The Forensic Art of the Sketch

No surprise here that I love a good mystery, so it pleases me to write about an intriguing local mystery that has been circulating. I live near Bartow County, Georgia (northwest of Atlanta) and there has been an interesting if not creepy unsolved case to hit the news: a body of a woman found at a local landfill on Monday August 13. At this time, attempts are being made and a tip line has been set up to identify the woman found. So far, at the time of this post, nothing has been uncovered about the victim. Rumors, of course, have been going around: the body dismembered and such. None of that has been confirmed.

Georgia Bureau of Investigation provided a fairly good and tasteful (but not necessarily accurate by their own admission) sketch of the victim:

In certain instances where identification is tricky, some police and investigative departments have failed (oftentimes miserably) to get a decent likeness of a victim or perpetrator, as seen in the YouTube channel Dark5:

Sketches are obviously more art that science and although these forensic works of art have been helpful in the past, they are not one hundred percent useful. But what the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department is also doing is releasing pictures of victim tattoos, one of which is the following:

Again, this method of identification, by releasing to the public identifying marks like a tattoo, is another great idea yet is not one hundred percent helpful. Yes, tattoos are unique but they’re not that unique, or at least not unique enough to say that this ink is wholly connected to a specific name that someone can remember. Tattoos are either boldly displayed or hidden purposefully by clothing, depending on the individual. There are some cold cases languishing in file boxes waiting for a victim to be identified with only approximate sketches and tattoos as the means to reach out to the public for help. My opinion of tattoo identification is mixed. But at the very least, it is a starting point for investigators.

As a resident of this general area, I know that a major Interstate highway (I-75) runs right through the middle of Bartow County. Given the number of truckers and transient (both good and bad) people that drive through the area, it is possible that this victim could have come from anywhere. However, it is equally likely that this woman was a local, as there is homelessness in this semi-rural county in Northwest Georgia and the specific landfill where she was found is in a more rural part of Bartow County near Interstate 75.

Whatever the outcome of this investigation–we’re all assuming homicide at this point–I have a feeling that police will have their work cut out for them. A previous post I made about the Jacques and Jane Doe murders in rural South Carolina (both still unidentified after forty-something years) comes to mind. Hopefully, identification will not take very long and a good tip will bring some kind of closure to whoever this person is.

If you have information, please contact the Bartow County, Georgia Sheriff’s Department at (770) 387-5100.

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