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Photos: How to dig up a body buried in Alaska

Dr. Kathy Taylor, forensic anthropologist and Seattle's King County medical examiner, leads a workshop for Alaska law enforcement agents on proper techniques for buried body excavation. July 24, 2012
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Alaska State Trooper Brian Hibbs, right, works with Mike Busey of the Anchorage police department probing a burial site during a Buried Bodies forensic workshop. July 24, 2012
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Buried Bodies workshop participants excavate a burial site on July 24, 2012. The state medical examiner's office buried five fake bodies in a Mat-Su field for the participants to excavate.
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Five teams, comprised of members of the Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage and Fairbanks police departments, the State Medical Examiner's office, Air Force CID, and an AST cold case detective excavate "bodies" buried in a Mat-Su field. July 24, 2012
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Brianna Nye, left, and Eira Lara of the Alaska medical examiner's office, sift through soil looking for evidence during a Buried Bodies forensic workshop on July 24, 2012.
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Dr. Kathy Raven, the Alaska State Medical Examiner, hosted experts from Seattle's King County to lead a Buried Bodies forensic workshop for Alaska law enforcement personnel. The two-day workshop teaches proper forensic technique and evidence preservation. July 24, 2012
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Alaska law enforcement personnel excavate a fake body, complete with clues -- including jewelry, teeth and fingernails -- during a Buried Bodies forensic workshop. July 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Buried Bodies forensic workshop participants excavate a burial site on July 24, 2012. The Alaska medical examiner's office buried five fake bodies in a Mat-Su field for the participants to excavate.
Loren Holmes photo
Dr. Kathy Taylor, forensic anthropologist from Seattle's King County, coaches local law enforcement participants in proper forensic techniques at a Buried Bodies workshop held in a Mat-Su field on July 24, 2012.
Loren Holmes photo
Anchorage Police Department Detective Mark Huelskoetter, right, helps team members plot a burial site during a Buried Bodies workshop on July 24, 2012.
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Dr. Kathy Raven, the Alaska State Medical Examiner, hosted experts from Seattle's King County to lead a Buried Bodies forensic workshop for Alaska law enforcement personnel. The two-day workshop teaches proper forensic technique and evidence preservation. July 24, 2012
Loren Holmes photo
Loren Holmes

Someone driving by Mat-Su Regional Medical Center Tuesday might have mistaken activity in a nearby field for mass-murder crime scene.

Crime scene tape secured the perimeter. State trooper and police vehicles were everywhere. Body bags littered the ground. But rest assured, no crimes were committed. Instead, local law enforcement learned how proper crime scene forensic techniques in a state medical examiner's workshop.

Alaska's chief medical examiner, Dr. Kathy Raven, invited police in the Alaska State Troopers, Anchorage and Fairbanks police departments, Alaska Medical Examiner's office, Air Force CID, and a state cold case detective to participate in a two-day workshop called Buried Bodies. Leading it were forensic anthropologist Dr. Kathy Taylor and detective Kathy Decker from King County, Washington state.

What were Seattle-area experts doing with Alaska law dogs? Teaching them how to examine a scene without disturbing evidence and how to excavate a burial site, cataloging evidence so as much as possible is retained for possible admission in court.

Alaska has no board-certified forensic anthropologist, according to Raven, so a few times every year the state contracts the services of Taylor, sending evidence to her in Seattle. This workshop helps ensure that she has the best information possible for analysis. And participants seemed to enjoy the experience.

"I was just telling someone how much I hate getting dirty," said state medical examiner's office employee Eira Lara, as she sifted through buckets of dirt. "Granted, at the time I was elbow-deep in a person."

Contact Loren Holmes at loren(at)alaskadispatch.com