The hot, damp earth of Florida will soon welcome some very quiet visitors, as the state has announced the opening of a new outdoor forensic research facility (colloquially known as a “body farm”) outside of Tampa.
Body farms are vital to our understanding of how bodies decay, which, in turn, is essential to solving crimes and bringing violent criminals to justice. The Florida Forensic Institute for Research, Security and Tactical Training (FIRST) will be just the seventh body farm in the U.S. The other six—one each in Colorado, Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee, and two in Texas—are situated in a wide range of climate conditions, but none that can replicate Florida’s marshy, wet heat.
The body farm will make up just one part of the FIRST facility, which will also house a training ground for K9 officers and ballistics and remote sensing laboratories, plus a range of facilities for 3D printing, virtual autopsies, and an assortment of forensic research and training.
Pasco County sheriff Chris Nocco said the site could help provide closure to some of the state’s nearly 16,000 cold cases, while creating jobs and boosting the local economy. Speaking at a press conference, Nocco said he envisioned Pasco County becoming “the Silicon Valley of forensics.”
Erin Kimmerle, who heads the Institute of Forensic Anthropology and Applied Sciences at the University of South Florida, said she and her team are thrilled about the new facility’s potential. "This program is essential for bringing much-needed research, technology, and forensic training to our area," she told Forbes' Kristina Killgrove (who is also a mental_floss contributor).
More importantly, Kimmerle said, "the result of this program is that our community, state, and the victims of some of the most tragic crimes benefit enormously."