MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WAFF) - Do you remember the days of seeing sketches of criminal suspects on the news?
Well, just because you don’t see those sketches as much anymore, doesn’t mean they aren’t being drawn.
The only police certified forensic artist in the state is located in Montgomery. WAFF made a trip to our state’s own capital just to meet him.
It takes two to three hours on average to sketch an actual suspect.
“Chins, mustaches, cheek, bones.”
Special Agent and sketch artist Craig Shook says a victim or witness can spend up to forty minutes flipping through sketch pages to choose the right facial features.
“It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle,” Shook said.
Shook works in the state bureau investigation division of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency as the only certified forensic artist in the state.
“The good Lord gave me a talent to do art and so I have to use it.”
That means Agent Shook drives all over the state to meet with victims and witnesses of crimes to come up with a composite.
“All of a sudden you’ll get a phone call and two days later you’ll get another one and another one. The next thing you know, you’re spread thin,” Shook explained.
Back in October, Agent Shook was in Hartselle to draw a sketch of a rape suspect.
“If it’s a victim of a violet crime, whether it be rape or somebody in the family saw somebody that was murdered, what will happen is that image will be ingrained in their mind forever,” he added.
Shook transforms that image into lifelike drawings like the composite that helped lead to Jeremy Taylor’s arrest in Morgan County.
It takes a steady hand and a good eye to do his job, and not just Shook’s eye. He takes footage from surveillance cameras to enhance what a person didn’t see or can’t remember.
“There are some places that I know of that have over 20 cameras in a business but the quality is so bad. I can usually hone something that looks a little clearer than the picture I have.”
He says computers are not capable of producing a true likeness.
Shook does more than just sketches of suspects though. His work also includes drawing images from human remains.
“You have to determine if, lets say the teeth were missing before death, or after death, that changes the shape of the mouth” he said.
Many law enforcement agencies think work like this comes at a heavy cost. However, Shook wants everyone to know his work is free, explaining this service is provided in order to help.
Shook says the pandemic has made his job even more difficult because most of the time suspects are wearing a mask.
So what is he up to now? He’s heading to Selma tomorrow to help with a burglary case.