Her hand has touched people all over Kansas City not physically, but artistically. Now, an artist who has helped police solve countless crimes is moving on.
Lee Hammond is an artist, teacher, author and sketch artist for local police throughout the metro. When asked how many sketches she done she laughed, "I have no idea. I would say hundreds and hundreds."
Ali Kemp case
Hammond has been drawing, painting and writing her entire life. She remembered getting back into composite work because of a crime in her neighborhood. "The Ali Kemp case because that was so emotionally charged and it took so long to find him," Hammond reflected. "This is what jumped me back into forensics because I had taken some time off when my kids were growing up. They were putting these computer-generated composites up and I thought, I know I could do better than that, so I volunteered."
Shortly after her sketch of the suspect was released, Benjamin Appleby was arrested for the Leawood crime. Today he is serving a 50-year sentence in a Kansas prison for Kemp's attempted rape and murder.
Precious Doe case
Then came another call, "Precious Doe. That poor little girl," Hammond said. Precious Doe was the case of an unidentified child whose dismembered body was found in Kansas City in 2001. Using autopsy photos, Hammond was able to sketch the little girl.
Due to confidentiality, Hammond said she had to draw privately, but her son noticed how it affected her.
"I'd work at it at night and he said that he could see my light on and hear me crying while I was working on it because it was so upsetting to me. I mean, how can you do this to a child?"
The image that resulted led to Erica Green's grandfather identifying her.
Although the work itself is challenging, Hammond plans to keep answering the call of law enforcement. "When I do get that call, it means someone's life just got blown to bits. They're never going to be the same," she said. But when a suspect is caught, "And we can compare the picture, you know, his mug shot with his composite, and realize it was that drawing that got him off the street, there's nothing better."
The Collier County Sheriff's Office in Florida is already looking forward to her assistance in their cases and she says she is eager to continue working with police.
In a couple of weeks, Hammond will leave her Overland Park home and head to Florida.
In her 35-year career she has written more than 30 books, worked with America's Most Wanted, NASCAR and multiple law enforcement agencies in the area all while teaching art. Students say she has taught them so much more than how to draw or how to paint, Hammond has taught them how to live. It's a career shift for the woman who has brought healing and closure to families all over the metro, but one that she's looking forward to.
Hammond closed by sharing, "It's just so sad to say goodbye to Kansas City. It just really is. It's been a very, very good ride."
Dia Wall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.