Georgia's first forensic artist set to retire Friday - CBS46 News

Georgia's first forensic artist set to retire Friday

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Give her some pencils and paper, and Marla Lawson will recreate the face of evil.

"This is my most famous sketch. Everybody has seen that sketch," said Lawson, a forensic artist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

The sketch is of Eric Rudolph, the Centennial Olympic Park bomber. It's the sketch that propelled Lawson to a 16-year career with the GBI. At the time, she was working at the Coweta County jail.

"The ATF, the GBI, the FBI, they all came to the jail. I actually had to draw Rudolph and Charles Stone, who worked for the GBI task force for the bombings, looked over at me and asked if I was happy. And I said no," Lawson said.

Stone called later that night.

"He asked me if I would like to be the first ever forensic artist for the state of Georgia. I said yes," Lawson said.

Lawson started her career in 1975 working for the Atlanta Police Department. Back then there were no forensic artists.

She did a little bit of everything at the A.P.D. only producing sketches when she was asked. But during the Atlanta child murders investigation from 1979-81, that all changed.

"I did 75 composite drawings during that period of time," Lawson said.

And she said most of those were done after meeting with psychics.

"The detectives would call me up and say you have to meet with a physic tonight. She wants to be at a hotel room on a southwest part of town," Lawson said.

Lawson also reconstructs skulls and bones. She's reproduced faces that led to names and identities. Over the years Lawson has breathed life into dead cases. As the first and longest tenured forensic artist in Georgia, Lawson has seen and played a part in every high profile case. But after more than 30 years, she's calling it quits.

"I am so happy. I hate to say that because I have had a nice time and I have enjoyed it but it's time to go," said Lawson.

Friday is her last day, but the GBI won't be without a Lawson for long. Kelly Lawson, who is Marla Lawson's daughter, will be taking over for the legend.

"It does put a lot of pressure on me, but I'm ready to take on the challenge and excited about it," said Kelly Lawson.
"She's real smart. She's a lot smarter than I am and she is a lot more capable," Marla Lawson said.

Marla Lawson doesn't know what is next, but she said she's in no rush to figure it out.

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