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Novelist Patricia Cornwell has announced a new commitment of $20,000 to a University of Tennessee scholarship fund.

Cornwell, author of “The Body Farm” and other novels, made the unexpected announcement during a speech at UT’s National Forensics Academy Alumni Retraining Seminar.

“The announcement caught us by surprise,” Mike Sullivan, executive director of UT’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center, said. “But we’re excited about her decision to continue supporting the academy.”

Alumni from as far away as California attended the event at the Knoxville Convention Center.

Cornwell established the scholarship fund in October 2002, Sullivan said, to help law enforcement officers from departments with limited training budgets attend the NFA’s 10-week training program for crime scene investigators.

Police departments in Gary, Ind., Frederick, Md., and Duluth, Minn. are among the agencies that have received scholarships. The NFA began the training sessions in September 2001.