Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Artist and the Killer: Frank Bender and Hans Vorhauer

Becoming Vorhauer

Bender studies background info
Bender studies background info

Frank Bender's task was to predict what the 44-year-old Hans Vorhauer would look like based on the photographs of him at age 31. Bender knew that simply adding a few wrinkles and receding the hairline wouldn't be enough - not with a criminal on the run, and certainly not with someone as intelligent as Vorhauer. To figure out how Vorhauer would look, he had to start thinking like Vorhauer. He had to see through his eyes and feel what he felt. He had to find out what Vorhauer ate and drank and if he smoked. Bender had to experience his likes and dislikes, know his sexual habits. In a way, he had to become Hans Vorhauer.

Bender says police sketches and computer composites never bring out a criminal's inner qualities. That's one of the reasons he has always preferred to make busts of his subjects. A computer-generated sketch of a face is flat and static. A bust is three-dimensional. It can be viewed from several angles and lighted in all different ways, which is very important because light can change someone's appearance. A man walking in full sunlight will look very different from a mug shot taken indoors with artificial light.

Bender works from photo
Bender works from photo

Perspective also plays a big part in how one sees a face. A criminal who's 5-foot-10 will look one way to someone who's 5-foot-8 but somewhat different to someone who's 6-foot-2. It's the difference between looking up and looking down. Hans Vorhauer was 5-foot-9, so when Bender created his first version of the bust, he set it on a pedestal that approximated Vorhauer's height. Every law-enforcement officer on the case was able to study the bust and see Vorhauer from his own angle.

But it was also important for Bender to see Vorhauer properly. They were the same height, and Bender wanted to be able to look him in the eye. He had to understand him completely to be able to determine what he would look like. The features of a person's face only tell part of the story. It's the attitude in the face that makes it unique. Vorhauer's high forehead, pock-marked complexion, and wide flat mouth are features shared by hundreds of thousands of people. But how many of them have these features and the cold, unfeeling aspect of a killer? Bender believes that what's inside a person affects what he shows on the outside.

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