Forensic sculptor's final piece may solve cold case

April 19, 2011 3:44:31 PM PDT
Renowned Philadelphia forensic sculptor Frank Bender is making another plea.

This time he wants people to look into the eyes of a Northampton County murder victim whose remains were discovered in 2001.

He reconstructed her face from her skull in hopes her family would recognize her.

"The fact that they know that their loved one has passed puts their minds at ease," Bender said.

The urge to ID this person has never been so great for Bender.

After all, this bust is his last.

Two years ago, he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and these days he's too weak to sculpt.

"I lose about a pound a week, you wouldn't want to see me without my clothes on," Bender said.

Northampton's coroner wouldn't release many details, but says this woman was discovered in the woods near I-78 and the Delaware River.

She's believed to be 25 to 40 years old and she had an extensive amount of dental work and acrylic nails.

"We have not been able to identify her based on DNA, that's why I think we had to go the extra distance," Northampton County coroner Zachary Lysek said.

Bender has an 85 percent success rate. He's responsible for a bust of murder victim Rosella Atkinson. It was put on display at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after she was identified and her killer confessed to the crime after seeing the piece of work.

Also in 2005, his facial reconstruction of Jerell Willis of Camden led to murder charges against his mother and her boyfriend.

For Bender, doctors told him his cancer should have taken his life by now.

"Well, I feel like there's still something left for me to do," Bender said.