World-renowned Body Farm provides valuable training ground

On Wednesday, WBIR got a rare chance to see the inner workings of UT's famous Body Farm. June 10, 2015

(WBIR-Knoxville) - It's crucial for detectives and investigators to know the right steps when at a crime scene.

The Forensic Anthropology Center at the University of Tennessee offers that opportunity.

"You see stuff here you're not going to get to see anywhere else, get to do stuff here I doubt you'll get to do anywhere else," said Detective Brian Stafford of Montgomery County, Md.

He's one of 24 law enforcement officials participating in a recovery class. Investigators from across the country came to Knoxville this week, to learn at the world-renowned Body Farm.

"You see things here you could go a whole career and never see," said Stafford, "But if it does pop up, then you've already seen it before. So that's really valuable."

Digging up old bones and identifying remains were all part of the outdoor recovery class for law enforcement. For Stafford, learning how to keep a crime scene intact was key.

"You only do this once. As soon as you start digging, as soon as you start trying to recover something , you've altered the crime scene," Stafford said.

More: Your Stories: Dr Bill Bass

Related: Truth or Tall Tale: Bodies at Neyland Stadium?

The body farm's humble beginnings started 44 years ago, when anthropologist Dr. Bill Bass came to UT in 1971.

"It was a need-to-know basis, I needed a place to put dead bodies," said Bass.

Over the years, he's dedicated his career to crime scene investigation research. One acre has grown to 3 where 150 bodies can be found in different stages of decomposition. The excavation site continues to educate students and law enforcement.

"To get out there and feel a bone," said Bass, "smell the decaying body is a much better teaching tool."

Bass just released a new book, The Breaking Point, one of 11 he's been a part of.

All of the bodies at the Forensic Anthropology Center are donations. People can donate their bodies to science when they die. Researchers say this is so popular that they have a pre-donor program, where 3,500 people are currently signed up.


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