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Investigative artwork cracks complex cases

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The skilled forensic artists of the Texas Rangers assist law enforcement agencies in solving complex investigations across the state. While these artists’ portraits of criminals may not find their way into a museum, these sketches can impact a victim’s life forever.

This past March, a man stabbed and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl, leaving her for dead. The victim, however, survived the attack and was able to work with investigators to give them a composite sketch, as well as other information about the attack. Jorge Molina, one of two full-time forensic artists who cover the State of Texas for the Texas Rangers, quickly went to work on the case.

"Because we're dealing with the victim’s memory the information is time sensitive," he said.

Less than two weeks after authorities released Molina’s sketch, U.S. Marshals arrested the suspect, 46-year-old Willie Griffin. Griffin now faces a slew of charges, including attempted capital murder.

While Molina’s sketches rely on the victims recounting some painful memories, he says that sometimes the process can aid the victims’ healing process.

"The experience can sometimes be quite cathartic because they are actually assisting police. They feel empowered, in a sense, because they have just been victimized, and now they actually can take a stance against the suspect that victimized them," Molina said.

Jorge Molina is a classically-trained artist, but while his sketches may never end up on a wall, they can be essential to solving a complex case.

"This allows me to have a practical outlet, an outlet for my artistic ability that helps people," Molina said.

The final portraits use a combination of powerful digital imaging software in addition to pencil and paper techniques to make the sketch look as much like a photograph as possible.

This special three-part series "From Art to Evidence" continues Thursday, when we find out how forensic artists help bring closure to families in missing person cases by assisting in the identification of victims of violent crime.

Gallery images by Develon Douglas/YNN

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