World’s most successful forensic artist retiring after nearly 40 years on the job

Published: Sep. 27, 2021 at 1:07 PM CDT
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HOUSTON (KTRK) - One woman with a unique job is retiring after almost 40 years.

She is an expert at her craft, and her work has helped police solve countless crimes.

Spending even a little time with Lois Gibson can feel like a whirlwind.

“So this girl that gave me this (sketch) was shot 15 times. She lost an eye and seven teeth,” said Lois Gibson, Houston Police forensic artist. “There’s almost no movie that’s going to be as exciting as like two hours of my job.”

The conversation can go in all directions. Her wealth of experience is just hard to contain.

“If you’ve almost been killed, I’m hilarious,” she said. “I’m able to make people that are feeling worse than they ever felt, I know how to make them feel better.”

Gibson has been the forensic artist for the Houston Police Department for 39 years. She’s drawn thousands of sketches - baby kidnappers, murderers, robbers, rapists.

For a short period of time she listens, asks questions and takes on a crime victim’s pain to create an image police can give out to the public to generate leads.

And her inspiration comes from her own painful past.

“I’m meant to handle this,” Gibson said.

“‘Hi, I’m Jim Hutchins, I live down the hall. I see you come and go. I thought we should be acquainted,’” she said her attacker said.

It was the early 1970s. Gibson was 21, an aspiring actor in L.A. when a serial rapist and murder burst into her apartment and attacked her.

“The first thing he did was nearly snap my head off my body, so right then I was in shock, kicked the door closed and then there was the attack,” she said.

Years later, she channeled her anger and hurt to help other victims, and when early in her career she thought she had failed, it was this that kept her going.

“He goes, ‘We wouldn’t have caught him without you.’ He kept saying it in different ways, ‘We wouldn’t have caught him without you,’” Gibson said.

Now there are hundreds on that list. In fact, she holds a world record for the “most criminals positively identified due to her work.”

“There’s nothing more rewarding than that, absolutely nothing,” she said.

The resemblances she creates are uncanny.

A sketch of a woman who took a baby from a hospital looks remarkably like that woman, as do the drawings of the shooters in the Clear Lake murders.

Brian Harris, then a sergeant with Houston Police homicide and now a chief deputy with the Precinct 5 Constables office, was the lead investigator in the 2003 Clear Lake murders.

“Once we took the billboard pictures and the sketches themselves, and now we had the names of the suspect, I about fell out of my chair,” he said.

Gibson has written a book, drawn sketches from skeletal remains and has done age progression.

By next month, Gibson will be spending more time in her home, in drawing or painting whatever she wants. After 39 years, she is retiring.

Gibson has mentored those who are taking her place and has taught others in her field. Her unparalleled skills will be missed.

“The talent is getting folks to take that imprint that has been in their brain somewhere and be able to articulate it or visualize what it is that they saw, and Lois has been able to do that for 39 years,” Harris said.

She’s spent nearly four decades seeking justice for people she meets at their worst. Gibson says she won’t miss it, but she also wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Oh it’s been such a big, great ride,” she said.

Copyright 2021 KTRK staff via CNN Newsource. All rights reserved.