University of Indianapolis forensics team takes on Texas challenge
Brooks County, Texas is running out of room to bury the number of unidentified immigrants it discovers every year. It is asking for help and the University of Indianapolis is answering that call.
A small group of forensic experts will undertake the arduous process of trying to identify the unidentified buried in those graves.
The University of Indianapolis has a reputation as one of the premier forensic programs in America. Now it is being called on to prove it.
Dr. Krista Latham is a forensics anthropologist at the University of Indianapolis.
"If you have a specialty and you can volunteer that to help families or individuals in need, then it really is your scientific and professional obligation to do so," she said.
Dr. Latham will lead a four-person team of graduate students to Brooks County, Texas. 129 undocumented immigrants died in this county that borders with Mexico in the last year - so many that the county has run out of burial plots. Baylor University is volunteering expertise to identify who were buried without any identity.
Ryan Strand is a graduate student at the University of Indianapolis from Texas.
"To make such a huge impact with the kind of special work is way exciting," he said.
Erica Christensen is a graduate student from Indianapolis.
"It is very important to help and do our job and make it work," she said.
It is not without sacrifice. The one week job will be grueling and gruesome, and it is all volunteer.
The University of Indianapolis is stepping up to help defray the cost for the team, citing the university motto, "Education for Service."
This team's specific task will be to exhume and clean up the bodies before they are transported to Baylor University for the long process of identification.
Dr. Lori Baker from Baylor University is heading up the effort. She is the one who made the call to ask Dr. Latham for help. Dr. Latham says this is important opportunity for the students, the university to do their part.
"It is very important to bring some closure to the families. Especially in cultures where the soul is not at rest until the body is buried in a proper way with the family celebrating there," she said.
The University of Indianapolis forensic team will begin that work next week.
Dr. Latham says she is planning to continue to go down to Brooks County, Texas to aid in the identification efforts in coming years as well.