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Details of surface recovery and mapping
Details of surface recovery and mapping at the Anthropology Research Facility on June 05, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges/University of Tennessee.

During the first two weeks of June, the UT’s Forensic Anthropology Center—which oversees the Body Farm—welcomed 48 law enforcement officers from all over the country to its Outdoor Recovery Course, a 40-hour training program for those involved in the recovery of human remains.

“During the class, participants learn the proper procedures for recovery of human remains in outdoor settings, which requires a different approach from recovering remains in an indoor crime scene,” said Dawnie Steadman, director of the FAC and UT professor of anthropology. ” They often realize the value of having an anthropologist with them on the scene.”

Throughout the week-long class, participants had the opportunity to learn about the role certain insects play in human decomposition, how to correctly map and recover remains from a surface and a burial site, basic principles of forensic odontology—applying dental science to the identification of remains—and how to best manage the recovery of remains from fire scenes.

“Many of our participants come from towns where the nearest forensic anthropologist is too far away or work for offices that cannot afford a full-time expert. Here they learn all they need to accurately recover remains while preserving evidence, a crucial part of any justice process,” said Giovanna Vidoli, assistant director of the Forensic Anthropology Center and coordinator of the summer professional courses.

A search for justice through forensic anthropology is precisely what motivated Manchester, New Hampshire, detective Lucas Hobbs to take part in this year’s summer cohort at the Body Farm, which is formally known as the Anthropology Research Facility. In 2018, Hobbs participated in the identification of Elizabeth Lamotte, who had gone missing in New Hampshire in 1984. Her remains were found in Tennessee in 1985 but were not identified as Lamotte until 2018.

Police believe that Lamotte, whose body was found just off Interstate 81 in Greene County, Tennessee, was a victim of serial killer Terry Rasmussen.

“Working on the cold-case team, I often find myself taking part in human remains recovery missions. It was during one of these cases that I first heard of the Body Farm from an FBI colleague, so I am very excited to be here today,” Hobbs said. “It’s a very surreal opportunity. The things I am learning here will help me do a better job to keep my community safe.”

A list of the FAC’s short courses can be found online. To be considered for admission, participants must be employed as medical examiners, death investigators, law enforcement officers, or other related occupations.

Media coverage: WBIR, June 19

CONTACT:

Andrea Schneibel (865-974-3993, andrea.schneibel@utk.edu)