- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 5, 2014

WARRENSBURG, Mo. (AP) - Two weeks after police were alerted that someone had broken into a research cave near the University of Central Missouri campus, a pair of biology students on Tuesday found the decomposing body of an infant beneath a pile of trash.

Eva Gann filed a police report Feb. 17 after discovering the lock on the university-owned cave had been broken off and what she assumed was burned trash inside. Gann told the university’s student-run website digitalburg (https://bit.ly/1c9ReJ1 ) that she and fellow biology student Travis Lyon returned to the cave on Tuesday to study how snakes react to temperature changes when they noticed a foul smell.

“We went back today and it smelled like rotten meat coming from the burnt trash,” Gann said Tuesday. “I saw what looked like a diaper so I started going through the trash bag with a stick and said to Travis, ‘This looks like (muscle) tissue.’”

She said she flipped the trash bag over and saw a foot and hand of a baby that the two initially thought was a toy.

“I thought it was a doll so I squeezed the foot and knew it was real,” Lyon said.

The two left the cave and called 911.

After reporting the break-in last month, Gann said she and Lyon had not been able to return to the cave until Tuesday because of bad weather. On the day they found the lock had been broken the two didn’t look through what they assumed was just trash. Instead, they collected data for Gann’s research.

“One of our snakes was wounded on the ground, so we assumed it was vandals,” Lyon said.

University police are investigating the case.

The research cave is located in the 300-acre Pertle Springs recreation area, which consists of a golf course, hiking trails and the cave about a mile from the university’s main campus in Warrensburg, school spokesman Jeff Murphy said. It’s a place where many students go to work on biology projects, he said.

“This incident has created a great deal of conversation on campus,” he said. “A lot of students, faculty and staff are curious about what happened and who is responsible.”

Murphy urged anyone with information that could help with the investigation to contact university police at 660-543-4123.

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