Renowned HPD sketch artist teaching others the skill

April 30, 2013 8:24:57 PM PDT
When there's been a serious crime in Houston and there are no pictures of the criminals, investigators count on eyewitnesses and one woman to help them close the case.

Now the woman whose talent has helped HPD solve hundreds of crimes is training the next generation of crime-solving artists.

There's no doubt, especially after the Boston marathon bombing, law enforcement is relying more and more on surveillance video, cameras to track our every public move. But in this age of high-tech crime fighting, one Houston woman is proving the human brain is still the most complex tool in the world.

Creating images and life stories from mere skeletal remains -- not only does Lois Gibson help the dead come to life, she helps victims recall their attackers.

Now, the Houston Police Department's sketch artist is teaching a class for the next generation of crime fighters, and students are coming from around the country.

"She's catching people, the reason I'm here, it's an unused talent," student Debbie Smith said.

"In the San Antonio area, we don't really have any forensic artists," student Anthony Moreno said.

What if one day you are an eyewitness, or worse, a victim?

Gibson tells us there is no way to train your brain to remember details in a moment of fear. But our minds are actually programmed to do just that.

"If they see a crime and they see a face for even a fifth of a second, they will be able to recognize that person again. The part of the brain that recognizes faces is huge.. Human faces," Gibson said.

The likenesses can be impossibly good. Pastel sketches, mirroring suspects caught.

"One-hundred percent of all my witnesses told me they wouldn't be able to do a sketch with me and wouldn't be able to remember the face. I have 1,266 sketches that helped catch the perpetrator," Gibson said.

While investigators rely increasingly on surveillance video and cell phone snapshots, one woman's artistic gift is reinforcing the power of the mind.

Though Gibson says there is no way to train your brain to remember details, one trick if you ever are a witness or victim, liken the person to someone you know, or even an actor.
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