Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Girl With The Crooked Nose by Ted Botha

In The Girl With The Crooked Nose, Ted Botha follows the career of Frank Bender and his forsenic sculpting work.  Frank was a commercial photographer but his love was sculpting.  As with most sculptors, he hired models to try to determine how human anatomy worked to make his pieces more authentic.  This desire to know about human anatomy eventually led him to the Philadephia medical examiner's office.  There he started to study corpses.

After several visits, the police approached Frank about a murder victim who was unidentified.  They explained that they had mimimal luck with sketch artists producing a likeness in such cases that helped with identification, and wondered if Frank could produce a bust that would be better.  Frank didn't know anything about forensics but was persuaded to make an attempt.  He created a bust that led to an identification, and found his life's work. 

Over the years, Frank worked on multiple cases.  He was successful in finding identities in many cases.  The ones that he was proudest of were the children, often found in suitcases or boxes, thrown away after being murdered.  Frank's work was able to give them back an identity, and to let them be buried under their own name instead of being sent to an anonymous grave. 

Frank's biggest case was that of the scores of Mexican women who were murdered in the early 2000's.  The Mexican government brought him in, along with an FBI consultant, but it was soon clear that there were politics at play and forces that did not want this case solved.  While Frank went back to Mexico several times and created multiple busts, the cases still remain a mystery, although many believe either the Mexican police or the military had a hand in these deaths. 

Another area Frank's expertise was used in was age regression and advancement.  He was the sculptor that created the bust of John List that was used on America's Most Wanted to identify this man who a decade earlier had killed his entire family and disappeared.  That case led to the government using Frank for several other busts to identify fugitives who had been missing for many years.

Ted Botha has outlined the life history of a fascinating man.  Bender loved the work he did, but never made enough money at it to support his family.  He had to take side jobs throughout his life to make ends meet.  Frank lived life on his own terms, and his work was so valuable that he was able to live life as he wanted while still fitting in with the highly structured world of police work.  This book is recommended for readers of true crime and those interested in forensic work.

No comments: