Action News 5 Investigates: Body Farm - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Janice Broach

Action News 5 Investigates: Body Farm

At first glance, it looks like an idyllic spot, full of lush trees, located just 30 miles from the scenic Smokey Mountains.

But a closer look reveals something very different...as a foul odor wafts through the crisp air, they are easy to see...rotting human bodies.

It is a kind of horror show: the Body Farm in Knoxville.  It is part of the forensic anthropology facility at the University of Tennessee, a place where more than 130 bodies lie in some form of putrefaction.

"We get calls all the time asking how much is their body worth to us," said UT's Rebecca Wilson.

The Body Farm does not pay, but that is okay with DeSoto County resident Diane Turner, who plans on donating her body to the farm.

"I thought that's the coolest thing in the world," she said. "If I donated organs, I could only help five or six people. If I donated my body to the Body Farm and one forensic scientist learns something from my body, think of how many people that could serve."

Since 1981, the research facility has studied hundreds of bodies, many covered in plastic when they are not being studied, to find out what happens after death  It is information invaluable to medical examiners and police departments trying to solve crimes...
 
Some corpses are placed in buildings.  Others are stuffed in car trunks for study.  Some body parts are placed in containers filled with water to determine the effects.

Wilson says maggot activity can even move clothing on a corpse.  "It makes it look like clothes have been shifted unnaturally, even though it was a natural movement.

A motion sensitive infrared camera captures nature as it works.  For instance, a camera that captures animal activity showed that squirrels only like to eat dry bones.  If squirrel activity is detected around a body, researchers know it has been there for nine months to a year.

It's information that can help determine time of death.

Before the body farm, according to researchers, there was no real scientific information about what happened to a body, including what happens to buried bodies as they decompose.  At the body farm, there are 30 bodies buried in shallow graves at the depth a murderer might dig to hide his or her deadly deed.

The Body Farm might not seem like a place most people would want to end up, but for Turner, it is a dream come true...just not any time soon.

"I'm hoping my family honors my wishes," she said.

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