Grad students at Wichita State University (WSU) get more than they bargain for when it comes to hands-on experience during a crime scene investigation class offered by the school. Students are challenged to solve mock murders in a lab which is not your ordinary college laboratory. Skeleton Acres, as it is known, is a 7.5 acre woodland prairie lab where Professor Peer Moore-Jansen engages students in detailed crime solving.
The anthropology professor’s experience goes beyond his doctorate-level education. Moore-Jansen has worked with Wichita police and state of Kansas detectives in solving many real-life murders over the past 20 years and he is well-respected throughout the state.
Moore-Jansen created the simulated crime lab to allow students the opportunity to identify a crime scene and thoroughly search for clues to solve the case. The trip to Skeleton Acres comes as the final test for the semester-long class in which students are tasked with solving six mock murders.
Moore-Jansen spares no details when it comes to creating the mock crimes. He buries plastic bones meant to replicate human bones while throwing in additional clues for them to find. Some skeletons are buried with shoes, eyeglasses or necklaces. Others have receipts or wallets in their pants or shirt pockets. Shell casings are strewn about in some instances. He even provides body bags for the students to place the remains they find in each case.
The mock murder sites are filled with decoys to throw the students off track as well. Moore-Jansen adds animal bones to the sites to challenge students further into determining if the bones are human. False clues simulate the real world challenges that police face when determining which clues at a crime scene are valid and which are not.
The object of the experience is not for students to necessarily come up with the same answer, but to be able to create a compelling, detailed story that could be reported in court if it were a true crime.