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Pasco County terminates USF's lease on Land O' Lakes 'body farm'

Posted at 6:36 PM, May 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 18:36:43-04

F.O.R.T. is the only forensic facility of its kind in Florida.

The so-called “body farm” is located in Land O’Lakes where researchers study decomposition to better solve homicides.

Pasco County Commissioners voted to terminate USF’s lease on Tuesday.

“It’s very frustrating to sort of have the rug pulled out from underneath us,” said USF Graduate Research Assistant Kristen Verostick.

Pasco's "body farm" ready to expand with research complex

USF launched F.O.R.T. two years ago in Land O’Lakes. F.O.R.T. stands for “Forensic Outdoor Research and Training.”

“It helps to unite lost loved ones with their families. It brings closure to families. I’ve always felt that life’s a story and we’re hoping conclude that final chapter to that story,” said USF Graduate Student Chris Turner.

Pasco County Commissioners canceled an exclusive, long term agreement with the University of South Florida.

“Losing that facility is going to destroy all that research,” said Turner.

The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office says it's shifting gears putting Florida Gulf Coast University’s Dr. Walsh Haney in charge of a new forensics field on the same property.

“This was the best way to move forward. We still welcome our partnership with USF,” said Daniels.

USF sent a letter today to Pasco County Commissioners asking them to “reconsider,” noting it has $800,000 in pending federal grants at stake as well as two years of academic investment to lose.

“Especially when we’ve invested so much time, so many funds, so much effort and have already collaborated with other universities,” said USF Biological Anthropology Liotta Noche-Dowdy.

USF’s anthropology department says it also has 150 more people who pledged their bodies to research at F.O.R.T..