Goodyear police sketch artist talks about challenges they face drawing suspects

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Goodyear police forensic sketch artist James Weege talks about how sketches are made based on witness statements. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Goodyear police forensic sketch artist James Weege talks about how sketches are made based on witness statements. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The suspect was described as a white male, but the killer, Dwight Jones, was black. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The suspect was described as a white male, but the killer, Dwight Jones, was black. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Weege said that sketch artists are only as good as the information they're given from witnesses and the reality is that this is not an exact science. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Weege said that sketch artists are only as good as the information they're given from witnesses and the reality is that this is not an exact science. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Weege said it takes anywhere from four to six hours to create a quality sketch. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Weege said it takes anywhere from four to six hours to create a quality sketch. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
GOODYEAR, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A thin face. Wide eyes. A stubby nose.

Every facial feature plays a key role in creating a quality image, according to Goodyear police forensic sketch artist James Weege.

"I think it's a great tool because it puts a face out there that can create leads," said Det. Weege. "It's like pieces of a puzzle."

Goodyear is among the many law enforcement agencies across the Valley that use sketch artists to catch dangerous criminals.

[RELATED: Retired policeman's hunch leads to suspect in 6 killings]

Weege said it takes anywhere from four to six hours to create a quality sketch.

"You have to be patient and listen," said Weege. "I help them by not telling them what to say and asking open-ended questions. Is it a narrow head? Is it a round head?"

But not all composite sketches are spot-on accurate.

[TIMELINE: 72-hour killing spree | MAP: Crime scenes]

A few days ago, Phoenix police released a sketch of the man believed to have murdered Dr. Steven Pitt and five other people.

The suspect was described as a white male, but the killer, Dwight Jones, was black.

[PREVIOUS STORY: PD: ‘We knew he was our suspect and murderer’]

Weege said that sketch artists are only as good as the information they're given from witnesses and the reality is that this is not an exact science.

"Usually you're dealing with someone who's had a traumatic experience and only saw someone for a second," said Weege. "It's a likeness. It's never going to be a complete photograph or anything like that. It's the closest resemblance that a person can remember."

Lt. Vince Lewis with the Phoenix Police Department said that the original sketch of the murder suspect was put together with the help of a witness at the scene.

[CONTINUING COVERAGE: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills killing spree]

 "A sketch depends solely on an eyewitness' recollection, usually while in crisis or under stress after having experienced a traumatic incident," said Lewis. "We use composites as one tool to give an impression to the viewer. It is up to the viewer to decide what they see. Small features, or an overall impression, may jog a memory or allow someone to make a mental connection." 

"The initial description of a suspect in the Pitt murder came from a witness. We must take into consideration distance, time of day, lighting, visual barriers, stress, etc. which can all have an impression on an individual's recollection... A great many factors played into naming a suspect; forensic evidence, tips, and other information made the case."

Weege said that police sketches remain an important tool in police work.

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Jason Barry
Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

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Jason Barry

Jason Barry has been reporting in the Valley since 1997.

He is a nine-time Rocky Mountain Emmy Award winner who is best known for his weekly Dirty Dining reports, which highlight local restaurants with major health code violations.

Jason was born in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Miami.

An avid sports fan, Jason follows the Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Suns with his wife, Karen, and son, Joshua.

His favorite stories to cover are the station’s Pay it Forward segments, which reward members of the community with $500 for going ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty to help others.

Jason, started his career at WBTW-TV in Florence, SC before moving to WALA-TV in Mobile, AL, was named the Associated Press Reporter of the Year in 2002.

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