FVTC plans body farm

Police tape
File photo (MGN Online/Critical Incident Response)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – A northeastern Wisconsin technical college plans to set up a so-called body farm to help forensic researchers study cold-weather decomposition, sparking questions from neighbors about flies, smells and plummeting property values.

Post-Crescent Media reported on Sunday that Fox Valley Technical College’s farm will be an outdoor research facility where forensic scientists will place animal carcasses and donated human corpses in multiple settings – in the open air, in shallow graves or in sleeping bags – to study how the bodies deteriorate and how scavengers pick them apart.

Joe LeFevre is chairman of FVTC’s Forensic Science Department. He says researchers might conduct experiments on how subzero temperatures mummify body tissue, whether insects inside the body can tolerate freezing and whether scavengers lose interest in frozen bodies.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions as to what happens to (bodies) after death,” he said.

Similar farms already operate in Colorado, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, according to Post-Crescent Media.

FVTC’s two-acre facility, set to open in mid-2015, will be located at the south end of the Outagamie County Airport in Greenville near a “clandestine grave site” area. Instructors will use animal carcasses and cadavers in that area to train forensic scientists, police officers and police dogs to locate buried remains.

The farm and the grave site will be part of FVTC’s $34.8 million Public Safety Training Center. Voters approved building the center in April 2012 as part of a $66.5 million referendum.

Tina LeFebre lives near the airport and told Post-Crescent Media she’s worried about excessive flies and the stench of rotting corpses. She doubts most of her neighbors knew about plans for the facility. Post-Crescent Media reported the body farm and grave site weren’t publicized as part of the referendum.

“Is it going to smell when the wind blows our way?” LeFebre said. “What about if somebody wants to sell their house and potential buyers find out about that? Wouldn’t they go, ‘Eww’?”

FVTC’s LeFevre said the site isn’t readily accessible, a 10-foot high fence topped with barbed wire will keep thieves and gawkers out and people won’t smell the bodies. He stressed the farm will help investigators from around the country hone their forensic skills.

“We’d be bringing their expertise up to the next level,” LeFevre said, “Right now, we’re just teaching them the theoretical and showing them some photos from a crime scene. With this, we can show them a real decomposing body.”

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