By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
April 11, 2019
MARIANNA, Fla. (CNS) -- A new discovery at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna has found evidence of 27 previously unknown graves that may belong to former students.
Governor Ron DeSantis has been made aware of the find and has offered to work with local officials going forward.
The Dozier School for Boys in Mariana Florida has a dark, hundred year history of suspected physical and sexual abuse of students.
Art Kimbrough has been intimately involved in the Dozier story.
“I was around both sides. I call it the entire spectrum of emotions as it related to it,” said Kimbrough, who formerly served as the CEO of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.
The remains of more than 50 young boys who attended the school were unearthed in 2015, prompting the legislature to issue a formal apology, but new findings suggest the Dozier grounds may still contain secrets.
“'Wow,' I think was my first comment,” said Kimbrough. "This is heavy."
A recent ground-penetrating radar scan of the school grounds has identified as many as 27 potential grave sites that have yet to be exhumed.
“We thought that all the graves had been identified,” said Senator Darryl Rouson, who sponsored the Senate’s apology in 2017. "Obviously they haven’t."
The 27 suspected graves were discovered during a pollution clean up on the Dozier property in late March.
They’re located less than 200 years away from an area known as Boot Hill, where seven former students and staff members were reburied earlier this year.
DeSantis has acknowledged the findings and offered support to county officials moving forward.
“I don't know if we'll ever quite put this behind us, but I do know the state is in a posture to do what we need to do in order to rectify or try to clean up this situation,” said Representative Tracie Davis, who sponsored the House’s Dozier apology.
It was only three weeks ago the final remains from the 2015 excavation were reinterred in a Tallahassee cemetery.
This report is the first evidence that supports former Dozier students’ assertions that more bodies are yet to be discovered.
However, Kimbrough says there’s still research that needs to be conducted to confirm the suspected graves.
“They're going to have to exhume them. They're going to have to anthropologically examine everything that's happened,” said Kimbrough.
It’s not clear what the path forward will look like, former students of Dozier hope the discovery will result in a full excavation of the school grounds.