The words “body farm” may sound more like the title to a Halloween horror movie than a cutting-edge forensic technologies lab, but experts predict this first-in-Florida site will play an integral part in the future of crime solving.
Each year, about 400 unsolved murders, rapes and missing person(s) cases linger in Florida alone. Those hundreds are added to the stockpile of 4,000 categorized as cold cases. Officials hope the newest addition to crime-fighting research will help reduce those numbers.
On a rural patch of Pasco County-owned property near the jail in Land O’ Lakes, lies a rare scientific research lab known as a body farm. Homicide investigators say the farm was designed specifically for cracking Florida-based crimes.
The body farm will aid law enforcement’s knowledge about human decomposition by placing real human remains in the unique Florida elements and studying how the specific environment impacts human tissue and remains.
The specimens on the farm are acquired from deceased individuals who have donated their bodies to science. The cadavers are respectfully handled and thoughtfully utilized in order to gain the very most benefit for the future of science, technology, and crime solving.
A small number of body farms (7 at time of publishing) are currently used for research, but this Florida facility is the first in the world to provide data from a tropical type of climate.
Scientists from the University of South Florida study the data from the new facility to learn how human bodies decompose when exposed to different tropical and sub-tropical scenarios such as swamps, beaches, oceans and grasslands. Dr. Erin Kimmerle of USF runs the anthropology center. The world-renowned scientist has studied human remains and decomposition in Kosovo and Bosnia.
Sheriff Chris Nocco hopes to secure state funding for the additional of forensics and tactical training centers, making the area of Land O’ Lakes a prototype for forensics training.