Cold Case Closer to Being Solved

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Joanna Hughes is a forensic artist. She's the only one in the country: A sculptress with a love for the macabre.

Out of 15 mysteries, she's helped police around the country identify at least 5 people. Her latest, a 19 year old cold case.

Jeff Day of the Knoxville Police Department's Cold Case team remembers the 1992 date well.

"September the 26th, around 10 in the morning, they located a body in the Tennessee river."

It was between Calhouns Restaurant and the now South Knoxville bridge.

Police reports said the man was either Hispanic or Native American, long hair with a goatee, stubble on his cheeks, wearing only his underwear.

Day said, "No trauma found on the body, they did find a hematoma or a bruise on his head."

It was determined this John Doe died accidentally, but so badly decomposed, he couldn't be identified.

With no more information to go on, Joanna begins to mold a face around numbered white dots.

"The markers are based on averages from certain points on the skull, for instance we say white male, taken from a bunch of different white males in the same spot. When you layer all the clay on, you have to know what muscles are underneath it , so if you want to make a smile, you have to know what muscles are used in a smile."

With every piece of clay, a picture is taken.

Joanna's work reveals a Hispanic male with fairly long hair, goatee, stubble on his cheeks, last seen more than 19 years ago.

"Hopefully someone can see this. Internet, TV, and maybe trigger something, someone will recognize him."

So, do you know him?

If you do, call the Knoxville Police Department.


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  • by Jeannette Location: Indianapolis on Dec 1, 2011 at 04:28 PM
    Joanna, I will be graduating this spring with a BA in Dental Hygiene but my passion has always been forensic art. What's your advice to someone interested in your field just starting out?
  • by Nancy Location: Oak Ridge on Nov 29, 2011 at 06:50 AM
    That's one talented woman! Fascinating to watch the reonstruction. Incidentally, she also plays cello!
  • by Joanna on Nov 28, 2011 at 09:30 AM
    That's true. I'm not the only one. There are lots of other artists out there. I'm glad you made note of it. Thanks!
  • by Lisa Location: Virginia on Nov 24, 2011 at 12:42 PM
    Joanna is a terrific forensic artist, however she's not the only one in the country. She is the only person I know that has her BA specifically in forensic art, which is what may have confused the reporter. There are hundreds of forensic artists in the United States, some with degrees in art, some not, but that's not a requirement for the job. Wonderful sculpture, Joanna, as always! I hope your work brings him home...

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