Kenny Johns respects the dead. He just doesn’t want them lying about near his airport.
Last month, Texas State University provost Perry Moore was finalizing plans to build a 17-acre forensic anthropology research field lab—a ‘body farm’ that would use decomposing human remains to investigate outdoor crime scenes—less than a mile from taxiways at San Marcos Municipal Airport.
But after concerns of circling buzzards, which would threaten aircraft there, and a protracted battle with the site’s neighbors, the university got cold feet. It is now searching for another location for the lab, which will be the cornerstone for the Ph.D. program in forensic anthropology, says university spokesperson Mark Hendricks.
The farm—with up to a dozen bodies in various states of decomposition—will allow researchers to sample materials around the remains to pinpoint time elapsed since death. Texas State University is aiming for a facility by fall semester, which will be the third in the nation, joining ones in Tennessee and North Carolina.
Johns, airport manager at San Marcos Municipal, recognizes the importance of the facility and has no qualms with the farm itself. But one buzzard alone can easily destroy a small plane’s engine and, perhaps even more dangerous, shatter windshields of the larger ones. “And that can’t be ignored,” he said.