New 3D tech­nol­ogy raises hopes for the cold­est of cold cases

Malta Independent - - SCIENCE -

They stare, straight ahead, un­blink­ing and made of mal­leable clay. There are four­teen to­tal, all busts of the miss­ing, the uniden­ti­fied, the mur­dered. The for­got­ten. These faces ap­peared be­fore law en­force­ment, Univer­sity of South Florida ex­perts and the pub­lic for the first time on Fri­day. The clay busts were the ef­fort of Univer­sity of South Florida foren­sic an­thro­pol­o­gists and foren­sic artists who pulled im­ages of uniden­ti­fied bod­ies from cold case files, printed their skulls in 3D plas­tic, then molded heads and faces that some­one might rec­og­nize.

They’re hop­ing to solve 20 cases, in­clud­ing 13 from Florida, four from Penn­syl­va­nia, and one each from Ken­tucky, Mis­souri, and Ten­nessee.

Some are decades old. In­ves­ti­ga­tors hope that up­dated DNA pro­ce­dures and chem­i­cal iso­tope test­ing will help them iden­tify the bod­ies and ul­ti­mately, learn what hap­pened to them.

“Time stands still for these vic­tims,” said Cpl. Tom McAn­drew of the Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice.

This is the sec­ond year of the Art of Foren­sics event. It was con­ceived by Joe Mullins, a foren­sic artist for the Na­tional Cen­ter for Miss­ing and Ex­ploited Chil­dren.

While most of this year’s 20 cold cases are of adults who were found dead, one was a baby. In Au­gust 2003, an in­fant’s body was found in a pond in Gainesville. They think the re­mains are that of a girl. That’s all in­ves­ti­ga­tors know; it’s un­clear how the baby died, and the artists did only a com­puter sketch of the baby.

Alachua County Sher­iff Sadie Dar­nell talked about the case, and said there is a “tsunami” of miss­ing and uniden­ti­fied cases in Florida, par­tially be­cause of the state’s tran­sient pop­u­la­tion.

“Ev­ery sin­gle per­son rep­re­sented here to­day was some­body’s baby,” she said. “This is the why of what we do in our work.”

For Dr. Erin Kim­merle, a USF an­thro­pol­o­gist and direc­tor of the school’s In­sti­tute for Foren­sic An­thro­pol­ogy & Ap­plied Sci­ence, it’s about jus­tice for the fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially in cases of homi­cides.

“There’s a rea­son there are no statutes of lim­i­ta­tions on mur­der,” she said. “Strip­ping some­one of their life is the ul­ti­mate crime.”

In­ves­ti­ga­tors ac­knowl­edge it’s a long shot to crack these cases, but say it’s worth the ef­fort. Af­ter last year’s Art of Foren­sics event, one cold case vic­tim was iden­ti­fied.

This year’s event also has raised hopes. Two sis­ters showed up, and in­tensely com­pared one of the clay faces to a pic­ture they car­ried of their older sis­ter, miss­ing since the late 1970s. They teared up at the re­sem­blance, and a de­tec­tive whisked them away to col­lect in­for­ma­tion, pos­si­bly gen­er­at­ing a lead.

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