New ‘body farm’ to help solve murders


A new forensic anthropology research center, also known as a “body farm,” will open just 30 minutes north of USF.

Currently, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) is waiting on a decision from Florida lawmakers whether the body farm will receive the $4.3 million in state funding that it requested. Once a decision is made, the office will be able to create a timeline for construction and completion.

The official name of the facility will be the Florida Forensic Institute for Research, Security and Tactical Training (FIRST). It will be located in Land O’ Lakes near the Pasco County Jail.

It will be only the seventh in the United States and the ninth in the world. Two are in Texas and there is one each in North Carolina, Illinois, Tennessee and Colorado. Internationally, one body farm is in Australia, and the Netherlands is currently planning the country’s first.

The goal of such research facilities is to examine how bodies decompose in different environments in order to help solve murders. They use real human bodies that have been donated to the research. With the facility’s closeness to campus, USF researchers and students will be able to study the bodies.

Chase Daniels, the assistant executive director for the PCSO, said the body farm will be vital for helping deputies understand the way bodies decompose in the Florida climate.

“We plan to bring in law enforcements from across the state and allow them to train at this facility, to learn techniques, better techniques,” he said.”The purpose of the body farm is understanding what happens to a body, what the body looks like and be able to train officers.”

Daniels said the Florida climate is an important aspect to consider in the location of this new facility.

“The conditions and what happens to bodies with a lot of humidity, proximity to water, our limestone, it’s tough to replicate Florida anywhere else,” he said. “So it made sense to us to be able to have one of these in Florida.”

Daniels added the climate here is similar to Louisiana, southern Mississippi and Alabama and researchers from those states will also be able to study forensics here.

Those interested in donating to the facility can either do so while they are living, or loved ones can do it for family members after they pass.

Erin Kimmerle, forensic anthropologist at USF and the head of the Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Sciences, said in an interviews with Forbes that ultimately, “the result of this program is that our community, state and the victims of some of the most tragic crimes benefit enormously.”

Daniels echoed her statement.

“We can bring closure to families who may have been wondering for years what happened to their loved one or where their loved one is,” he said. “So that’s kind of the positive of this: it improves those techniques and improves our ability, we are hopeful, to solve crimes.”