Facial reconstruction 04/18/2019

A forensic artist reconstructed this face of a Jane Doe who may have been killed by Samuel Little.

ATLANTA (CBS46) -- An Atlanta-based forensic artist is trying to help investigators figure out the identity of a Jane Doe who might have been killed by a serial killer.

Facial reconstruction is used to recreate what a victim likely looked like alive. She uses remains to recreate what a victim looked like when they were murdered.

"The skeleton doesn't typically have their id in their pocket," said Kelly Lawson, a Forensic Artist at GBI.

Lawson is behind one Jane Doe's reconstruction who Samuel Little claims is one of his victims. Little told investigators he met her at a Chattanooga nightclub in the early 80's. He added that he strangled her and dumped her body off a highway in Dade County. It is a a confession to a cold case with little evidence but a skull.

"There's a lot of things that the bones can't tell you and you have to put the work in," said Lawson.

Lawson brought CBS46 into her lab for a behind the scenes look of how she does it. It starts with the bones, then Lawson says she uses a bit of science and sculpting.

"They give me a skull, tell me male or female, make a general age range, and their race," said Lawson.

That information helps her decide how thick to make tissue depth markers that she puts on the face.

"You get a pretty decent map of where the tissue will go to on the human face," said Lawson.

From there, she charts how thick the skin would have been and uses clay to build up the muscle structure. The likenesses are usually close enough to draw sketches from.

Each one takes time.

"I'd say about 100 man hours towards the completion of a skull," said Lawson.

The hope is to bring closure when nothing else can.

"I've given investigators something they can work with and that feeling alone, makes the whole job worth it," said Lawson.

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