July 31, 2011 |
When you write about people who have received a death sentence, eventually you must write that they have died. Even those who outdance their grim fate, as Frank Bender did so splendidly. If a city is a quilt of vibrant patches, Philadelphia suffered an irreparable tear with the loss of a colorful character who lived large honoring the dead. Bender was a commercial photographer and painter before discovering a unique gift to stare at skulls and see faces and features. In the emptiness of anonymous crime victims, he found humanity.
July 29, 2011 |
FRANK BENDER, who helped identify hundreds of victims of violence and bring many of the perpetrators to justice over a long career as a forensic sculptor, was confronted by his greatest challenge that fall of 2000. He had to sculpt a face where there was no face. The skeletal remains of a woman had been found in a wooded area of Manlius, N.Y., a town near Syracuse. The skull was a shell and there was no face. Told it was impossible to create something out of nothing, Bender rose to the challenge.
May 14, 2011 |
FRANK BENDER doesn't have much time left. A world-renowned forensic sculptor who's cracked countless cold cases by building busts of unknown murder victims and fugitive killers, the man whose prolific professional life has been all about death is now closer to death himself than ever. Doctors gave him mere months to live when they diagnosed him with pleural mesothelioma in late 2009. But on the eve of another summer he never thought he'd see, the ailing 69-year-old Southwest Center City resident is still a busy guy. Cancer has melted away four of his ribs, pain pills are part of his daily diet, and he needs naps and occasionally a few puffs of oxygen to restore his energy.
September 8, 2010 |
Frank Bender lives. This I consider news, since the forensic sculptor wasn't supposed to see summer, let alone gallop into the fall. "Come check out my tan," he teased Tuesday, which seemed as good a reason as any to ditch my leftovers and buy us both lunch from Cafe Lutecia. When Bender greeted me at his South Street home/studio, he looked a bit like Vladimir Lenin in spray bronzer. "I still go up the stairs and run to catch the bus," quipped the energetic Dead Man Walking.
August 7, 2010 |
THE SIGN on the door into famed forensic sculptor Frank Bender's studio announces: "So this isn't home sweet home, adjust. " It's fair warning, given the sights inside. A rifle hangs suspended from the ceiling. "My father-in-law shot at me with that when I was dating his daughter," Bender says, beaming. "He missed my head by inches. " Handcuffs and two guns dangle alongside pans from a pot rack above the stovetop where Bender used to boil skulls in his pasta pot to deflesh them for reconstruction.
May 5, 2010 |
Janice Lynn Proctor Bender, 61, of Center City, a law firm receptionist who supported her husband, Frank, in his work as a forensic artist, died of cancer Wednesday, April 21, at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse. Mrs. Bender and her husband met when they were working at George Faraghan Photo Studios in Center City - she was a fashion and hand model, and he was a commercial photographer. They married on Halloween 1970. Several years later, Frank Bender began a career as a "recomposer of the decomposed.
November 8, 2009 |
Frank Bender lives for the dead. For 30 years, the forensic sculptor has peered into skulls and seen souls. With no scientific training and no college education, he became an internationally heralded "recomposer of the decomposed," an artist who solves crimes while providing comfort to strangers. His first commission, in 1977, called for him to re-create the image of a woman shot three times in the head and dumped near Philadelphia International Airport. Because of Bender's tender rendering from her skeletal remains, the victim was identified as a missing woman from Phoenix, Anna Duval.
October 5, 2009 |
THIS IS A story and a lesson. The story is of a killer who would have hated to know his brutal life helped to inspire a Philadelphia artist to become a crime fighter. The lesson is on the value of the death penalty. True justice never did catch up with multiple murderer John Martini. He died of natural causes. He was pronounced dead at 2:21 a.m. on Sept. 10 in the infirmary at New Jersey State Prison in Trenton. He was 79. He had been sentenced to death for the murder of Irving Flax, a New Jersey businessman, in 1990 and was on death row until 2007, when the state abolished the death penalty.
March 14, 2009 |
Standing in front of a painted killer in a cowboy hat and a Bob Marley with wilder hair than Medusa, John Walsh stared into the TV cameras, explaining his mission to identify a girl "thrown away like a pile of garbage. " A new big clue was about to be revealed. Frank Bender, forensic sculptor, stepped forward in the studio of his South Street home. He pulled away a large black cover to display a tiny head - one with large brown eyes and a gently rounded nose amid a soft, brown complexion.
March 13, 2009 |
The embargo is over, and the face can finally be revealed. It's the face of a mystery girl, probably 5 to 8 years old, whose charred skeletal remains were found in a wooded area of Monmouth County, N.J., in 2005. She probably disappeared at least a year before that. If you think you recognize her, call the America's Most Wanted hotline at 1-800-274-6388 (1-800-CRIMETV), or the tipline of the N.J. State Police, 1-866-657-7411. The bust was unveiled Tuesday as the cameras of America's Most Wanted rolled in the South Philadelphia home of renowned forensic sculptor Frank Bender.