High tech help for missing kids


WASHINGTON, D.C. (WIAT) — With each stroke of his digital paintbrush an artist works to bring a young woman from Nashville, Tennessee home to her family. Reporter Drew Petrimoulx watched as the artist edited an image of 15-year-old Lakisha Jones. Jones vanished almost 20 years ago and the artist, Colin McNally works on the only known picture.

McNally supervises the forensic imaging unit at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and right now he is trying to show the world what Jones would look like today (You can see the completed image in the video above).

Colin McNally, supervisor of the NCMEC Forensic Imaging Unit, explained, “When you work on these cases, you really do become attached to them.”

The Jones case is one of nearly 7,000 age progressions crafted by the unit, but with technology, the artists are pushing their new abilities to new heights.

McNally explained, “For us, our greatest tool is heredity, seeing what commonalities among family members, share with the missing child.”

On the other side of the unit, a robotic arm is used to recreate facial features from the remains of an unidentified child.

McNally said, “The hope is to be able to provide answers to families many of whom have been searching for their children for many years.”

The center first opened its doors in 1984 and since then it has become a valuable tool to law enforcement across the country.

This week a bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill to reauthorize $40 million a year in funding for the center, saying it is on the frontline of protecting vulnerable children.

Robert Lowery oversees the center’s missing children division. He has the money to expand rapid response teams that deploy when a child goes missing.

Robert Lowery, of the missing children’s division, said, “We have search experts that are to their availability or any unique thing that might come up.”

 Lowery says he believes they’re making progress. Child abductions are less frequent, and the number of missing children cases has been cut in half over the last 35 years, but there is much work to be done to bring closure to more families and communities.

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