Dec 20, 2016 | By Benedict

A forensic artist with the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has made a partially 3D printed facial reconstruction of a woman whose remains were found in Greene County earlier this year. It is hoped that the reconstruction will help somebody to recognize and identify the woman.

Artist Samantha Molnar works on the 3D printed facial reconstruction

3D printing is being used more and more within the field of criminal investigation. Earlier this year, a British prosecutor presented a number of 3D printed skulls as evidence in the Ellie Butler murder trial in order to clearly show the extent of the damage inflicted upon the six-year-old girl before her death. The defense cautioned that the 3D printed evidence could be inaccurate, but defendant Ben Butler, Ellie’s father, was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. 3D printers are now being fired up for somewhat similar purposes across the Atlantic, where Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and the Greene County Sheriff’s office are hoping to identify the body of a woman whose skeletal remains were found in Greene County earlier this year.

The remains of the unidentified Ohio woman were found in a wooded area of Spring Valley Township on May 1. Authorities say she was likely there for three months to one year before her remains were found, which has made identification of the body extremely difficult. In order to aid the investigation, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation asked the Ohio State University to reconstruct the woman’s skull using a 3D printer, with an artist later adding facial details with clay over the course of 50-60 hours.

Investigators said that the unidentified woman is probably Caucasian, between 25 and 50 years old, and between 5 foot 5 and 5 foot 10. At the time of her death, she was wearing a medium-sized white tank top with stripes and black sweatpants with a pink stripe up the leg. This information has so far proved insufficient to identify the woman, while DNA testing, dental records, and tattoo records all came up blank. Since every other option had been exhausted, authorities then turned to facial reconstruction, generally considered the final step in the investigate process.

In order to assist the investigation at its final juncture, technicians at the Ohio State University used a 3D printer to create a replica of the woman’s skull. Once the 3D printing process was complete, artist Samantha Molnar then used clay to construct the woman’s features over the printed skull, but the model could only be given an “average” hairstyle, since investigators have no idea what the woman’s hair looked like. According to the university team who worked on the reconstruction, creating the lifelike skull by copying a real human one was a first for them.

“This is definitely the first time we’ve printed a real human skull before,” said Jay Young, a technician at the Ohio State University that helped create the skull from a CT scan. “It is accurate down to about .1 of a millimeter, so when we’re talking about details of a skull, that’s pretty accurate.”

According to Molnar, the artist responsible for making a realistic reconstruction of the unidentified woman’s face, taking part in the 3D printed reconstruction process can bring up mixed emotions: “It’s kind of sad to hold someone’s skull in your hand and not just a 3D print, but it’s their skull,” she said. “And to know that someone’s family won’t be there at Christmas or Thanksgiving, and you want to give that family closure."

Molnar says that the reconstructed face only begins to “be somebody” once the eyes, ears, and nose start to take formation. However, since the skull was missing its mandible (lower jaw), there is obviously a large degree of guesswork required during the reconstruction process. Regardless of this, facial reconstruction can be an effective means of identifying a person, and 3D printing is only helping to make the process more accurate. “We know there’s infinite amounts of skulls out there that need faces,” Molnar added.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Greene County Sheriff’s Office at 937-376-5111 or BCI’s Missing Persons Unit at 855-BCI-OHIO.

“This was someone’s daughter, someone’s family, someone’s friend, and she deserves to be identified,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine in a news release on Thursday. “Now that we have her face, we hope we can soon determine her name. It is our sincere hope that this model looks familiar to someone.”



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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