Have you ever been curious about the science used in the police procedural dramas on television and how accurate they are? Perhaps how they know precisely how a dead body decomposes or how blood splatters on a wall?
As gruesome as it may sound, it turns out that in the real world of forensic investigation, they actually practice these things all the time, even when there is no murder to investigate. There is a ranch in Texas that helps criminal investigators and scientists answer such questions, and prepares them for fighting real life crime.
At the Freeman Ranch is part of the Forensic Anthropology Center at Texas State University. This ranch does not herd cattle or sheep, nor does it teach the latest in hydroponic crop farming. Instead, they are engaged in a far more macabre study: how to analyze crime scenes.
This grisly program is designed to teach medical examiners, forensic pathologists, and other law enforcement personnel how to locate the victims of violent crimes, and how to study the scenes effectively, so that they can give voice to the dead in criminal cases.
The ranch receives the bodies of willing donors from all over the nation, and then plant them in various states of decomposition around the ranch’s twenty six acre campus.
This allows students to learn how the crime scene can be read and how to use seemingly unimportant details to learn about the various aspects of the crime.
Understanding how various insects and wildlife as well as plants and the weather both react and reflect a crime scene can help investigators determine all sorts of important information such as time of death, location of the murder as opposed to location of the body when found, and other critical details.
All of this information can then be used to fill in the blanks of a murder case, helping the criminal justice system find and prosecute the correct person for a crime.
The ranch also helps students learn how to perform rescue and recovery searches, as many people who die under suspicious circumstances may have simply wandered into unfamiliar areas and fallen victim to fate.
Students learn the basic, on the ground techniques for locating bodies, but they are also keeping up with technology. Today, they incorporate drones with infrared and other sensing devices to find bodies that are buried deep underground. Bodies that may have been lost forever only a decade ago.
Becoming a crime scene investigator is a lot of work and requires exceptional science and math skills, but it can be a very rewarding occupation, and one that is projected to grow s much as 25 percent between now and 2025, according to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. And beyond that, the field actually pays pretty well, where entry level salaries start around $35,000 and at the upper end can yield six figures.
Perhaps, when you pass away, you might consider leaving your body to science. It may just help find and capture the next “Hannibal Lector.”