Amazing sketches by woman raped, choked and left for dead help catch criminals

Amazing sketches by woman raped, choked and left for dead help catch criminals


Lois Gibson was just 21 when she was raped and left for dead.

The aspiring actor was opening the front door to her LA apartment when a man burst in and began to violently rape and choke her until she lost consciousness.

Then her attacker fled the scene.

Battered and broken, Lois was too traumatised to go to the police, and instead hid in her home for two weeks.

‘I was upset and ashamed,’ she says.

‘I thought the police would think it was my fault.

'For a while, I was scared of everybody.’

Lois’s brush with death changed her entire outlook on life.

As much as she loved acting and dancing, art had always been her true passion, so she moved to Texas to study for a degree in fine art.

Lois was already a talented artist, so to fund her studies she sketched tourists in the city.

Helping others

One day, she saw a news report about the savage rape of a dance instructor in front of her 12-year-old students.

‘I felt a flash of white-hot fury and a thought crossed my mind – I couldn’t bear the thought of him and other criminals walking free,’ she recalls.

‘I felt sure that if I spoke to witnesses, I could draw that man.’

To test her theory, she sent a friend to the local petrol station and asked her for a detailed description of the attendant when she returned.

Her friend described a man with black hair, dark eyes and bright white teeth, and as Lois quickly sketched, a vivid portrait emerged.

‘We took the picture back to the garage and I nearly fainted when I saw that the attendant was exactly like my drawing,’ she says.

‘It was uncanny, and I felt compelled to use this talent to help victims of crime.’

Incredible skill

Lois offered her services to the police and was tasked with a forensic portrait of a man who stabbed a stranger to death in a park.

‘The witness was hysterical and just kept saying, ‘I can’t remember’, because he’d only caught a flash of the killer’s face,’ remembers Lois.

‘Eventually, after gentle coaxing, he found it deep in his memory, then the sketch appeared on the news.

'The very next day, I got a call from the sheriff.

'The killer’s roommate had seen my drawing and turned him in – knowing I’d helped find a murderer was an incredible feeling.’

For seven years, Lois assisted the police in solving many horrific crimes, and she was eventually given a full-time job.

Since then, Lois has been instrumental in putting more than 1,200 criminals behind bars.

Some of them stick in her memory.

‘In 1990, I sat beside the hospital bed of an eight-year-old girl who had been kidnapped, raped and almost decapitated,’ says Lois.

‘“We’re going to catch this guy,” I told her gently and I even joked around to make her little face break into a smile.

I sketched a moustached man and the blue car he’d been driving, but it was 19 years before he was found.

When I saw his face on the news, I dug out my old sketch and realised I had nearly every detail perfect, almost as if I’d copied the picture from his driving licence photo.’

Lois began to draw age-progression photos of missing children and composite sketches of unidentified victims.

With a simple picture of a skull, she can figure out exactly what that person looked like.

‘In 2007, an unidentified baby girl washed up on a beach and I was able to use her severely decomposed remains to create a pastel portrait of the blue-eyed, blonde haired toddler,’ she says.

‘It took only three days for the child’s grandmother to identify the drawing as Riley Ann Sawyers.

'Her mother and stepfather were later convicted of her murder.

'Some police couldn’t believe how accurate my drawings were, and at times, I couldn’t either.’

Justice for victims

Lois now holds the Guinness World Record for ‘most criminals positively identified due to the composites of one artist’.

She teaches forensic art and has written a major textbook on the subject.

Despite nearing 70, she says she’ll never retire.

‘Every time I hear a news report of a murderer, rapist or abuser I know I need to help.

'I will never stop finding justice for victims of crime,’ she says.

‘If I lost my hand, I’d get a hook and keep on drawing.’

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