When a child goes missing without a trace, the first 24 hours after disappearance can make the difference between finding the person dead or alive. Nevertheless, even after lengthy time periods, children do get located and recovered. In that scenario, the reliability of age progression can be crucial. Age progression is a computer-rendered image that shows what a child might look like now.
In the old days, artists made drawings which were used. At the moment, digital image processing is used with the help of artists. A photo of the missing child and their biological parents give strong clues about what the person might look like years later. For example, people's faces and noses lengthen as they get older. With computers getting faster and mathematical algorithms better, automated age-progression software is the future. But we're not quite there yet.
Here are some of the cases where missing people were found after a great period of time. Here it is possible to compare age progression's reliability.
Jaycee Dugard was kidnapped in 1991 by a sick man named Phillip Garrido, who kept her captive and raped her for 18 years. Jaycee was 11 years old at the time and was abducted from a street while walking from home to a school bus stop. Searches began immediately but with no reliable leads the case went cold. She remained missing for more than 18 years. Besides the hair color, the age progression photo is fairly accurate, considering the time gap was 18 years. Also, it is difficult or nearly impossible to predict how a person's facial features will develop under extreme stress or in captivity.
Joseph Carson was abducted by his non-custodial dad when he was 3 years old. Missing for five years, a customer at an auto parts store saw a poster of the age progressed child, strikingly similar to a kid who just happened to be in the store at that exact time. The image on the right shows Joseph when he was recovered at age 9. The similarity is remarkable. It is probable that his father had a similar chin structure.
Aric Austin was abducted from his mother by his biological father when he was just six weeks old. A government agent contacted Aric 22 years later while investigating a fraud case involving student loans and a forged birth certificate. Sensing something suspicious, she searched through the Missing Kids database and recognized Aric from one the age-progressed photos. He was reunited with his mother 22 years after he had gone missing. The haircut is always hit and miss. The progression was made from a photo taken at just 6 weeks-old, which makes the outcome incredible.
Sara Brin was abducted in France by her biological father Marc Habib Eghbal, who attacked his wife and fled the scene with a screaming Sara. Three years later, police were suspicious of a speeding black Pontiac in Canada when they spotted a girl in the back not wearing a seat-belt. The patrol officers called in the license plate and learned of a warrant. While the age progression photo didn't play a role in the case, the photo did capture Sara's essence really well.