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Skeletal Remains Found In Dozier School Dig

By: Elizabeth Nickerson; Associated Press Email
By: Elizabeth Nickerson; Associated Press Email
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By: Matt Horn
September 3, 2013

University of South Florida Researches searching for skeletal remains in the Florida Panhandle have wrapped up the first phase of their search. There is still a long way to go before nagging questions of abuse are answered.

Just feet away from their gravesites at the former-Dozier School for Boys, skeletal remains exhumed Monday afternoon are ready to be examined.

“Preliminary analysis of dental remains show, suggest they are 10 to 13 years old,” said Researcher Erin Kimmerle.

A team of 25 researchers will now take evidence back to the University of South Florida to figure out just who was found in the graves and collect more evidence on the remains.

“More information we can write up a little narrative about that individual and send samples off for DNA testing,” she said.

Horror stories from inmates beaten at the ‘White House’ at the school sparked an investigation in 2008.

Researchers started looking at dozens of marked and unmarked graves last year after a law enforcement report was inconclusive. After a political tug of war with local officials, they began exhuming bodies this weekend. At least 50 bodies are expected to be found in the unmarked graves. Plans are in the works to prepare for a longer dig this fall.

“We’ve got to have power and water and sewer and lights. We’ve got to have everything you would need to operate for over a month,” said volunteer Larry Bedore.

Researchers will be back at the campus over the next year to search for other forgotten former-students who are believed to be buried in unmarked graves. The goal is to return any remains to loved ones.

Researchers say further DNA testing will be sent to the University of North Texas – which will help the group identify the remains found over the weekend.


By: Matt Horn
September 2, 2013

The search for bodies at the former Dozier School for boys in the Panhandle entered into its third day. The search for answers is moving one inch at a time.

Inch-by-inch the antagonizing nightmare of the Dozier’s past is creeping closer to the surface…a bittersweet reminder of Florida’s troubled history.

“It’s really amazing to be able to put sort of a face to this list of individuals, these children we’ve been researching about, thinking about, meeting their family,” said USF Anthropologist Erin Kimmerle.

A team of researchers have been digging since Saturday. Sunday evening teeth and skull fragments were discovered in a grave being unearthed.
Monday the careful dig for answers continues.

“As the exhuming of bodies continue — family members are providing DNA to the researchers in an attempt to figure out who is buried at the closed school,” Matt Horn reported.

31 crosses dot the gravesites where the excavating is taking place. The chilling part – around 100 students are thought to be buried on the school
grounds. A lack of state records make it difficult for researchers to locate all of the bodies.

“When we initially came out here and started that is an area that would have been under thick brush,” said Kimmerle.

Questions started to surface in 2008 as abuse allegations made it to then-Governor Charlie Crist. An investigation he requested showed there were at least 31 bodies unaccounted for in the cemetery. Researchers are now working to put together additional missing links.

”It’s very meticulous work, I don’t think the public knows exactly the hard work it is. But, I have the blisters to show you its very hard work,” said research volunteer Brett Harding.

As the process continues, the shell of Dozier is all that remains intact outside of Marianna. As the chilling history is starting to rear it’s ugly head one inch at a time.

Governor Rick Scott and the Cabinet voted to allow USF researchers to exhume the bodies earlier this summer.


By: Elizabeth Nickerson
August 31, 2013

Marianna, FL - "You have watched over us," said a priest during a prayer.

Families from the old Dozier School for Boys held hands and prayed before researchers with the University of South Florida began digging up graves Saturday morning.

"The project has been approved to dig up the graves," said John Due, a family member of a former student. "I thought this would have been the last opportunity I would have had for my grandson to come here to understand what the story is."

USF researchers say it will take at least a year to dig up remains, identify them and return them to families if possible. The rest will be reburied on site.

"Caskets and markers for every individual has a unique number and all the DNA will stay on file, so in the future if a family was located or came forward they can match," said the lead USF Researcher.

"Sense of closure," said one family member.

Some of the former students were present. They say that finally justice is being served.

"I feel I don't know it's kinda like a new life, like a resurrection," said Arthur Huntley, a former student.

USF researchers say they hope to start finding remains by Monday.

The University of North Texas is also teaming up with USF with identifying remains through DNA matches.


Associated Press Release

MARIANNA, Fla. (AP) -- University of South Florida researchers have begun excavating graves at a former reform school know for extreme abuse.

USF spokeswoman Lara Wade has confirmed that digging began Saturday morning at the now-closed Dozier Arthur G. Dozier School.

Researchers hope to identify the remains and determine how the boys buried there died.

USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle says the remains of about 50 people are in the graves. Some are marked with a plain, white steel cross, and others have no markings.

Former inmates at the reform school have detailed severe beatings by guards during the 1950s and 1960s. The school opened in 1900 and shut down two years ago for budgetary reasons.


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