Nov 19, 2018 | By Cameron

Criminal forensics teams have rejoiced at the wave of portable 3D scanners and accurate 3D printers hitting the market over the past few years, providing them with unparalleled techniques of scene capturing and replication. Many cases that have remained unsolved for years are getting a fresh look under the metaphorically 3D printed lens. Such is the case with the 1962 escape of Frank Morris, Allen Clayton West, and John and Clarence Anglin from Alcatraz.

On November 15, on Alcatraz Island, FBI Special Agent in Charge John F. Bennett presented the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) with 3D printed replicas of the decoy heads used by the escapees to fool the guards into believing they were in their beds asleep and not digging through the wall. While the case is still technically open, the 3D printed replicas won’t be used for investigatory purposes so much as preservation and educational functions. The original decoys were made from cardboard, cement chips, toilet paper, and human hair from the barbershop, and they’re now over 56 years old and starting to fall apart. The GGNRA will be able to display the new replicas as well as invite the many interested researchers of the popular case to come inspect them without worry of damaging the original evidence.

A team from the FBI’s Operational Project Unit went to the GGNRA Park Archives and Records Center to 3D scan the originals. “The FBI’s Lab uses this same technology for the high-resolution scanning of bomb components, firearms, and crime scenes for use in FBI investigations and operations,” said Special Agent Bennett. “We are honored to use this expertise to provide the National Park Service with accurate models of the Alcatraz decoy heads for many generations to come.” After the replicas were 3D printed, they were painted and affixed with human hair just as was done on the originals.

GGNRA Chief Park Ranger David Schifsky was especially appreciative, saying, “These models are a significant contribution to our archives and will help protect the original decoy heads for future generations. They will help us tell the stories of Alcatraz Island to visitors from all around the world.”

The FBI handed the case over to the U.S. Marshals in 1979, and Don O’Keefe of the United States Marshals Service had this to say, “The 1962 escape from the United States Penitentiary at Alcatraz remains one of the most infamous prison escapes of all time. None of the escapees have ever been located, but the United States Marshals Service continues to investigate any and all credible leads. Some may believe that we’re chasing shadows, but our efforts are meant not just to perform due diligence, but to be a warning to other fugitives that U.S. Marshals don’t give up because of the passing of time.”

So let this be a warning to you: if you commit a crime and then later escape federal prison, the FBI and/or U.S. Marshals will 3D print your head and look for you even after you’re in your 80s or more likely dead.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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