Frank solved many cases over his 30-year career. His work famously led to the arrest and conviction of multiple murderer John List (*more info below), Colombo crime lord Alphonse Persico and Warlocks motorcycle gang leader Robert Nauss - all of whom had eluded the FBI for years. The two cases represented below demonstrate his remarkable accuracy.
According to Frank, "It's a balance of art and science. You cannot get an accurate rendition if you just follow science. You cannot get an accurate rendition if you simply follow art."
The Case of Multiple Murderer John List
“His ability is mind boggling to me.” John Walsh, Host of America’s Most Wanted
In 1971, an accountant from New Jersey named John List murdered his wife, mother and three children. He then drove his car to Kennedy Airport and disappeared. After 18 years on the FBI's Most Wanted List, Frank was commissioned to create a bust of the aging fugitive. In 1989 he presented it on an episode of the newly launched television series "America's Most Wanted". Frank's amazing likeness led to a tip from a viewer who recognized her neighbor, a married accountant living in Virginia. Ten days after the show aired, John List was arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
*Click on "FRANK IN THE NEWS" in the menu bar above for a link to New York Times articles about John List
The Girl Looking Up for Hope
In late 1987, the Philadelphia Police Department asked Frank Bender for help with an unidentified body found in an advanced state of decomposition. The young woman had perfect teeth, so there were no dental records to check. But there was one piece of evidence found at the scene that gave Bender some insight into her personality: the remnants of a blouse, a stained, tattered rag in a plastic evidence bag. which had once had been crisp and white with neat tuxedo pleats down the front. He imagined this woman as someone looking for something better in life, sad, but fundamentally hopeful, about her future. So when he created a bust of her head, working from the skull, he had her “looking up for hope”. He found a similar blouse in a department store and draped it around the shoulders of the bust before handing it over to the detectives working the case.
After years of canvassing the neighborhood with the bust, the police had no leads so they handed it back to Frank who donated it to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia where they put it on display. Three weeks later a woman recognized the bust as her grand niece, Rosella Atkinson. News of the identification was broadcast on television and photos of Rosella Atkinson and Frank's facial reconstruction were distributed to newspapers. After being haunted for over 20 years by the image of Frank's bust, Brian Hall confessed to the murder. Frank attended the trial at the request of Rosella Atkinson’s family and watched Hall being convicted of murder and sent to prison.