COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – New technology is bringing years-old cold cases to life in an effort to get detectives and families closer to answers.
In August, NBC4 reported on how technology developed by animators at Ohio State University is helping the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation reconstruct faces when unidentified human remains are found.
Using her iPhone, BCI Criminal Intelligence Analyst and Forensic Artist Sam Molnar takes photos of unidentified skeletal remains, then sends them to the graphics team at OSU, which uses a program to create 3D printed skulls. Molnar can then reconstruct the face of the deceased using clay on top of the 3D print without disturbing the original evidence.
The team has used this method to identify people who for years were only known as John or Jane Doe. Now, they are taking that technology to the next level.
A new program revealed Thursday by Attorney General Dave Yost, BCI and the Stark County Sheriff’s Department allows investigators to manipulate 3D scans of the reconstruction sculptures to create lifelike images.
Investigators can now share images of the same person with different features such as hairstyles, skin tones, age pressions or eye colors.
“Hopefully these multiple images or these multiple versions will generate somebody’s memory, and maybe they’ll call,” Molnar said.
Using images created by the new program, BCI updated bulletins for two John Does from Stark County who have remained unidentified for years. The images are also allowing Stark County detectives to resume work on the dormant cases.
The first John Doe, whose remains were found in southeast Canton in December 2001, is described as a Black male between 20 and 44 years old. Investigators believe he’d been shot and that his remains had been exposed to the elements for four to six years.
Remains of the second John Doe, a white male likely between the ages of 30 and 50, were found near an oil well site in southeast Canton in March 2020. Investigators believe he had been dead for roughly two years before his remains were discovered.
“We owe it to the victims of our community. We owe it to the victims of crime to continue to pursue the closure of these cases,” Sheriff George Maier said. “We have not given up.”
If you recognize any of the images from the bulletins, contact BCI or the Stark County Sheriff’s Office.