A police sketch that was publicly mocked for its resemblance to a Muppet actually helped nab a suspect earlier this week in Texas.
The drawing of the man was based on the description given to a forensic artist by two unidentified victims: a 77-year-old woman and her 57-year-old daughter, who were robbed at knifepoint in broad daylight.
The drawing quickly became the laughingstock of the Internet for its resemblance to a cartoon (chubby cheeks, a too-thin lip line, dopey eyes).
Anyone seen this muppet? The worst police sketch of all time http://t.co/O1uIwuwt48
— Taryn Wilson (@Teedubbleyou) January 22, 2014
Police sketch of robbery suspect shows Lamar County, TX cops are seeking a muppet. http://t.co/gYvxs0i8l5
— Fred Cunningham (@fredontv) January 21, 2014
— Edmond Ortiz (@satscribe) January 30, 2014
But on Jan. 28, when a local police officer noticed the similarity between the suspect in the sketch and a suspect being questioned in a different crime, Texas police arrested 32-year-old Glenn Edwin Rundles in connection to the daylight robbery. According to the Houston Chronicle, Rundles is being held on charges of aggravated robbery, indecent exposure, criminal mischief, burglary of a habitation, and evading arrest. His bond is set at $135,000.
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“The drawing was funny to some people, but forensic artists have a tough job,” Deputy Jeff Springer of the Lamar County Sheriff's Department, which worked with the Paris, Texas, Police Department on the case, tells Yahoo Shine. “They don’t sit down with a portrait of the criminal — they draw based on the victim’s memory, which is often affected by trauma. Making fun of the sketch will only prevent others from reporting crimes.” Springer could not provide the name of the female artist.
FBI-trained forensic sketch artist Gil Zamora, known for his work in the Dove Real Beauty ads, concurs. However, he notes that the artist’s methodology can make the difference between a sketch that helps solve a crime and one that falls flat. “Although I don’t know how this artist was trained or the method she used, many artists rely on ‘reference images’ to draw, which can negatively impact the witness’s memory and even lead to a false arrest,” Zamora tells Yahoo Shine. “A classically trained artist will often initially show the victim images from a police mug shot book to jog their memory, then ask them questions about the crime, and cobble together a composite. The problem is that, from the beginning, the victim’s memory is biased from looking at so many mug shots.”
A better technique, and one that Zamora employs, is for the artist to sit with the victims as they close their eyes and recount the crime as the artist draws. “If a victim says, ‘He had a round face,’ I can’t just draw a perfect circle, because this is a human being with a skull,” he says. “I ask open-ended questions. 'What part is round — the cheeks? The shape of the head? The chin?'” In other cases a victim might describe the perpetrator’s hair as “normal”; however, asking whether it’s curly or straight locks the victim into two choices, rather than allowing them time to formulate their own answers."
Zamora may show the victims photos when they’re done describing the crime, but only to make tweaks to his final image. “The drawing should be a collaboration and resemble a real person as much as possible,” he says.
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