Inside Michigan State Police Biometrics and Identification Division: Forensic Art & Missing and Unidentified Persons

Posted at 8:51 PM, Oct 02, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-02 23:38:58-04

LANSING, Mich.- From fingerprint analysis to facial recognition, the Michigan State Police Biometrics and Identification Division has the equipment and personnel needed to solve our state's most difficult crimes.

Each piece of evidence, some not even visible to the human eye, is studied and re-studied to get the results needed to solve the unsolved.

Detective Trooper Sarah Krebs is a forensic artist working to solve missing persons and unidentified remains cases.

She says composite sketches are about 80 percent of her forensic art work.

“It's really what we do the most as a forensic artist, and they happen about every week within the state, one of us is doing a sketch somewhere,” she said.

They’re the men and women responsible for some of the most notorious composite sketches in the state, including the sketch of the man police believe abducted Jessica Heeringa.

Michigan State Police say Krebs is one of the best there is. She allowed FOX 17 an inside look at the Forensic Art Unit and Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Unit.

“I do forensic artwork including composite drawings, age progressions, skull reconstruction, post-mortem identification and a lot of my cases start with unidentified remains and I work backwards to determine what person they belong to,” she said.

Krebs' anthropology background helps with facial reconstruction. When she’s given only bones she either draws or sculpts what that person once looked like in hopes of being able to identify them.

“We can actually do a sketch from the skull which is two-dimensional, or we can do the three-dimensional which includes putting the clay right on top of the skull,” she said.

The most useful tool in identification is DNA, which is why it`s so important for family members of missing persons to have their DNA on file.

In some cases, MSP have begun exhuming buried unidentified people to get a sample of their DNA.

“We`ve been doing that, we’ve been exhuming remains to identify them, the only problem is the cost, it`s very expensive to exhume remains and there`s really no funding source to do that,” Krebs said.

State police are now being proactive, taking DNA from all unidentified persons before they`re buried.

Several members of Jessica Heeringa's family do have their DNA on file.

Friday we take a deeper look into DNA and the system used at MSP’s labs and nationwide to catch felons, violent and sexual offenders and the highly trained team working to solve the unsolved.