CMU Forensic Investigation Research Station in the works
By Kathleen Goddeyne -
Colorado Mesa University (CMU) will continue work on the Forensic Investigation Research Station (FIRS) located southwest of the intersection of U.S. Highway 50 and 32 Road.
The project originated with former Mesa State College criminal justice instructor Michael Bozeman. In summer 2010, Bozeman left MSC for a position at the University of Texas at Austin. Although the project’s progress slowed, it did not stop.
Melissa Connor, the director of FIRS, is a new addition to the CMU staff. Connor earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Only five other facilities of this kind exist. Sam Houston State University, Texas State University, Western Carolina University, and University of Tennessee at Knoxville also have decomposition facilities.
“This will be the fifth facility of this kind in the world,” said Dana Nunn, Director of Media Relations for CMU. “It will be the first that is at a high elevation in an arid climate. The others are all more low lying and in much more humid areas of the country.”
The 35-acre parcel of land will have a portion set aside for the decomposition facility along with a classroom building with a lab.
“The portion for the decomposition facility consists of an outdoor fenced area where we can allow specimen to decompose,” Connor said.
This will be beneficial for real law enforcement by showing patterns of decomposition. Professionals will be able to reconstruct what happened to a body between the time of death and the time the body is recovered.
“These facilities seriously help with investigation into what happened to missing people that are found. It helps with how to identify remains and how we can figure out what happened to them,” Connor said. “For people intimately involved in those cases, having the knowledge for that is incredible for both closure for family members and to help put the bad guy away.”
Small groups of upper level students will conduct the research with help from professors like Connor.
All bodies that go into the FIRS are donated. Eventually, the college will develop a program in which people can sign up to donate their body.
“We’ve got a series of protocols we need to write out,” Connor said. “We need to be very specific on how the remains will be handled.”
Once the step-by-step protocol has been set, animal surrogates will be run through the process to check for flaws.
“The important thing is to make sure we are putting all the steps in place to do this correctly,” Connor said.