A rare tintype photograph is up for auction in New Braunfels this week. It pictures the infamous Jesse James and his murderer, Rob Ford, sitting next to each other, shoulders touching, posing for the camera.
Sandy Mills of Spokane, Washington was passed down the photo from her grandmother. But until Mills got the tintype verified, nobody would believe her about the picture’s subjects.
A few things led to the credibility of this photo: a dive into Mills’ ancestry (her great-great grandmother has ties to James’ brother, Frank) and Lois Gibson, a forensic artist working for the Houston Police Department.
Gibson has worked on hundreds of cases, helping to identify perpetrators through her sketches and analytics. She also holds the Guinness World Record for successfully identifying criminals and victims.
When Mills’ showed Gibson the picture, Gibson got right to work.
“My god it is such a beautiful tintype,” she says. “It’s pristine – it’s almost not been damaged at all.”
She used a computer to analyze the facial features of the two men in the photo.
“Put them in a computer and you can make them the same size – the head and the faces the same size and the same axis,” she says. “You can even lay them on top of each other.”
She says in the photo Jesse James’ features compare the most to a picture taken of him after he was shot, in his coffin.
“The lips are the same, the nostril holes are the same, the eye width is the same ratio to the length of the nose, and then the eyebrows are the same – eyebrow hairs, same positioning,” Gibson says.
Gibson says she became a forensic artist because someone tried to kill her during a sexual assault and because she was noticing the high crime rate in Houston.
“I know what it feels like to want justice so bad it’s killing you,” she says. “I know what it feels like to get justice. So that’s why I love talking to these people that have been raped, robbed, stabbed, or shot, and I can get them to remember the face.”
Written by Beth Cortez-Neavel.