Betty Pat Gatliff

Betty Patricia Gatliff (August 31, 1930 – January 5, 2020) was an American pioneer in the field of forensic art and forensic facial reconstruction. Working closely with forensic anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow, she sculpturally reconstructed faces of individuals including the Pharaoh Tutankhamun, President John F. Kennedy, and the unidentified victims of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

Betty Pat Gatliff
Born(1930-08-31)August 31, 1930
DiedJanuary 5, 2020(2020-01-05) (aged 89)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S.
Alma materOklahoma College for Women
OccupationForensic artist


Gatliff was born in El Reno, Oklahoma and resided in Norman, Oklahoma.[1] She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oklahoma College for Women in 1951. She worked as a medical illustrator and technical illustrator for 27 years in the U.S. Civil service. She began a freelance career in 1979 as forensic sculptor, illustrator, and teacher.[2]

In 1967, anthropologist Dr. Clyde Snow and Gatliff worked at the Federal Aviation Administration in Oklahoma City. Snow recommended that Gatliff learn the techniques described in Wilton M. Krogman's book The Human Skeleton in Forensic Medicine (1962). Snow was able to identify the ancestry, gender and approximate age of a skull, while Gatliff used her art training to create a likeness of a face based on the skull and other scientific information. Working with Snow, Gatliff created a sculpture directly on the skull of an unidentified young man which led to his identification. The success of this early collaboration formed the foundation of the use of facial reconstruction from the skull in the United States. Together they developed the Gatliff/Snow American Tissue Depth Method. This method encompassed the work of other researchers which defines numerous "landmarks" on the skull and determines an average tissue depth for each location.[3]

In 1978, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations began an investigation into the murder of President Kennedy. Gatliff created life-sized models of Kennedy's head for use in trajectory tests.[4]

Also in 1978, John Wayne Gacy was arrested for the serial killings of 33 young men and boys in Illinois. Twenty-nine individual remains were found in the crawl-space beneath Gacy's home, with 24 positively identified. Gatliff created the clay facial reconstructions of the other nine unidentified victims, with at least one positive identification, and five tentative.[5]

Working with Snow, Gatliff reconstructed the face of Tutankhamun that was featured in Life (1983) and National Geographic World (1985).[6]

Gatliff was a technical consultant on the television series Quincy, M.E.,[7] creating forensic art reconstructions for the show, in which her hands were featured sculpting.[5] Gatliff also contributed her forensic art techniques to the film Gorky Park.[8]

Gatliff taught her techniques at the FBI Academy, Scottsdale Artists' School in Arizona, Cleveland Institute of Art in Ohio, and the University of Oklahoma.[9]

Gatliff died in Oklahoma City on January 5, 2020 following a stroke.[10][11]


  1. ^ Richard Sandomir. "Betty Pat Gatliff, 89, Whose Forensic Art Solved Crimes, Dies - The New York Times". Retrieved 2020-01-20.
  2. ^ "Alumni". University of Science and Arts.
  3. ^ Taylor, Karen T. (2000). Forensic Art and Illustration. CRC Press. p. 25. ISBN 1420036955.
  4. ^ Taylor, Karen T. (2000). Forensic Art and Illustration. CRC Press. p. 473. ISBN 1420036955.
  5. ^ a b "Archives". People.
  6. ^ "Clyde Snow Obituary". New York Times. New York Times.
  7. ^ "Betty Pat Gatliff". IMDb. IMDb.
  8. ^ Taylor, Karen T. (2000). Forensic Art and Illustration. CRC Press. p. 32. ISBN 1420036955.
  9. ^ "Craniofacial Identification Educational Opportunities". Forensic
  10. ^ Taylor, Karen T. (7 January 2020). "The Passing of a Forensic Legend". Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  11. ^ Pettit, Emma. "Drawing the Dead: Artist with Arkansas roots aims to identify unknown". Arkansas Online. Retrieved 29 September 2018.

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