The Body Farm

Forensic specialist Amryn Cross is here for her monthly post on that elusive Body Farm.

Welcome back, Amryn!


Today I’m answering a question from an author who wished to remain anonymous.
I’d like to for my character to visit the Body Farm as part of their investigation. What is it really like?
First, let me preface this by saying that I haven’t actually been inside the Body Farm (technically known as The Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee), but I can offer some insight on the facility. There are several good websites (http://fac.utk.edu/) and even a documentary out there, so I won’t try to cover the topic extensively. 
The Body Farm is a little over 1 acre situated behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center. The collection of skeletons (nearly 1000) is one of the largest in the world, and is housed under Neyland Stadium and in the Forensic Center below UT hospital. Once the bodies placed on the Body Farm are skeletonized and have reached the extent of their usefulness, many of them are transferred to the collection for further study.
When your character approaches the Body Farm, they’ll notice it’s located in the back of the UT hospital employee parking lot. It’s surrounded by wooden and chain length fences with barbed wire around the top. The area beyond this is hilly and covered with trees. 
Beyond this point, human bodies in various stages of decomposition are placed around the campus. Some exposed to the elements, others inside a car or concrete structure. Few are buried at various depths. All this is to allow the staff to study and measure the markers of decomposition. During the summer, the smell of death is ripe, even outside the fence. I had the dubious honor of parking in front of the Body Farm during my year of clinicals at UT hospital. Definitely an interesting experience.
The Body Farm is also used to educate law enforcement personnel as it is an integral part of the National Forensics Academy. The NFA hosts law enforcement agencies from all over the country to teach them proper techniques in forensic death investigation. This includes a crime scene with an actual body donated to the facility.
Though the facility at UT was the first of its kind, there are now four facilities in the US—University of Tennessee, Western Carolina University, Texas State University, and Sam Houston State University.
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Amryn Cross is a full-time forensic scientist and author of romantic suspense novels. Her first novel, Learning to Die, will be released in September. In her spare time, she enjoys college football, reading, watching movies, and researching her next novel. You can connect with Amryn via her website, Twitter and Facebook.

 

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