But Williams, of course, isn't trying to dispose of any dead bodies. Rather, he's a student of how the human body decomposes. He needed the chipper for a study on what the machine does to bone, a study commissioned by attorneys suing a Georgia crematorium owner charged with dumping _ and chipping _ human remains he had been given for incineration.
Soon, Williams will have a new place to conduct his research _ a well-hidden location near Western Carolina's campus where he and students studying the science of the human skeleton and human remains can watch cadavers decompose in the mountainous environment of western North Carolina. It will be just the second such "body farm" in the country.
"They'll be involved with the daily observation process. Very early on, you are examining that body daily, because the changes initially go very quickly," Williams said. "They'll learn how to observe as scientists."
How fast a body left in the open breaks down _ key to establishing when a person was killed _ depends heavily on temperature, moisture and other environmental factors, Williams said. In relatively dry, cold conditions, like those found in these mountains in the winter, it can take months for a body to decompose to skeletal remains.
In the warmer, more humid conditions of summertime, when there are plenty of insects around, that process can speed up greatly, said Williams, a veteran of body recovery operations at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the 1999 EgyptAir crash off the Massachusetts coast.
School officials are keeping the facility's exact location a secret, to discourage those with a morbid curiosity from dropping by. Roughly the size of a garage with room for six bodies, it will be hidden from view by a 9-foot privacy fence and protected by a second security fence topped with razor wire. Campus plans daily patrols at the site, which is a half-mile from the nearest home.
If you watch CSI you may remember that a body farm like this was used to dump a body.