Frustrated police unveil a clay facial reconstruction hoping to identify woman found in west Fort Worth.

Posted Friday, Jun. 14, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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More information Do you recognize this woman? Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Kyle Sullivan at 817-392-4340.

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A year ago, a petite Hispanic woman with long, wavy dark hair was among the living.

In March, her body was pulled from a shallow grave on the west side of Fort Worth.

Investigators usually can learn a victim’s identity right away, Fort Worth homicide Detective Kyle Sullivan said.

Not this case.

Several tips were generated when the media reported the discovery of her remains on March 20, but they led nowhere. National missing persons databases also ran cold.

Frustrated investigators turned to forensic artist Suzanne Baldon of Waco to create mask of clay applied directly to the woman’s skull. The mask was presented at a news conference Friday in the hope that someone will recognize her and call police.

“That’s the most important thing — to get this person back to her loved ones, and to know for certain what happened to her,” Sullivan said.

Police say the body could have remained buried much longer if a work crew hadn’t found her skull while digging in a wooded area northwest of the intersection of Calmont Avenue and Alta Mere Drive.

The rest of the skeleton was recovered by a team lead by Dr. Dana Austin, forensic anthropologist for the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

Judging by the stage of decomposition, investigators believe she died between October 2012 and early 2013, Austin said.

“The cause of death and the manner of death are still undetermined,” Austin said. “We’ll be releasing that at a later time.”

The woman is believed to have been a small-framed Hispanic woman, 4-foot-9 to 5-foot-4 and between the ages of 21 and 35. She had layered long, wavy brown hair up to 13 inches long, police say.

She had a fixed dental bridge composed of porcelain and nonprecious metal, police say.

“We recovered a lot of head hair with the remains,” Austin said. “We noticed that it was layered and wavy, very voluminous. She did have that beautiful wavy, layered hair.”

She wore a red, white and black-patterned blouse, which investigators tracked to Los Angeles-based Truelight, which manufactured the garment in 2006.

She wore blue and pink striped pants with an elastic waist and a black bra with lace.

Homicide Sgt. Cheryl Johnson was asked if police think the woman might be an immigrant. She responded that the dental work is typical of techniques used in the United States.

Therefore, Johnson said, “We know she spent time here.”

Austin said the reconstruction is a “likeness” and cannot be a portrait. But investigators are confident it’s a fair representation because of the artist’s techniques.

“We have found facial reconstruction and media support to be a great method to get people identified,” Austin said. “This has worked for us on many occasions.”

Baldon said she starts with the skull on a stand and calculates the face with tissue depth markers.

“Then I connect the dots with clay,” she said. “It has nothing to do with fine art.

“Good forensic art has a job to do: It’s supposed to get somebody identified, and that’s it.”

To that end, the skull forms the base; the viewer sees the person’s actual teeth.

“You would recognize your own family member from their teeth, if you think about it,” Austin said. “Your sister’s smile — you would recognize that. That’s what we want people to focus on when they look at this.”

This report contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.

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