope more Law Enforcement agencies will come to us for help, and more cases will be solved.
Author: Dana Gonzalez