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Bill Funding 'Unique' Facility Named For Dozier Victim Starts Moving In Florida House

Pasco County Sheriff's Office
Stakeholders including Rep. Danny Burgess (2nd from left), who's sponsoring the funding request, display the concept design for Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Education and Research.

A bill funding a unique facility to help solve cold cases is starting to move forward in the Florida House.

The forensic training research facility would be housed in Land O' Lakes, near Tampa.

“This state of the art facility will only be the eighth in the nation to be a comprehensive training and investigative center to help with the solving of crimes,” said Rep. Ross Spano (R-Dover). It is a partnership essentially between the Pasco County Sheriff’s office, the University of South Florida, Pasco-Hernando County State College, and Pasco County Commission.”

The center is a local priority, but Spano says the facility will have a statewide impact.

“One of the proposed usages of the Center is a cold case database,” he added. “Currently, Florida does not have such a cold case database. And, there are currently around 20,000 cold cases.”

The $4.3 million facility would also help researchers study human decomposition.

Called “the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Education and Research,” the so-called “body farm” is named after a victim of the infamous Dozier School for Boys.

Over the past few years, forensic scientists helped unearth the remains of Varnadoe as well as dozens of others buried on the Dozier grounds in unmarked graves in the Florida Panhandle.

After the last legislative session, Governor Rick Scott vetoed funding for the facility. At the time, Pasco County was in charge of the facility. Scott says because it’s a statewide responsibility, it should be under the management of the FDLE. That change has since been made for the 2018 funding request.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.