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Texas State announces plans for forensics research facility

Date of Release: 12/04/2006

SAN MARCOS — Texas State University-San Marcos officials say a forensics research facility currently under consideration within the Texas State Department of Anthropology could soon help law enforcement officials solve crimes.

Researchers at the proposed post-mortem forensic research facility would gather data and train law enforcement officers in the areas of time of death, manner of death and victim identification in instances of crime, natural disaster, accidental death or terrorism.

The primary purpose of the lab is for work on research problems related to outdoor crime scenes and decomposition rates for human remains under various topographical and climate conditions. The university is considering several sites for the laboratory, but no final site selection has yet been made.

University officials have met with elected officials from the City of San Marcos and Hays County regarding several possible locations for the lab.

"While we are committed to opening a forensics research facility, we have not yet chosen the site," said Perry Moore, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Texas State. "We see this laboratory as a keystone in our effort to create a doctoral program in forensic anthropology at Texas State."

Jerry Melbye, professor of anthropology at Texas State and a diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology, said the proposal has received support from all levels of police agencies in Texas, the FBI and professional forensic scientists around the world. If it is built, it will be only the third such laboratory in the United States.

Melbye said that whatever site may eventually be chosen for the lab, "It will be isolated and not visible from any residence or county road. It will consist of a plot of approximately six acres, surrounded by a 12-foot high security fence with electronic surveillance, and it will be secure from scavenging animals and vultures."

Melbye said that, typically, one or two cadavers would be used in an open-air environment at any given time. He stressed that the laboratory would be a controlled scientific research facility that would use only the remains of people who have donated their bodies for this purpose.

"The facility poses no health risk and will not accept the donations of individuals who have died from infectious diseases," he said.