Since 2006, the University of South Florida has brought together FBI agents and students studying to become forensic investigators for a field training day.
In earlier versions, they’d meet on the Tampa campus or on the nearby grounds of MOSI and look at how the bodies of buried pigs decompose in Florida’s climate. But for the past few years, they’ve actually had a dedicated field – and real human bodies – to study.
If what he says is true, Samuel Little would be one of the worst serial killers in U-S history.
The 78-year-old claims that between 1970 and 2005, he murdered 90 people, mostly women, around the country. That includes some in Tampa, Plant City, and elsewhere around Florida.
Now investigators, including University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, are trying to determine the validity of Little’s claims, as well as the identities of some of his victims.
A "body farm" where researchers can study how corpses decompose will open next week in the Tampa Bay area with the burial of four donated bodies.
Officials from Pasco County and the University of South Florida attended a dedication ceremony Friday for the Adam Kennedy Forensics Field, a three and a half acre patch of land on the grounds of the Pasco Sheriff's detention facility in Land O' Lakes, just north of Tampa.
WUSF's Mark Schreiner reports on "Missing in Florida Day," which will take place Saturday, Dec. 3, at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
According to law enforcement figures, there are more than 3,200 missing persons reported in Florida and over 84,000 nationwide. But those numbers are likely low estimates because cases are either unreported, mishandled or mistakenly closed.
Now, University of South Florida forensic investigators are teaming up with law enforcement to raise awareness of missing and unidentified persons cases.
"Missing in Florida Day" is modeled after similar events held in other states that have led to positive identifications.
University Beat report on the USF "Art of Forensics" workshop.
Forensic artists at a recent workshop hosted by the University of South Florida wrapped up their week of work by presenting their creations - fourteen clay busts of unidentified victims in cold cases - to local law enforcement.
But in the middle of their presentation, a woman looking at one of the works at the rear of a downtown Tampa conference room broke down sobbing, sure that the face staring back at her was that of her sister, some thirty-eight years after she went missing.
The Tampa Bay History Center recently hosted a panel discussion on the now-closed Dozier School for Boys. The reform school in the Florida Panhandle has been known for decades for abuse, torture, and even murder.
This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 3 at 7:30 a.m.), we are bringing you highlights of the discussion moderated by Tampa attorney and History Center Trustee Bob Bolt.
The Florida Senate has passed a bill allowing the state to provide financial help to the families who want to rebury the remains of their loved ones, found on the Panhandle property of the former Dozier School for Boys. Its House counterpart is also heading to the floor.
Florida's Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was a horror tale come to life.
"There's just too many stories," Roger Kiser, who was at the school in the 1950s, told NPR in 2012. "I know of one [boy] that I personally saw die in the bathtub that had been beaten half to death. I thought he'd been mauled by the dogs because I thought he had ran. I never did find out the true story on that. There was the boy I saw who was dead who came out of the dryer. They put him in one of those large dryers."
ByJim Turner & Tom Urban - News Service of Florida•Sep 29, 2015
Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet began discussions Tuesday on the future of the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a former state-run reform school where children are alleged to have been abused and died.
However, no decisions were made as the state officials agreed to await a final report expected in January from University of South Florida researchers, who excavated the 1,400-acre site about 70 miles west of Tallahassee and continue to try identify remains.
In June of 2013, Robert Stephens of Tampa received a phone call from his sister. She told him that an uncle they had never met had died at the Dozier School for Boys in 1937 under mysterious circumstances.
She added that University of South Florida researchers wanted Stephens to submit a DNA sample to see if they could identify his 15-year-old uncle as one of the bodies believed to be buried in an unmarked graveyard on the now closed reform school’s grounds.
The University of South Florida's investigation of the Dozier School for Boys is reaching a critical point, but developments continue to give researchers greater insight into what happened at the troubled reform school.
The University of South Florida announced late Friday afternoon that the USF Forensic Anthropology Laboratory will find an alternate location to train students and law enforcement to process human remains in outdoor crime scenes.
The Facility for Outdoor Experimental Research and Training (FORT) program was proposed on Hillsborough County Sheriffs property in Lithia, but an outcry from residents about possible smells, groundwater contamination and property values prompted a change in plans.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and a University of South Florida anthropology professor are developing a forensic research site, where investigators could study how the humid climate and sandy soil affect human corpses, The Tampa Tribune reports.
UPDATE 3/18/15 10:45 a.m. Updated headline to indicate the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will conduct "an inquiry" and not "an investigation" into USF's findings.
In an email sent to WUSF 89.7 News Wednesday morning, FDLE Communications Director Gretl Plessinger said, "We are conducting a preliminary inquiry to assess any new information from the January USF report. If there is criminal predicate, we will open an investigation."
ORIGINAL POST 3/17/15 5 p.m. With a single sentence, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicated it will look into what investigators from the University of South Florida have turned up at the Dozier School for Boys in the Panhandle town of Marianna.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson has asked the Department of Justice - and not Florida law enforcement officials - to open an investigation into the Dozier School for Boys.
In 2009, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing at the now closed Marianna reform school, despite decades of allegations of abuse of students by school officials.
For years, claims of abuse, beatings, rapes and murder of students by staff have come from those who survived the Dozier School for Boys, the now-closed state-run reform school in the Florida Panhandle.
Many families are still wondering what happened to their loved ones, and some are getting answers as researchers from the University of South Florida identify remains that have been exhumed from the grounds of Dozier.
"They brought him here today to be with his brother."
Those were the words of Richard Varnadoe, 86, who was at last able to put his brother Thomas in his final resting place alongside a third sibling, Hubert, at a service at Hopewell Memorial Gardens in Plant City last week.
Hubert Varnadoe's son, Gene, told a small crowd of family and friends, including University of South Florida anthropologists, that it was fitting to place Thomas alongside Hubert for eternity.
WUSF's Mark Schreiner speaks with USF Assoc. Prof. of Anthropology Antoinette Jackson about Tuesday's conference marking the 100th anniversary of a fatal fire at the Florida Industrial School for Boys.
On November 18, 1914, a fire in a dormitory at what was then the Florida Industrial School for Boys is believed to have killed eight students and two staff members.