Dozier Deaths Investigation Could Cross State Lines

By Julie Montanaro
April 1, 2014

Researchers digging up bodies at the old Dozier School for Boys in Marianna now want to exhume the body of a teen buried a thousand miles away in Philadelphia.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson today asked Pennsylvania's governor to allow the exhumation of 15 year old Thomas Curry. Curry ran away from the Dozier School in 1925 and was found dead the next day with a crushed skull, Nelson said.

Curry is buried in Philadelphia, but researchers with the University of South Florida want another autopsy to learn more about his death.

Senator Nelson says 10 boys died after running away from the school.

Researchers are trying to identify bodies buried on the now-closed Dozier campus and learn more about the suspicious circumstances under which some of the boys died.


Nelson supports latest university request on Dozier

WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is asking the governor of Pennsylvania to have state police there work with a team of Florida researchers investigating the circumstances surrounding a young boy’s death at a now-shuttered reform school.

Scientists from the University of South Florida have been excavating unmarked graves at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL and now want to exhume a former student’s skeletal remains buried in Pennsylvania. The boy, 15-year-old Thomas Curry, was admitted to the reform school in 1925. He died violently and mysteriously 29 days later.

The coroner’s report says the boy’s death was caused by “a wound to the forehead, skull crushed from unknown cause.” A team of USF researchers is now trying to determine more about the nature and cause of his death.

Over the years, the reform school has been the subject of several major investigations stemming from allegations of abuse. Florida officials closed the school in 2011 following a state police probe into the latest such allegations that found no evidence of such crimes.

But the state inquiry was called into question late last year when the USF forensic team began examining the site and found more unmarked graves than previously reported by authorities.

“Some of these young boys died under suspicious or questionable circumstances, making it essential to also investigate the cause of their deaths,” Nelson wrote in his letter to Gov. Tom Corbett. “I’m sure you will agree that we should continue to do all we can to bring the families of these boys the closure they deserve.”

Nelson first got involved when a Polk County man asked the lawmaker's office for help in locating his uncle's remains, known to be buried on the grounds of the reform school. Since then, Nelson has been an outspoken advocate of the USF researchers and their investigation.

Thomas Curry was one of ten boys who turned up dead after reportedly running away from the reform school. After his death, Curry’s body was shipped to Pennsylvania and buried at the Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Following is the text of Nelson’s letter to the governor:

April 1, 2014

The Honorable Tom Corbett
Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Dear Governor Corbett:

Dr. Erin Kimmerle of the University of South Florida recently asked the Pennsylvania state police for their assistance in her efforts to find out what happened to boys who died under unusual and suspicious circumstances at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL.

With her team of forensic researchers, Dr. Kimmerle has spent more than a year unearthing dozens of unmarked graves they discovered on the grounds of the now-shuttered reform school in Florida’s Panhandle.

Over the years, this school has been the subject of numerous investigations into allegations of abuse. Florida officials eventually closed the school in 2011 following a state police probe into the most recent such allegations - a probe that found no evidence of such crimes.

Last year, the university’s research team began exhuming human remains found in these newly discovered, unmarked graves and are now trying to identify the students buried there by matching DNA samples from the remains to the living relatives of the boys.

Some of these young boys died under suspicious or questionable circumstances, making it essential to also investigate the cause of their deaths.

Ten boys died after running away from the school between 1906-1952. One of this group was Thomas Curry, who was 15-years-old when he was admitted to the reform school in 1925. He reportedly ran away 29 days later and was found lying alongside the railroad tracks at River Junction in Gadsden County, some 25 miles from the school, the following day.

According to the death certificate, Curry was pronounced dead at a hospital in Chattahoochee as a result of a crushed skull. After his death, Thomas Curry’s body was shipped to Pennsylvania and buried at the Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia.

The USF research team is now working with the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s office and hoping to get permission from the appropriate authorities in your state to exhume his remains, perform a skeletal autopsy to try and determine more about the nature and cause of his death.

As Dr. Kimmerle noted in her request, funding for this project is available from a Department of Justice grant awarded to USF last year.

I’m sure you will agree that we should continue to do all we can to bring the families of these boys the closure they deserve. That said, if there is anything you can do to assist this USF research team with their request, it would be greatly appreciated. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,

CC: U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr.
U.S. Sen. Patrick J. Toomey
Cpl. Thomas C. McAndrew


Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
powered by Disqus
WCTV 1801 Halstead Blvd. Tallahassee, FL 32309
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 253463441 - wctv.tv/a?a=253463441