MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- October is the month set aside for the gruesome and the macabre, the things that are tantalizingly horrible and wickedly intriguing.
But there are things in this world that are considerably scarier than pint-sized zombies showing up at your house and yelling, “Trick or treat!”
Dead bodies and the secrets that lie within them are the specialties of Hugh Berryman, a forensic anthropologist and founder of the Forensic Institute for Research and Education at Middle Tennessee State University.
To Berryman, it’s not the cadavers that are frightening. It’s the possibility that a cold-blooded killer could lurk somewhere in society, waiting to strike again, if trained professionals fail to see the clues left at a crime scene.
“There’s a dead person out there, and there’s information there,” Berryman said. “We’re the only voice those people have. We’re it. And if we mess up, and if we miss things, we can’t tell their story.”
Under Berryman’s leadership, the institute entered into an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to test a new smartphone app that could improve crime scene investigation efficiency greatly.
The institute is recruiting active-duty law enforcement officers to help test the Checklist App for Scene Examination, or CASE, to see if it is ready for first responders to put it to use in real situations.
CASE employs audio, video, text, photo, GPS, time and date features within the smartphone, but it stores the crime scene data inside the app.
The final version of the app is to be released in spring 2014 for supported iPhone and Android devices.
In addition, Berryman will host the second annual Tennessee Valley Corridor Forensics Symposium at MTSU Oct. 29-30.
The Tennessee Valley Corridor is made up of universities and industries from Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky.
It attracts nationally and internationally known forensic scientists, the top crime scene sleuths in the business.
Dr. Tom Holland, the scientific director for Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command Central Identification, will be the keynote speaker.
Holland runs the lab that examines bodily remains to determine whether they belong to missing American military personnel. The lab is headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.
The conference also includes a tour of the Tennessee Fire and Codes Academy in Bell Buckle and lunch with Dr. William Bass, creator of the “body farm” at the University of Tennessee.
“This is a great opportunity for students to learn more about careers and research in forensic science and to network with those in the field,” Berryman said.
The cost of the entire conference is only $25 for students, discounted from the regular cost of $75.
For more information, call the Forensic Institute for Research and Education at 615-494-7713 or go to www.mtsu.edu/fire/workshops.php.