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OSBI’s Forensic Artist To Retire After 50 Years Of Solving OK Crimes

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The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation works some of the state's most horrific cases. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation works some of the state's most horrific cases.
OKLAHOMA CITY -

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation works some of the state's most horrific cases. For the past 50 years, they used an artistic approach to help solve them.

“I probably would have never done another drawing if I’d failed,” said Harvey Pratt, a forensic artist with OSBI.

Native American artist Harvey Pratt sketched his first witness description when he was a Midwest City patrol officer back in the 1960s.

“We caught him,” he said.

That was the beginning of a long career as a police forensic artist. He moved over to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation in 1972, first as a narcotics investigator before becoming a full-time forensic artist.

“Being inquisitive and being creative I think helped me a great deal in law enforcement,” he said.

Being creative is Pratt’s first love. Inside his home in Guthrie, it feels more like walking into a Native American museum.

“I like to create being able to create and depict scenes and depict history,” he said.

He’s a self-taught painter and sculptor and has spent a lifetime filling his home with his masterpieces. However, his art has also served as a great escape.

“It's calming” he said. “I can get into something and just immerse myself into that and forget about dead bodies and forget about crimes.”

When he's not home painting his spiritual and untroubled scenes, he sketches witness descriptions.

“I deal in a violent world,” he said.

Inside his office at OSBI headquarters in Oklahoma City, his artwork isn't so calming.

“It is hard to visit with victims that have been brutalized, tortured and hurt; you have to talk to them very carefully,” Pratt said. “You have to be analytical so you don't fall apart.”

During his career, Harvey has done 4,000 witness sketches, 2,000 soft tissue and cranial facial reconstructions and about 200 age progressions.

“You describe something to me and I see it in my brain, I see it in my mind,” he said. “I've gotten to help a lot of people, help them recover.”

Some of his top Oklahoma cases include the State Fair disappearance of two girls, the Sirloin Stockade murders and the Girl Scout camp murders, but for Harvey, there are no top cases.

“To me they're all important, they all carry a great deal of satisfaction for me,” Pratt said.

Now, after 50 years, Harvey plans to retire, but pieces of him will remain on the walls at OSBI headquarters where he painted a mural depicting most of the agency’s employees and the cases they’ve investigated.

“To me, it's a gift that God gave me and God gives us all gifts, it's up to you to recognize your gift,” he said.

Harvey will officially retire in February but said he'll never retire from art and plans to continue painting and sculpting. He also plans to work part-time from home to help solve missing and unidentified persons cases. 

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