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The Art of Forensics: Solving Florida's Cold Cases

USF and Forensic Artists concluded a week long forensic workshop with the unveiling of busts from nine unsolved homicide cases.

View a slide show of the artists working on the 3D plastic replicated skulls during day 1 of the workshop.

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 16, 2015) - Imagine trying to identify a homicide victim based on a brand of jeans, how tall someone stood or the coins found in their pockets. The task is near impossible, and sometimes it prevents identification altogether, leaving the case cold for decades.

The hope of solving more of these cold cases is why artists from across the country came to work with the FL Institute for Forensic Anthropology & Applied Science (IFAAS) at the University of South Florida this past week. They created facial reconstructions of nine cold case victims in conjunction with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Florida Sheriff’s Association. These cases from throughout Florida consist of two juveniles and seven adults. The oldest case dates back to 1967.

The artists were each assigned a cold case victim and a 3D printed skull, which were created by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, USF anthropologist and Director of IFAAS, and her forensics team by scanning the original skulls, and printing 3D replicas at the USF Visualization Center.

The replicated plastic skulls provided the artists information they needed to sculpt the likeness of the victim. The forensic artists are trained to know the anatomy of the human face, and the bone structure will dictate the final product including the eyebrows, lip shape and eyes.

The idea of pairing 3D printed skulls with a team of artists first was conceived by forensic artist Joe Mullins, who has worked for NCMEC for the past 15 years. Mullins has created countless age progression photos of missing children, as well as hundreds of skull reconstructions on his own. However, it took him eight years to get outside artists involved because medical examiners prohibited the artists from using real skulls from crime scenes. Mullins decided to incorporate 3D printing into the mix, and the first event using this technology took place in New York in Jan. 2015. Video from this event can be found here.

Mullins’s connection with Kimmerle is what sparked this second event at USF, titled “The Art of Forensics: Solving Florida’s Cold Cases”.

This past week, forensic artists worked in Kimmerle’s lab at USF.  The final products were revealed, along with updated information about the victim’s age, ancestry and geographic origins at a press conference held on Friday at the Interdisciplinary Sciences Building.

In addition to creating the facial reconstructions, Dr. Kimmerle and her team performed skeletal analysis and chemical isotope testing in an effort to help identify the victims. Several forensic scientists at the workshop also shared their expertise and conducted lab work on each of the cases. There was also a demonstration of the latest GPS mapping technology of unsolved cold case locations throughout Florida.

Keynote speakers for the event included Thirteenth Judicial Circuit State Attorney Mark A. Ober, and Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco. Additional guest speakers included Dr. Erin Kimmerle and USF Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences Dr. Eric Eisenberg. Download a copy of the event program here.

The goal of IFAAS, NCMEC and the sheriff’s offices is to identify the victims, solve the crimes and help family and friends of the victims find closure. Anyone seeing news coverage of the event who can identify the busts or provide information about these or other cold cases, please contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-873-TIPS or submit your tip here: Tips given directly to Crime Stoppers that lead to an arrest are eligible for a cash reward.

While the Art of Forensics event is only open to invited media, the busts will be moved after the Oct. 16 event for public display at:

The Richard A. and Patricia P. Waterman Gallery

Department of Anthropology

College of Arts and Sciences

University of South Florida

4202 E. Fowler Ave., SOC111

Tampa, FL 33620

Case Synopsis:

Case 1 USF10-006 Artist Profile

Case 1: Pasco County Sheriff's Office/Dade City Police Department


Dade City Case No.: 1981-057

ME Case No.: 303-81 link:

Year of Death: 1981
Approximate Age: 40-50 years


Case Synopsis:

Case 2 USF11-002 Artist Profile

Case 2: Pasco County Sheriff's Office


PSO Case No.: 90-0905

ME Case No.: 90-23505

NCIC No.: U449939209 link:

Year of Death: 1990
Approximate Age: 40-60 years

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1930-1950s


Case Synopsis:

Case 3 USF15-010 Artist Profile

Case 3: Hernando County Sheriff's Office


HCSO Case No.: 72-06053

ME Case No.: 2015-00893 link:

Year of Death: 1972
Approximate Age: 25-40 years

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1930-1950s


Case Synopsis:

Case 4 USF09-002 Artist Profile

Case 4: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office


HCSO Case No.: 2009-146233

ME Case No.: ME09-01777

NCIC No.: U630022398 link:

Year of Death: 2009
Approximate Age: 12-16 years

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1990s


Case Synopsis:

Case 5 USF15-007 Artist Profile

Case 5: Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office


HCSO Case No.: 88-019276

ME Case No.: MEA-220-88

NCIC No.: U293390463 link:

Year of Death: 1988
Approximate Age: 30-40 years

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1950-1960s


Case Synopsis:

Case 6 USF15-011 Artist Profile

Case 6: Polk County Sheriff's Office


PCSO Case No.: 2015-12901

ME Case No.: 2015-10-FA-0162 link:

Year of Death: 2014-2015

Approximate Age: 30-45 years

Approximate Years of Birth: 1970-1985


Case Synopsis:

Case 7 USF15-0013 Artist Profile

Case 7: Alachua County Sheriff's Office


ACSO Case No.: 79-002218

ME Case No.: 78-79

Year of Death: 1978
Approximate Age: 30-45 years

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1930-40s


Case Synopsis:

Case 8 USF15-017 Artist Profile

Case 8: Alachua County Sheriff's Office/Florida Highway Patrol


ACSO Case No.: / FHP 787-11-35 link:

Year of Death: 1987
Approximate Age: 15-19 years

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1968-1972


Case Synopsis:

Case 9 USF15-016 Artist Profile

Case 9: Marion County Sheriff's Office


MCSO Case No.: 67-50478

ME Case No.: 67-2066 link:

Year of Death: 1967
Approximate Age: 25-40

Approximate Years of Birth: ca. 1935-1940s


After completion of the bust, the Marion County Sheriff's Office compiled a video to further help identify their "Jane Doe." View the video here.

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