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Dozier Dig Complete: Researchers Attempt To Identify Remains, Causes Of Death

By: Associated Press; Lanetra Bennett Email
By: Associated Press; Lanetra Bennett Email
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UPDATED by Julie Montanaro
January 28, 2014

We have an update from scientists digging for bodies at the old Dozier School for boys.

Researchers say so far they have found and excavated the remains of 55 people.

Lead USF Anthropologist Erin Kimmerle says that's 24 more than the school's official records indicate.

Kimmerle says only 13 bodies were found beneath the metal crosses at Boot Hill cemetery. The rest she says were found in the woods and under big trees and roads.

Kimmerle says they are now going to send remains off for skeletal exams and DNA analysis in hopes of identifying them and figuring out how they died.

"Preservation was good and we were able to recover bones, teeth, and artifacts in every case. The next step is for complete skeletal analysis to aid with identification," Kimmerle said.

Researchers are encouraging anyone with a family member who died while at the Dozier School to step forward and offer a DNA sample for comparison.

They say the number of bodies found raises lots of questions about the timing and circumstances of the boys' deaths.


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Researchers say the remains of 55 people have been excavated from a graveyard at a former reform school with a history of abuse.

University of South Florida researchers began surveying the graveyard at the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in September.

On Tuesday, the researchers said they had unearthed five more bodies than they previously thought they would find. Official records indicated 31 burials at the north Florida site, but researchers had estimated there would be about 50 graves.

The team finished the dig in December. Now researchers are attempting to identify the remains and determine the causes of death.

The school opened in 1900 and closed in 2011. Former inmates from the 1950s and 1960s have detailed beatings and abuse.


Associated Press Release

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) -- The National Institute of Justice has awarded University of South Florida researchers a $423,000 grant to help with the investigation of missing and unidentified children who died under unexplained circumstances and were buried in unmarked graves at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

The grant was announced Wednesday morning. It allows researchers to perform DNA testing and conduct investigations on human remains for identification.

This weekend, researchers from USF hope to start exhuming bodies from unmarked graves and perhaps return them to family members for a proper burial.

Former students have accused employees and guards at the school of physical and sexual abuse. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated but concluded in 2009 that it was unable to substantiate or dispute the claims.


By: Julie Montanaro
August 27, 2013

Researchers with the University of South Florida will begin digging up graves at the old Dozier School for Boys this Saturday.

The excavation sites will be off limits to the public and press for a year as researchers exhume remains,

A USF spokeswoman says researchers will work to exhume remains, identify them, return them to families if possible and re-inter the rest.

The governor and cabinet approved the excavations at the cabinet meeting in August.


By: Lanetra Bennett
August 6, 2013

Tallahassee, FL - Bodies will be exhumed at the old Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Florida Governor Rick Scott and cabinet members have authorized archaeologists to do the work.

It comes after Florida's Department of State denied the request twice.

The Florida Cabinet's vote brought tears of joy; which is something many say was long overdue after enduring years filled with tears of sorrow.

83-year-old Leo Collier is said to be the oldest living person who attended the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. He was at Tuesday's cabinet meeting.

Collier says, "They had a leather about as thick as my arm. We had to lay on the floor. You got to be still. If you don't be still, I got about 35 licks. It made it bleed."

Governor Rick Scott and cabinet members authorized researchers at the University of South Florida to exhume the reported unaccounted-for bodies of boys who died at Dozier between 1900 and 1952.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi says, "We know there are unmarked graves currently on that property that deserve a proper burial. it's the right thing to do."

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says, "There is no shame in searching for the truth."

Jim DeNyke says the exhumation will give him and others closure. He says he was sent to the "White House" once while at Dozier in 1965.

The White House is what students called the building where they say they were beaten.

DeNyke says, "Those were the most horrifying, horrible licks that I'd ever--I'd rather taken a beaten by a gang. Beat me so bad. I still smell that room and hear that fan. That's how horrifying that room was."

Art Rocker, the chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference told the cabinet, "I say unto you now, let's take all these boys, white boys, black boys and join them together. Bring them together for treatment for the sodomy, for the abuse that they had."

The Florida Legislature gave nearly $200,000 to USF for the research and excavation of remains. Bondi says the goal is to identify remains and notify families so they can have a proper burial.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet are letting university researchers identify human remains at a defunct reform school.
Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday approved a permit that will allow University of South Florida researchers to exhume bodies buried at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.
The vote drew a round of applause from former students of the reform school in the audience.
State officials said in July that they lacked the legal authority to grant the evacuation of the site located about 60 miles west of Tallahassee.
Attorney General Pam Bondi pushed to get the Cabinet to take up the permit request.
USF researchers have stated previously there are children who died at the school whose remains have been not been located.


Press Release: United States Senate7

TALLAHASSEE – Florida’s governor and Cabinet voted this morning to issue permits to researchers at the University of South Florida to begin exhuming human remains from unmarked graves at the now-defunct Arthur G. Dozier School in Marianna, Florida.

“This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “Nothing can bring these boys back, but I’m hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve.”

Nelson and a number of other officials have been outspoken advocates of allowing USF to complete its work, which was stalled by an adverse state decision last month. Today’s decision by the Cabinet comes after months of back and forth between USF researchers and other state officials.

In May, a Jackson County circuit court judge rejected a request by state Attorney General Pam Bondi to grant a local medical examiner permission to exhume the bodies buried on school grounds. Just last month, the Florida Department of State denied issuing the permits needed to begin the exhumations.

The USF research team, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, is now expected to begin the exhumations later this month. The researchers will try to match DNA samples taken from the living relatives of boys buried long ago on the grounds of a now-shuttered reform school.

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 any crimes.

But that probe was called into question late last year when a USF forensic team began examining the site and found more unmarked graves than police had said were there.

Nelson got involved after a Polk County man asked the lawmaker's office for help last year in locating his uncle's remains known to be buried in an unmarked cemetery on the grounds of the reform school.

Since then, Nelson has written the governor urging him to the back the scientists’ work.

He is still backing the university’s application for a Department of Justice grant he helped identify that would cover the costs associated with forensic research involving the use of DNA to identify missing or dead persons. Up to $3 million will be awarded to select applicants.

Nelson went to the Dozier school site earlier this year. And in June, he assisted researches in collecting DNA samples from living relatives at an event held at USF’s campus in Tampa.


Associated Press Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet are scheduled to vote on whether to let university researchers identify human remains at a defunct reform school.

Scott and the Cabinet on Tuesday are expected to grant permission to University of South Florida researchers seeking a permit to exhume bodies buried near the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner in mid-July told researchers that his department -- which oversees historical resources -- didn't have the legal authority to grant the request. The site located about 60 miles west of Tallahassee is state-owned.

Attorney General Pam Bondi, however, pushed to get the agency that manages state lands to grant USF a one-year permit. Last week Scott and the three Cabinet members said they would support the request.


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other top state officials are being asked to grant a request from researchers to exhume human remains at a former reform school.

Scott and the members of the Florida Cabinet will consider the request at their Aug. 6 meeting.

The move to ask the governor and the Cabinet comes after an agency reporting to Scott turned down the permit request from the University of South Florida.

USF researchers want to see if they can identify who is buried at the now-defunct Dozier School for Boys located about 60 miles west of Tallahassee. They also want to try to figure out how they died.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner in mid-July told the university that his department doesn't have the legal authority to grant the request.


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