She's been called the top sketch artist in the world, and she's helped police catch more than 1,000 of the worst criminals. And the reason she does it is intensely personal.

Sketch artist Lois Gibson's pencil and pastel composite drawings are usually picture-perfect, which is why she's hailed as the greatest forensic sketch artist in the world.

"She is a great artist, but she is an amazing person. Those two things together are what make her so special," said Houston Police Senior Officer Kim Miller.

Gibson has helped Miller and other cops at the Houston Police Dept. arrest some 1,300 dangerous criminals with her drawings of alleged killers, sex offenders, kidnappers and robbers, earning her a place in the Guinness record book.

"I'm built to do this work, that's all I can say," said Gibson. "I always drew and I always wanted to draw faces. I was an artist that loved human faces."

And the likeness to wanted criminals that Gibson can produce just from descriptions by victims and witnesses is beyond uncanny.

"It's harder for me to walk across the street than to draw a face," said Gibson.

But being a forensic sketch artist wasn't her first choice of a career. Gibson always wanted to be in pictures, not just draw them.

And at 21, she moved to Hollywood to be a model and actress, gracing the pages of numerous magazines, including Playboy.

Until something unimaginable happened that would change the course of her life.

"While I was there a pretty awful serial rapist, maybe killer, attacked me in my apartment," said Gibson.

She thought he would kill her.

"He just started choking me," said Gibson. "It was like, 'Wow, I'm going to die.'"

Gibson was lucky to escape with her life, but like many rape victims, she knew prosecuting a rapist could be difficult and traumatic.

"I didn't have 'me' anymore," said Gibson. "I was a bag of hate and anger and frustration. And the number-one thing I wanted was justice, but darn I couldn't get justice because I could bring myself to tell the police. Are you kidding me?"

But it inspired Gibson to use her drawing talents to help get justice for other crime victims, so she moved to Texas to become a forensic sketch artist with Houston Police.

"That's why I do what I do," said Gibson. "Tell me a more important function than stopping people that are killing and raping and stabbing and shooting."

But drawing is the easy part of her job. The hard part is getting crime victims to talk.

"To describe the person that represents horror to them, that's the last person they want to think about," said Gibson. "So I talk them into it really good."

"They really open up to her," said Officer Miller. "They tell her sometimes more information than I got. Things come back to them."

"And I've always felt what other people feel and now that I have experienced almost being killed by a criminal - boy I'm right in there with them. And I tell them almost immediately, 'Someone tried to kill me too,'" said Gibson.

Of all the cases Gibson has helped solve, one has a special place in her heart, and a constant reminder of it framed and hanging on the wall of her office.

"There was a little murdered baby girl, it turned out she was two years, three months old," said Gibson.

The decomposed body of the unknown child, dubbed "Baby Grace," had washed up on shore in a fisherman's tackle box.

"So if you're the detective and you have a dead baby, you can't solve the case until you know that baby's name," said Gibson.

So she went to the morgue to see if she could draw a reconstruction of what the child looked like from what little there was left to recognize.

"I could see she had blond, truly blond hair, curly and wavy down to the middle of her back," said Gibson. "So I drew the hair, cute face and was done in 45 minutes."

Her picture was so accurate that three days later, the baby's grandmother recognized her from posters the police had distributed, and the child's mother and stepfather were convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

"In 45 minutes I helped catch two murderers that thought they could kill a baby and hide it and get away with it," said Gibson. "So the work product on that was beautiful."

And recently a Korean opera singer was assaulted in Houston. She didn't speak a lot of English but was able to give Gibson a physical description. Less than an hour after the sketch was released, the suspect was arrested.

Now, at age 65, and still with the Houston Police Dept., Lois Gibson also is the author of several books, and teaches classes for police officers and others interested in becoming forensic sketch artists.

"There's only 26 people doing this full-time in the whole country, and so I'm trying to spread more forensic artists before I go to the 'big drawing board in the sky,'" said Gibson.

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