From Cold Cases to Positive IDs: A Forensic Art Class Helps Uncover Victims

(soft, mysterious music) – I believe that the
word cold cases is wrong, because it could be
perhaps something that’s in a drawer somewhere in an office, but their families hasn’t forgotten them. They are still looking for them, and I just wanna do my best to help. – [Narrator] When authorities have failed to identify the remains of a body, there is very little hope of closure for these John and Jane Does. But every year, an enterprising
studio of student artists use their knowledge of the human form to try and breathe life
into these cold cases. – Here, we’re doing a forensic
reconstruction of a real case, trying to get it as close
as he used to look like when he was alive, so we can identify him. (plucked string music) We are given a 3-D print,
not the real skull. We use it as a framework,
so we can reconstruct the anatomy of the individual. First, we start adding the muscles on the framework given by the bone, and then we try to complete those things that are not so clear,
like the ear or the mouth. Right now, I’m working on
a Caucasian white man, between 40 to 60 years old. There are indications
that he lost his teeth when he was alive, and his
bones are telling me all that. – [Narrator] These lifelike
models are provided to authorities, often
reinvigorating investigations and bringing much-needed
closure to loved ones. – After my first experience last year, I was lucky enough that
the person was identified, and I got this beautiful
letter from the family members, saying “Thank you.” When we see this process,
it feels almost like you’re resuscitating someone. But I know that beyond that, what you’re resuscitating is the life of those families that are
looking for this person.

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