Forensic Postmortem Reconstruction
Postmortem drawings are typically used in connection with drownings, homicides, suicides, drug overdoses, hit and run fatalities, and blunt trauma fatalities. A postmortem drawing is used when the unidentified deceased person is in good enough condition for a forensic artist to produce an accurate drawing. The drawings are shown to the public in lieu of morgue or crime scene photographs to provide the deceased with some dignity and to protect the public from disturbing images.
In postmortem reconstructions I like using all available photographs. I first examine each facial feature, their proportions, and the measurements of the head. The hope as a forensic artist is that something in the reconstruction will trigger recognition in family members or friends and will result in a successful identification.
I drew this Jane Doe 3 years ago. I used a lead pencil on acid free paper and sprayed the final drawing with a workable fixative. Working in a well-lit room or by a window with natural lighting is best. I used a straight on, oblique view similar to her position in the original crime scene photographs I worked from.
For the postmortem reconstruction, I considered the young woman’s nationality and measured her facial features. Studying her Hispanic and Indian facial features really helped me complete this postmortem reconstruction.
Placement of the eyes is crucial in any forensic facial reconstruction. I try to pay attention to the eyeball and visually place it in the center of the orbit. I use a Combo circle template that features 45 circles from 1⁄16" to 21⁄4" for the eyeball and iris. Drawing in a perfect circle for the eye helps bring any face back to life. I try to keep the spirit of the missing person alive in all of my age progressions through the eyes. I believe once the eyes are correct in any facial reconstruction, then the rest of face falls nicely into place. Drawing the eyes open make the images more lifelike.
I tried to keep the young woman’s smooth, soft skin visible in the drawing. I pay attention to the hair, mouth, nose, eyebrows, face shape, and neck. I drew her hair in a neater style than it was in when she was found deceased on the ground.When there is a solid color in the morgue photograph, I always utilize that. Since she was wearing a red top, I added bright red to the image.