Jaycee Dugard Looks Like the Image Forensic Artists Created to Help Find Her

Jaycee Dugard looks like the image forensic artists created to help find her.

ByABC News
October 14, 2009, 4:48 PM

Oct. 15, 2009— -- People magazine has made public the first image of Jaycee Dugard as an adult since the woman was kidnapped 18 years ago when she was just 11 years old.

On the cover of the magazine, which hits newsstands Friday, a smiling Dugard with long auburn tresses looks remarkably like the age-progression image forensic artists at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children created to help in the search for the missing woman.

Click here to visit People magazine's Web site to see the cover and read more about the exclusive interview.

Though Dugard and the two children she had with her alleged kidnapper, Philip Garrido, ultimately were rescued thanks more to the quick thinking of a police officer who met the suspect in August than to the image, similar age-progression photos have been instrumental in the recovery of more than 900 missing children.

"The real photo of Jaycee and the age-progression are remarkably similar considering it's been 18 years," said Ernie Allen, president of the center.

Allen called the process by which forensic artists create digital versions of what a person might look like years after they went missing "half art and half science."

Short of her hair's color and style, Dugard had many of the facial features -- including the shape of her nose and mouth -- experts predicted should would when they created the digital image.

The NCMEC has been creating digital age-progressions of missing children since 1989, because, Allen said, "the public has a hard time imagining what a two-year-old might look like at six or eight years old and these images help the public recognize and identify missing children who have gotten older."

The center, which works in conjunction with the FBI and distributes the age-progression images through thousands of police departments and more than 400 private distributors that plaster the images on milk cartons, mass mailings and in well-trafficked public areas like Wal-Mart stores.

Forensic artists create a composite image using photos of the missing child, photos of the child's parents when they were the age the child would be today, images of the child's siblings and a vast database of 35,000 images of children of all races and ages.

Aric Austin went missing in 1981 just shy of being two months old, left. The NCMEC created an age-progression composite of what he might look like in his late teens or early 20s, center. A federal investigator recognized Austin and reunited him with his mother when he was 22.

This image of Sara Eghbal-Brin shows the girl when she went missing at age 3 in France, left. The center image shows a composite of what forensic artists believed she might look like at age 7. The photo at right shows the girl at age 8 after she was recovered.

French authorities contacted the NCMEC and said they believed the girl was somewhere in North America. In February 2002, a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer pulled over a car and recognized the girl in back seat.

Dissemination of images to the public was critical in the recovery of Joseph Carson, who went missing in Phoenix in 1998 when he was 3 years old.

A customer at a local auto parts store recognized the age-progression image that was being shown on a screen in the shop that featured missing children and contacted authorities.

In 2003, when he was 9, Joseph was reunited with his mother.

"The goal of using this technology is to keep the case alive and provide hope to the families," Allen said. "The world forgets, police run out of leads, the media spotlight fades, but with enough science and persistence we hope to stimulate the public and that they'll call us with information."