Exhibit showcases nearly two dozen unidentified missing persons; opens Sunday, Oct. 3 at 2 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2021) – A team of scientists from the University of South Florida is looking to the public for help identifying and solving the homicides of 20 individuals. The cold cases will be featured in “The Art of Forensics” exhibit, created by USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, executive director of the Florida Institute for Forensic Anthropology and Applied Science (USF-IFAAS), along with USF forensic artist Sergio Soto and USF graduate student and Tampa Bay Times journalist John Pendygraft. The free exhibit kicks off with a grand opening event at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3, at the Sulphur Springs Museum & Heritage Center.
The display includes clay sculptures, digital composites, photographs and drawings of the victims, as well as a photographic series that portrays Tampa Bay professionals who contribute to cold case investigations. Sunday’s event will feature speakers, including Kimmerle, Soto, Pendygraft and Colonel Robert Ura with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives from various agencies with open cases featured will also be available for interviews.
“These individuals have remained unknown for decades. Theirfaces tell a story about who they were,” Kimmerle said. “When you look at the common patterns among victims, the marginalization of certain people and their vulnerabilities become clear. We hope it triggers the memories of those who knew them so that people come forward with new leads. The exhibit is about using art to engage the public, trigger memory and create empathy.”
Kimmerle and her students exhumed three of the John Does who are part of this exhibit from Rest Haven Memorial Park in Tampa last year with funding provided by the Florida Sheriff’s Association. Half of the cases featured are from Hillsborough County, with the remainder representing central Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
“The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is proud of the ongoing partnerships with USF-IFAAS and the Florida Sheriff’s Association,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “It is through the work we do together that hopefully we will bring closure to families that have been waiting far too long for answers.”
Since its inception in 2015, “The Art of Forensics” has been an annual event that has helped solve nearly two dozen homicide cases and brought more than 140 cases up to current investigative standards. Each exhibit features new cases and innovative ways to use public art for social justice.
“This is a great opportunity for the public to see the work going on behind the scenes,” said USF doctoral student Gennifer Goad. “It takes a lot of collaboration and patience.”
Goad is researching chemical isotope analysis and hopes to become a forensic anthropologist. Her image is included in the new photo series created by Pendygraft, which portrays the various professions involved in working to solve unidentified missing persons cases and cold case homicides: forensic artists, anthropologists, medical examiners, DNA experts, crime scene and death investigators, homicide detectives, as well as prosecutors and judges. The photography series was created in the spirit of Irving Penn’s “Small Trades” exhibit in 1951, to provide an intimate view into the world of cold case investigations.
“The Art of Forensics” runs through Nov. 1.
About the University of South Florida
The University of South Florida is a high-impact global research university dedicated to student success. Over the past 10 years, no other public university in the country has risen faster in U.S. News and World Report’s national university rankings than USF. Serving more than 50,000 students on campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee, USF is designated as a Preeminent State Research University by the Florida Board of Governors, placing it in the most elite category among the state’s 12 public universities. USF has earned widespread national recognition for its success graduating under-represented minority and limited-income students at rates equal to or higher than white and higher income students. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference. Learn more at www.usf.edu.