JSCC graduate finds niche with criminal justice and art

Lindsay Kilburn, who graduated Jackson State with a criminal justice degree in 2014, said she loves her job at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office where she’s the area’s only composite artist.

“It’s very, very rewarding,” she said. “I love that it’s very unique. I love being able to help law enforcement by using art. It’s very cool to do. There aren’t a lot of composite artists out there, and I love being able to help with a tool that helps lead to an arrest.”

She graduated from the University of Tennessee at Martin with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in art in 2016. Then she was hired by the sheriff’s office in 2017.

Her main role is as an assistant with Crime Stoppers. She relays anonymous information to investigators, and she helps create awareness and raise funds – the program pays up to $1,000 for tips leading to an arrest.

Her superiors supported her as she completed 160 hours of training and earned her certification as a composite artist in April 2018. She is also certified in facial reconstruction and unknown remains.

As a composite artist, she works with witnesses to develop an image of a suspect, which includes image modification from surveillance videos, age progression, and sketches. The process takes two and a half to three hours.

She begins by asking a witness to walk her through what happened, and she develops a rough sketch. Then she introduces reference photos – sheets with different eyes, noses and facial features – as she fine-tunes the artwork.

“I keep working on it and working on it until they say, ‘that’s the guy,'” Kilburn said.

And because she’s the only composite artist around, she lends her talents to other law enforcement agencies on the hunt for suspects. “If they request it and if they need it, it’s a really useful tool.”

For Kilburn, it all began at Jackson State. Her professors, she said, were passionate about her future and helped motivate her to go for her bachelor’s degree.

“Everyone was extremely helpful in guiding me and directing me and helping me create a passion for the criminal justice field,” she said. “I really loved that the professors were always available to answer my questions. They made themselves very available and very accessible and helped steer me to UT Martin. It really helped me get prepared.”

It was a springboard to earning a four-year degree and provided the foundation for her rewarding career in law enforcement. “I truly enjoy getting up and going to work every day.”