Local law enforcement officials call on USF anthropologists for assistance with a forensic sketch.
By Katy Hennig
TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2014) –
Sumter County Sheriff’s detectives credit a facial reconstruction sketch drawn
by University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle as the key piece of evidence in
solving a murder case from last year.
“It’s truly a remarkable
resemblance once you’re able to kind of put the pieces together,” said Sumter
County Sheriff Detective Hofecker.
In a press conference
Wednesday, Sumter Sheriff detectives detailed the investigation and shared the
sketch with members of the media. The facial reconstruction sketch was
effective in helping detectives determine the identity of the victim.
After the remains were
discovered in a wooded area off of Interstate 75 in April 2013, the sheriffs’
office reached out to Kimmerle and the anthropology lab at USF for assistance
with the skeletal reconstruction.
USF forensic sketch of Martha "Jane" Wever.
Kimmerle created the facial
composite of the victim using Photoshop combining a 3D scan of the skull and
evidence recovered from the scene, including eyeglasses and clothing. Graduate
students from USF assisted Kimmerle with a detailed forensic anthropological
examination of the victim.
“The significance of that was
once we were able to release that information to the media and again thanks to
the media for keeping this case in the forefront, we were able to have that
information dispersed and we were hoping that it would spur somebodies thoughts
or recollection of somebody they had seen,” said Detective Hofecker. “Again it was the fingerprint that was
developed from the forensics of Dr. Kimmerle that we were able to make the
positive identification. So it’s definitely University of South Florida’s
support in that has been significant to the case so far.”
In November of 2013,
investigators working on a missing persons case from Kentucky contacted Sumter
detectives, noting that the sketch drawn by Kimmerle was a close resemblance to
Martha "Jane" Wever and in fact, turned out to be the victim.
Wever was the youngest of 14
children. Her brother Dale Sturtz, a retired sheriff and his wife traveled from
Michigan to show their gratitude to Kimmerle and law enforcement officials for
solving the case.
“The job that this department
did, I can’t say enough good things about it,” said Sturtz, speaking on behalf
of the entire family. “This case would
have never got solved without that.”
Sumter detectives arrested
Ralph Penrod for Wever’s murder and are holding him without bail.
Kimmerle and the USF forensic
anthropology lab conduct these types of reconstruction methods on all cases
that come through the lab and have expressed interest in applying the
techniques to help solve additional cases throughout central Florida.
“That is exactly what we
always say and our driving force is about providing peace and
resolution to the families and I think what the families talked about in terms
of the dedication of the law enforcement agencies speaks to that too,” said Kimmerle.
For more information on cold
cases currently being investigated by the USF forensic anthropology lab visit: