3-D Facial Reconstruction Helps Family Identify Lost Loved One, - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

3-D Facial Reconstruction Helps Family Identify Lost Loved One, Forensic Artist Grateful

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DOVER, Del. - Forensics technology at its finest: a 3-D facial reconstruction helped identify the body of 33-year-old Ian Withrow of Dover, and bring a nearly two-year mystery to a close. 

After a composite sketch of the man came up short, one of the country's most renowned forensic artists completed the reconstruction, leading to the positive ID of the body. On June 30, police made photos of the model public.

"We had over 100,000 hits on our Facebook page alone. We were able to receive dozens of tips from the public," Corporal Mark Hoffman of the Dover Police Department said.

On July 12, family members positively identified his body. Deputy Leslie Willingham of the Denton County Sheriff's Office in Texas is the certified forensic artist who built the model. She is widely recognized as one of the most experienced forensic artists in the field. She says it took over a year and a half to come up with the final product, because of the extensive amount of forensic work involved.

"I had to do drawing studies of what his ears would be shaped like, the pattern of his hairline, the length of his hair, the angle of his neck -- there was a whole lot of information that was available because of the condition that he was found in," she said.

Willingham attributes the positive ID to a unique identifying factor.

"This is the first time that there has ever been a facial reconstruction that includes the tattoos on the back. They were recovered by someone who works at the Delaware Medical Examiner's office, where they were able to work with the flesh that they had to pull off enough detail on the tattoos. And it turns out that was one of the things that caught the attention of one of the members of the family," she said.

On November 2, 2012, Withrow's body was found in a wooded area near the Sam's club in Dover. His body was so decomposed, police could not identify him. The medical examiner's office believes Withrow had been dead for three months before someone walking through the woods found him. They ruled his manner of death a suicide.

Withrow served in the U.Ss Navy and family members say he enjoyed spending time with friends and being outdoors.

For the artist who helped reunite them with their lost loved one:

"I was very grateful to know that he was going to be laid to rest with his family present. That's a very, very important thing -- closure for the family," Willingham said.

Withrow's body has since been turned over to the family, and was sent to the funeral home where a memorial service will be held on Saturday.

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