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NecroSearch International

Families of homicide victims have expressed frustration by conventional grave location methods such as large-scale ground searches and trial-and-error excavations. The process has been manpower intensive, cost prohibiting, destructive, and non-productive. Law enforcement, in an effort to provide effective and efficient service to families affected by crime, have been searching for new technology to bring resolution to these cases.

NecroSearch International is a non-profit organization that specializes in the search of clandestine gravesites and evidence. The goal of NecroSearch is to develop a cost-effective systems approach, involving many different disciplines, that could result in a more efficient method of locating clandestine graves. NecroSearch pioneered a long-term field study, in which swine carcasses are buried and then subjected to ongoing scientific study. The research facility is located at the Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Training Facility, Douglas County, Colorado. Research at this site involves:

Geophysical Techniques

Magnetic, electromagnetic (EM), and ground penetrating radar (GPR) surveys can produce high resolution profiles of subsurface materials at a depth up to 15 feet.

Aerial Photography

Records minute changes in soil color or vegetation type in infinite detail. May help discern changed surface conditions.


Burial of a corpse hinders the normal faunal succession of arthropods, many of which are useful as forensic indicators.

Cadaver Dogs

Due to the Bloodhound’s keen sense of smell, they are an excellent resource for locating bodies, whether above ground, buried, or under water.

Plant Ecology

Disturbance of original vegetation at the site of a burial or other disturbance due to criminal activity can cause growth of “pioneer plants” that are different from the original plants.

Animal Scavenging

Recognition and identification of the activities of wild and domestic animals may help in interpretation of the crime scene and in recovery of evidence.

Forensic Anthropology

Identification of excavated remains. Also aids in searches through interpretation of preservation conditions and the surface indications of buried remains.

Thermal Imaging

Infrared cameras that are able to generate a real-time image based on the fact that all objects emit infrared radiation (IR) in varying amounts depending on their temperature and the emissivity of their surface.

Besides the NecroSearch team, the site is used routinely by students of Colorado School of Mines, Colorado State University and the University of Colorado. Scholars and law enforcement personal have visited the site from as far away as Australia and England.

NecroSearch’s mission is to assist law enforcement agencies by providing training, applied research, and on-site investigation. Research papers, lectures and training have been provided at the federal, state, local and international level. NecroSearch has provided assistance in more than 200 cases, in 25 states and ten foreign countries.

NecroSearch International only responds to cases after receiving a formal request for assistance by a law enforcement agency. For more information on NecroSearch contact:

Dr. Diane France (970) 221-4044 or