Online artist dedicates years identifying bodies of missing persons

VERNON, Calif. (KABC) -- Local accountant turned forensic artist, Carl Koppelman, has dedicated much of his time for the past several years to identify the bodies of missing persons.

It began in 2009 after the rescue of Jaycee Lee Dugard, who was kidnapped at 11 years old and held captive for 18 years.

"I found that to be a very fascinating story," Koppelman said.

The amateur artist found online forums designed to solve cases of unidentified dead bodies.

"(I was) very fascinated with the fact that there were thousands of people nationwide who were following this forum," Koppelman shared.

He began reconstructing images of how those victims may have looked when they were alive, using photos from the coroner.

"Certain muscles relax and the eyebrows go up a lot of times and certain things happen to the face. You need to reverse all those effects," Koppelman explained.

He used his methods in the case of a teen girl, labeled only as Cali Doe, who was murdered in 1979 and left in a cornfield in Livingston County, New York.

In 2014, Kopelman spotted a familiar face while updating his missing persons spreadsheet.

"I saw the photo and said 'That's Cali Doe. That's the girl in the cornfield,'" Koppelman said.

She was identified as Tammy Joe Alexander.

"Makes me just want to keep on trying and solve more of these cases," Koppelman said.

One of the cases Koppelman hopes to solve is a 1992 fatal shooting of two teens in Vernon.

The boys were shot at the corner of East Vernon and Compton avenues. Koppelman posted flyers in the area, but has failed to receive any response.

He has worked on nearly 300 images, including Walker County Jane Doe.

"She was maybe between 14 and 16 years old, murdered and left on a roadside," Koppelman said.

"(I'm) particularly interested in the cases of young people because somewhere there's got to be a parent. Somewhere there's got to be a family member who knows who this child is and is wondering what happened to them," he said.

Koppelman, who rarely gets paid for his work, said he will continue trying to solve more cases.
Copyright © 2019 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.