Fake 'Body Farm' Gives Students Real Forensics Training

Texas St. University Develops New Forensics Training Program

SAN ANTONIO - Over a dozen bodies decomposing in the South Texas sun. It sounds horrific, but it's just a big science project at Texas State University.

The research facility is known as the "Body Farm."

"This kind of work is in its infancy," said Danny Wescott, who runs the forensic anthropology center.

The mission is to figure out information about those who can no longer tell it.

For years that hasn't been easy and no uniform method for determining a body's age existed.

"The age you get from one part of the skeleton might be a little different than you would get from another part of the skeleton," Wescott said.

But Wescott and a few others have developed a new program. One that takes multiple factors and rolls them into one, giving a more precise profile.

The tighter age range will help law enforcement. "If you can narrow this down a lot, it helps police in their search," Westcott said.

And when the info gets to authorities, it helps juries as well. More concise data leads to stronger cases, helping put criminals behind bars.

A new grant from the National Institutes of Justice should get the newer, stronger program up and running in a few years.

But for now, the center is at the forefront of some important research.

"This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for students. There are very few facilities like this around," said graduate student Lauren Springs.


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