Can a talented composite artist help catch a killer?
In the fall of 1993, the entire country was touched when 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted from her Northern California home and savagely murdered. Thousands of copies of a composite sketch of the suspect were distributed by police. In the end, its stunning accuracy helped confirm the identity of the prime suspect, Richard Allen Davis. Davis is now in jail, charged with the kidnap and murder of Polly Klaas. Law enforcement’s secret weapon in the Klaas case was composite artist Jeanne Boylan. Without her sketch of Richard Davis, he might still be on the loose. These days, the FBI and numerous local jurisdictions compete for Jeanne’s time. They know that her drawings can help solve the most difficult cases.
In the mid-1970s, Jeanne worked at a Sheriff’s Department in Multnomah County, Oregon. The job gave her a close-up look at how suspect sketches were made. In many cases, Jeanne did not like what she saw:
Jeanne was convinced she could do better, and in 1980, she got her chance. A supervisor gave Jeanne one of his most difficult cases—an unsolved rape. According to Jeanne, it was a case that had languished for months with virtually no leads:
Jeanne was right. As a direct result of her composite, a suspect was arrested and later convicted. More cases followed and Jeanne’s reputation grew. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, the FBI turned to Jeanne in the troubling case of 16-year-old Jonathan Francia. On January 12, 1994, Jonathan was in his car when he was abducted by two strangers. Five days later, his body was found in the trunk of his burned-out car. One of the killers, known only as “Jason,” has yet to be found.
Investigators asked Jeanne to meet with a key witness, Scott Johnston. Scott had innocently spent several hours with the killers at his home in Winslow, Arizona. Jeanne instinctively began to assess Scott’s potential as an eyewitness:
As Scott told his story, Jeanne began to sketch the killer named Jason. Scott had met Jason on January 13, 1994. That day, a friend of Scott’s named Trena Richardson was staying at the trailer, along with her three children. They were awaiting the arrival of Trena’s husband, Paul, who had gone to Alabama. According to Scott, Paul pulled in around 6:00 AM, accompanied by a stranger:
Scott also noticed something strange about Jason’s hands:
Scott told Jeanne that he and Trena went out to run errands around 9:00 AM. When they returned, Paul and Jason were washing the car:
At the time, Scott had no idea that the body of Jonathan Francia was in the trunk An hour later, Trena and Paul said they were leaving to escort Jason to the main highway. It was the last time Scott would see Jason:
Four days later, an eyewitness tip led police to a remote corner of the desert, 30 miles from Scott’s trailer. There they found the burned-out car and Jonathan Francia’s charred remains. Paul Richardson was arrested two weeks later. He admitted that he and Jason had abducted and murdered Jonathan. Two days after his confession, Richardson committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell. It was now up to Jeanne to help find Jason. Based on Scott Johnston’s descriptions, Jeanne drew three composite sketches. According to Scott, the sketches were quite accurate:
Jeanne’s sketches of the man called “Jason” have provided some hope for Jonathan Francia’s family. Authorities believe he has relatives in either Pinetop or Payson, Arizona, and also Dallas, Texas. Jason is described as 5’10”, with a medium build. He smokes, chews tobacco, and wears western-style clothes, including a horsehair belt. He should be regarded as extremely dangerous.