UT graduate helps detectives solve more than 1,200 crimes with forensic sketches

A University of Texas graduate is the world’s most successful forensic sketch artist. 

Lois Gibson has created portraits that have helped detectives identify hundreds of violent criminals across the country.

"I get to see the sketch and they show the arrest of the guy, and I got one and it's addicting, and I want more, I want to get another one, I don't want to stop," Gibson said.

Gibson didn’t stop for forty years.

"I've talked to everybody or anybody that's been through the worst thing that you hear on the news that night and you sit there and watch the news and go, somebody needs to do something, then I get a call and I go down and I get to do something," Gibson said.

Gibson meets people whose lives have been stricken by burglars, murderers, and abusers. 

"You got to make the witness laugh, that's the holy grail of a great interview," Gibson said.


She uses what they say and how they describe the suspect, as well as a book, to construct a portrait. "If your witness is telling the truth, it's 100% going to look like him," Gibson said.

Gibson said if they say they didn’t see the face, she asks them, "What kind of expression did he have?"

She said they’ll answer it and when they do, "you know they saw a face, and you do the sketch."

She’ll also ask them, "What kind of hair did they have? Everybody remembers hair. Humans are obsessed with hair. That's why high school is so hard, so they get the hair and then once they get the hair, you give them the catalog and say, you know, just guess."

Her sketches have helped detectives solve more than 1,200 violent crimes and lock up some 750 of the most vicious killers on the run.

She’s also recreated images of unidentified murder victims like Baby Grace, who had been locked in a plastic box floating in Galveston Bay in 2007. She examined the decomposed remains, produced a drawing of the toddler, and just days after it was broadcast, the girl’s grandmother in Ohio recognized the child as Riley Ann Sawyers.

Gibson’s goal now is to help others become forensic artists.