Students in the Forensic and Anthropology Research Center at Texas State University now have a new challenge.
1200 WOAI news reprots the bodies of illegal immigrants who are found dead in Brooks County, in south Texas, are now being shipped to Texas State's famous 'body farm,' where students work on the very difficult job of identifying the frequently decayed remains.
"Basically, we are processing the remains, doing analysis, and collecting DNA," says Daniel Westcott, who heads the lab.
The cost of processing the bodies of hundreds of illegals who are found dead in Brooks County each year has come close to bankrupting the county of 7,000 people. Brooke County officials tell 1200 WOAI news this was a way for the examinations to be done, without the cost being borne by the sparsely populated county.
Westcott says the work is perfect for his students, in one of the premier colleges in the country to train police crime scene investigators, whose job frequently requires an ability to identify bodies, and determine the time and the cause and manner of death.
"For every one of these individuals there are family members out there who don't know what happened to them, and want to know if they are still alive," he said.
Westcott stressed that the bodes are not treated like bodies which have been 'donated to science,' and he stressed that the bodies of the illegal immigrants are not used for some of the experiments done at the lab, where human bodies are exposed to the elements to investigate the process of decomposition.
"They're not like our donated bodies," he said. "We are not using them for research or anything, we are simply trying to identify them."
He says if a student can identify the bodies, which is frequently impossible due to the badly decomposed nature of the remains and poor records in Latin America, the lab notified officials in Brooks County, who then attempt to notify the person's relatives and return the remains to them.