A Forensic Artist's Final Contribution

I'll have an update on the Kathleen McBroom missing person case tomorrow, but saw the story listed below while half-watching the end of the Super Bowl and wanted to comment.


(MEBANE, NORTH CAROLINA) Authorities hope a 3-D facial reconstruction of a boy who was found dead on the side of a Mebane road more than 11 years ago will bring them closer to finding the child’s identity.

The sculpture, perhaps one of the last works by renowned forensic artist Frank Bender, will be unveiled during a ceremony Saturday night at N.C. State University, said Leslie Denton...

Denton said the group, which provides forensic technology services to law enforcement agencies statewide in missing and unidentified cases at no cost, contacted Bender last year after learning about this cold case.

The artist, who has assisted the FBI and the “America’s Most Wanted” television program on several cases across the country and around the world, agreed to make the sculpture at no cost, Denton said, adding that the group was responsible for providing Bender with the necessary materials.

Denton said the unveiling will have a dual purpose: to show the new 3D image in hopes that someone will recognize the boy and as a tribute to Frank, who was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in September...

The boy’s body was partially clothed when it was found.

A pair of underwear, khaki shorts, black and white sneakers and white socks were found with the bones. Patches of dark brown hair could be seen near the skull.

In his pocket, $50 was neatly folded. His legs were together and the arms were slightly extended above the head...

Though the body was not found until September 1998, it was estimated that he could have been dead as early as April of that year...

After several forensic analyses, authorities determined the boy’s age to be between 8 and 11 years.

His weight was estimated to be 50 to 80 pounds and his height 4 feet 7 inches to 4 feet 11 inches. Based on the bone structure, he could be white or Hispanic...
As alluded to in the article, Frank Bender's service to police, the families of crime victims, and the community is matched by few.

Using clay and sometimes pastels, the self-taught artist recreates images of the dead as well as predicting the faces of fugitives who have not been seen in years.

For more than 30 years, Bender's sculptures and other works of art have been credited with helping to solve 9 homicides and have resulted in numerous fugitives apprehended.

He is also a founding member of the Vidocq Society in Philadelphia--a world renowned volunteer group that assists police in solving crimes.

One of his most famous cases was fugitive John Emil List--a man who had murdered his family in Connecticut 1971 and lived under an assumed name for 18 years.

Bender created a eerily similar facial model of what he thought List looked like that was included on a segment of America's Most Wanted in 1989. After a viewer of the program recognized List from the sculpture, the fugitive was arrested in Virginia.

Due to his progressing cancer, Bender confirmed in another article that the missing boy's image would be his last.

It is heartbreaking to think that despite our "advanced society," an 11 year old boy can vanish and seemingly no one would look for him.

You can see Bender's final work listed here.

In addition, a book entitled The Girl with the Crooked Nose was released in 2008 that details Bender's work on a series of homicides in Mexico.

Frank Bender's creative forensic artistry will be greatly missed.


ProudMilitaryMom said...

I saw your comment on my blog and popped over to see. Nice work! Amazing what forensic science can do now!

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
It's so obvious his dedication has been great. i admire a man who can bring so many disciplines together and make art serve the greater good.

I think it would make a great museum retrospective, to see his work.

Thank you!
Ann T.

Cindy (C.L.) Beck said...

What an amazing man, and how generous of him to do the work for free. He deserves a medal.

(Thanks for stopping by my blog and commenting! :)

My Husband's Watching TV... said...

That's awesome that he does all that work for free. Hopefully, someone will pick up where he left off. Oh and thanks for stopping by and leaving the sweaty gym sock funk!

Sandy said...

Sounds like a great loss. Hopefully he had people working with him who can carry on. It's amazing how much a part of life forensics has become.

Stephanie Faris said...

That's incredible...and groundbreaking, hopefully, for other cases like this.

LadyFi said...

My heart goes out to all the parents of missing children.

Dan said...

The sad part is that any child could have no family missing and searching for him. Always makes one worry that the guardians may have been involved in the death.

Rowe said...

Frank's work is fascinating to see and read about.