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Florida's body farm

Florida becomes home to the country’s only subtropical ‘body farm.’

Last January, Adam Kennedy learned about a proposal to start a “body farm” in Pasco County — a research facility where forensic investigators could study how corpses decompose in Florida’s terrain and weather.Kennedy, 46, thought the research sounded interesting — he liked the idea of helping to contribute to scientific knowledge and also how that knowledge might be used to help solve crimes. So he signed up to donate his body there after his death.

Two weeks later, on his way to work as the principal of Crews Lake Middle School in Pasco County, Kennedy’s pickup truck collided with a semitrailer truck, and he was killed. His body became the first to be researched at the 3½- acre body farm, which was named Adam Kennedy Memorial Forensics Field in his honor.

“He was a teacher all his life, and he wanted to teach after his death,” says Maj. Jeffrey Peake, commander of Pasco Sheriff’s Office Investigation & Criminal Intelligence Bureau. “Having his body here allows him to do that.”

The body farm, an ef-fort between the Pasco Sheriff’s Office and the University of South Florida’s Institute of Forensic Anthropology & Applied Sciences, is the seventh in the nation and the only one in a subtropical climate. It now has six bodies.

Peake says understanding more about how bodies decompose in Florida will inform forensic researchers across the state: “So tomorrow if we find a body in the woods, we’re going to respond to that crime scene differently, based upon what we’re learning here from these scenes that we’re creating with real-life bodies.”

Plans include constructing a $4.3-million research building, called the Florida Forensic Institute for Research, Security & Tactical Training, to house research labs, morgue space, cold storage and high-tech equipment such as 3-D autopsy machines. Scientists from across the world are expected to do research there. The money to pay for it was included in last year’s state budget, but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed it.

“We have it resubmitted in the budget this year,” says Chase Daniels, assistant executive director of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office. “We’re hopeful that we’ll have a different outcome.”

Business Briefs

BRADENTON — Two massive gumbo limbo trees — including an 80-year-old tree that was the largest gumbo limbo in the United States — have been removed from Bradenton’s De Soto National Memorial Park. The trees were damaged during Hurricane Irma and deemed unsafe.

CLEARWATER — Tech Data has decided to buy its headquarters complex, which it had been leasing, for $156.2 million.

The city agreed to give the Clearwater Marine Aquarium $5 million to help pay for the aquarium’s expansion, which is estimated to cost $66 million.

LAKELAND — Publix has opened pharmacies at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa and Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater.

PLANT CITY — Mosaic has closed its Plant City fertilizer plant for at least the rest of this year. As many as 300 of the plant’s 430 employees will be offered jobs at other Mosaic facilities in Florida.

SEFFNER — A New York City investment firm is buying Lazydays RV Center, one of the largest recreational vehicle dealerships in the nation, for $115 million. The newly consolidated public company will be called Lazyday Holdings and will sell Rvs at Lazyday’s 126-acre property in Hillsborough County.

ST. PETE BEACH — Bostonbased TPG Hotels & Resorts bought the 196-room, waterfront Postcard Inn for $47.4 million. The hotel had been owned by the Carlyle Group.

ST. PETERSBURG — Californiabased PandaDoc, a document automation company, has opened its east coast headquarters downtown, where it employs 15 and has plans to add 15 more jobs this year.

Two restaurant companies are vying for the chance to open an anchor restaurant at the city’s $76-million pier. The finalists include Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grill and an unnamed restaurant to be operated by Steve Westphal, a St. Petersburg restaurateur.

TAMPA — The University of South Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center, Florida Hospital Tampa, Busch Gardens and University Mall will invest a combined $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to attract jobs and development to the 25,000-acre USF area. The area is already home to 4,100 companies and 74,000 jobs. Construction is underway at Virage, a 24-story condo tower being built on one of the last high-rise-zoned parcels along Tampa’s Bayshore Boulevard.

TAMPA BAY — A 14-acre site in Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood has emerged as the top Hillsborough County option if the Tampa Bay Rays leave St. Petersburg’s Tropicana Field for Tampa. Meanwhile, WalletHub, a credit-reporting firm, named St. Petersburg as the nation’s 17th-best baseball city. WalletHub ranked Tampa 53rd.

Innovation: Medical Marketplace

Jon Bird, a veteran of the medical equipment reselling industry, has come up with a hospitalfocused online marketplace that links manufacturers, resellers, wholesalers and medical facilities to buy and sell what hospitals need.

Largo-based Index (mysurgicalindex.com) can charge less than what a traditional reseller might charge because it’s online, he says. “That’s going to save money, reduce waste and let hospitals focus on what they do best — saving lives.”

Incumbent Rick Kriseman won a second term as St. Petersburg’s mayor, topping Rick Baker, the city’s mayor from 2002-10, by 2,200 votes.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn named Brian Dugan the city’s police chief. Dugan had been interim chief since Eric Ward stepped down last July.

Lynn Pippenger, a former Raymond James CFO, has been selected “Philanthropist of the Year” by the Suncoast Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Pippenger has donated $5 million to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and more than $21 million to USF’s Muma College of Business.

Rachel Marks Feinman is the new executive director of the Tampa-based Florida-Israel Business Accelerator.

 

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