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1998 Dec. 1 Hattiesburg; Hattiesburg
Topic Started: Jan 2 2009, 03:32 PM (3,380 Views)
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Hattiesburg Police Dept
Mississippi Chief Medical Examiner

Agency Case Number: 98079680

NCIC Number: U-178985821

Unidentified White Male

The victim was discovered alive on December 1, 1998 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Estimated Date of Death: May 1, 2002
Cause of Death: Complications from a hit and run accident.
Est. Age:22-28 Yrs Old
Height: 6'2"
Weight 170 Lbs.
Dentals: Available
Fingerprints: Available
DNA: Available
Other: Blood type B-
Hair:Red hair with red beard and mustache
Eyes:hazel eyes
Had freckles. He had no tattoos , scars or identifying marks on his body.
The victim was struck by a drunk driver while hitchhiking on I-59 just north of Hwy 49 on the ramp to I-59 northbound in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on December 1, 1998.
The driver left the scene and was later apprehended.
Victim told responding paramedics that he was Steve Hex (Hicks) and that he was from West Virginia, prior to losing consciousness.

He was sent to Hotel Reed( an old folks home) in Bay St. Louis , Ms. for recovery.
He later passed away in May of 2002 from complications that were the result of the hit and run accident.

Sources: Doenetwork, Hattiesburg P.D. ,NCMA, AMER Ambulance drivers.
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Before his Beard and Mustache were shaved
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while in recovery
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LAKEPORT, Calif. – The effort to solve the city of Lakeport's only missing person's case took a new turn this week, when the Lakeport Police Department released newly completed age progression images of a young Lakeport man who disappeared 20 years ago.

On Thursday, Lakeport Police Chief Brad Rasmussen released the sketches of Lakeport resident Steven William Branston, created by internationally acclaimed Canadian forensic artist Diana Trepkov.

Branston was 20 years old when he left his family's Lakeport home in August 1996 bound for Hawaii. He was last seen that same month in the Honolulu area.

In the years since, his family has made repeated trips to Hawaii to search for him, while Lakeport Police and law enforcement in Hawaii have carried out their own investigations.

This summer, Rasmussen said his agency received two possible leads about unidentified deceased men from other states – Washington and MISSISSIPPI – that had raised the possibility that Branston had been found. However, through fingerprints and DNA, both individuals were ruled out as being Branston.

As part of that followup investigative work, the Lakeport Police Department worked with Branston's family to create a DNA profile which has now been entered into state and national missing persons databases, Rasmussen said.

With the advent of the Internet and social media, which have developed significantly in the two decades since Branston's disappearance, Rasmussen and his staff decided to begin a renewed effort to find Branston or determine what happened to him, as Lake County News has reported:http://bit.ly/2bMAADe .

As part of that effort, this month Rasmussen hired Trepkov, owner of Forensics by Diana,http://www.forensicsbydiana.com/ , to complete two hand-drawn age progression images of Branston.

Rasmussen said the two images were based off two different known photographs of Branston when he was approximately 20 years old and intended to show what he may look like today at age 40.

He said it's hoped that the new age progressed images will assist in generating leads to determine the whereabouts of Branston.

Difficult but rewarding work

Trepkov said this is her 199th case. She's been involved in law enforcement cold cases throughout Canada and the United States and is experienced in numerous areas of forensic art including composite drawings/police sketches, postmortem reconstruction, surveillance video sketching, facial reconstruction of the skull, historical facial reconstruction and age progressions.

She's also been a speaker at law enforcement conferences in both Canada and the United States, is an advocate for the homeless, missing persons and children and is the author of four books including “Faceless, Voiceless – From Search to Closure, A Forensic Artist’s Inspirational Approach to the Missing and Unidentified.”

Trepkov told Lake County News that she began working as a clerk in a regional police department in Canada in order to get her foot in the door as a forensic artist.

Eventually, she would get her first case from Los Angeles, where she did a postmortem drawing of an individual to help show what they would have looked like while they were alive.

She's also worked on a 170-year-old cold case involving the lost expedition of British Capt. Sir John Franklin, who led a voyage beginning in 1845 with the ships HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, seeking to navigate a northwest passage through the Arctic.

Franklin – who had been on three previous Arctic explorations – and his 128 men all were lost after abandoning the ships, which had become icebound. In 2014 the Erebus was found off the Canadian coast near King William Island. Then earlier this month, officials announced that the wreck of the Terror was found south of King William Island in Terror Bay.

In 1993, two expedition members' skulls were found. Last year, Trepkov did a facial reconstruction to help identify them.

She said she picked her career because, “It's helping people.”

At right, a second photo of Steven Branston at about age 20 and an age progression sketch by forensic artist Diana Trepkov, showing how she believes he would look today.

Trepkov said she begins her work on cases by researching them to understand them. “You mentally prepare for it.”

Age progression cases like Branstons are her specialty, she said.

In the case of Branston, she imagined him living in Hawaii, and took into account his personal issues, including the mental illness that his family said he had and which appeared to have been a motivating factor for his leaving home.

Trepkov said the eyes are the mirror to the soul, so she places special focus on them. “The eyes will always remain the eyes,” she said. “Our eyes have followed us through our whole life.”

The eyes – along with facial proportion – also is a key to identifying people, she said.

She took the shape of Branston's face and added the effects of time, sun and gravity. She added lines around the eyes, made his nose slightly bigger and added slight droop to his ears. In one sketch, his hair appears slightly lighter, and she tried to show the texture of his hair as it would be from the warm, humid conditions in Hawaii.

Trepkov also made sure to focus and stay true to other features, like his teeth, which are important to facial structure.

She said she also imagined him dealing with his mental illness, which is an important aspect of his story. Trepkov said she thinks he is scared and paranoid, and not wanting to be found. Because of his illness, she added, it's important that he be found and get the treatment he needs.

The two age progression sketches of Branston took Trepkov about two weeks to complete.

She said it was important to her how Branston's parents felt about the sketches. “I heard they were happy with them,” she said. “It's still their Steven but the older version of him.”

Trepkov acknowledged that her career is both tough and sad, and that “you never really rest inside.”

“It weighs on your heart,” she said, adding that after doing so many cases, “there's a lot of nights you don't sleep.”

She said she knows her work has helped identify people in cases, but so far her work hasn't led to anyone being found alive.

Trepkov is hoping Branston's case will change that. “My biggest goal is to find someone alive so I could see the happy ending, so the person does come home to the family.”

Her gut feeling on Branston: “I feel he's alive out there. I don't know. It might be wishful thinking.” She hopes her work will help bring him home, to his family.

Trepkov said teamwork in solving such cases “is everything.” Everyone – family, authorities, people on social media and in the community who are interested in his case – are all part of that team. She recognized how important social media has become in sharing such cases, and making it easier than ever to do so.

For his part, Rasmussen is doing his best to get the information about Branston and the new images out into the local community, to Hawaii and across the world wide Web.

He said he's getting assistance from groups that specialize in missing person's cases – providing advocacy services, support and sharing of information – including the National Missing Persons Foundation, the AWARE Foundation Inc., Nor-Cal Alliance for the Missing and the Missing Pieces Network.

Those groups had asked for updated age progression images of Branston to help in their followup, Rasmussen said.

How you can help

Branston is described as a white male, 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, with blue eyes and brown hair.

Authorities ask that anyone with information about Branston contact Lakeport Police Det. Dale Stoebe or any other officer at 707-263-5491, send them a private message on the department's Facebook page @LakeportPolice or by sending an anonymous message through Nixle on your cellular telephone by texting the words TIP LAKEPORT followed by your message to 888777.

Anyone with information in Hawaii can call the Honolulu Police Department at 808-529-3111.

For more information on this case visit the Lakeport Police Department's Web site's “Missing Persons – Unsolved” page athttp://cityoflakeport.com/departments/page...eptID=76&id=222 .

Photo of Steven Branston
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