BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — Every year, bodies are found in Louisiana so deteriorated their identity remains a mystery to this day.

Last month, experts at the LSU FACE’s Lab explained their role in tracking down missing people. This time they bring us into the world of cold cases and the unidentified.

When skeletal remains are found in Louisiana, there is a good chance that they would end up at the LSU FACE’s Lab, according to the Director of LSU FACE’s LAB Ginsees Listi.

“In our repository database there are approximately 185 unidentified,” Listi said.

Forensic Anthropologists like Listi examine the bones for clues to who they were and where they came from.

“The oldest dating back to the late 70s or early 80s,” Listi informed.

Sometimes the experts have little to go off of.  

“When the cases get cold there is always the possibility that they are going to fall out of the public awareness, and so that is one of the reasons why we like to have the images created,” said Listi.

LSU FACE’s lab Imaging Specialist Larry Livaudais is an artist that has found a bigger purpose for his creative eye.

“I try to put faces to the faceless,” said Livaudais. “I always wanted my art to serve some purpose other than a pure aesthetic end, so I kind of found that all here.”

With the information provided by forensic anthropologists at the lab, he is able to build an approximation of the person’s face. 

“Really what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to not only give them a face but give them a voice that they no longer have,” said Livaudais.

When a profile of an unidentified person is complete, it is posted on the lab’s website. There, the public can sift through the pages of profiles, including online detectives like Forensic Psychologists and the Head of Case Research & Data for Uncovered Rachael Rosselet.

“Behind our website is also a community, a community of citizen detectives or online sleuths, who come together in an ethical way,” Rosselet said. “Cases come from all over… including family members or missing loved ones.” 

Uncovered is a group compiled of mostly volunteers that helps solve cold cases.  

“We have a dedicated space within our community which is just for looking at the information on LSU Faces or NamUs and then trying to make matches against profiles of missing persons,” Rosselet said.  

Listi explained that in the past internet sleuths have reached out to their lab with theories of what had happened to the body in their care.

“They’re looking for any possible matches and they spend a lot of time doing it and we are thankful when the matches work, but we get a lot of them that are false leads,” said Listi.

Despite the extra work that comes from bad intel, Listi said they would not turn away a lead.  

“Would we want it any other way, no, because you never know what lead is going to pan out, but we do get way more false leads than we do positive leads,” Listi said.  

At the end of the day, the mission is the same.   

“It’s bittersweet I guess is the best way of saying it because you know the family is going to be in some ways,” said Listi. “It’s going to bring a little bit of peace and comfort knowing what happened to their loved one, but it’s not the news that you want to hear.”

“To really be able to bring closure to families and identify and possibly forward criminal cases really is a big plus to me,” Livaudais said.

“We want to really give a face, and the name and the story back to these cold cases,” said Rosselet.