THE OFFICIAL WHITE HOUSE BOYS ORGANIZATION

DOZIER GRAVES- NEWS

This page contains news about the Dozier Cemeteries / Unmarked Graves in Marianna, FL  It includes the plight of the White House Boys and the discovery of graves and Exhumation by USF Anthropologists at The Florida School for Boys (Dozier) and OKEECHOBEE.  
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SEE THE BBC YOUTUBE INTERVIEW WITH JERRY COOPER AND BEN MONTGOMERY (TAMPA BAY TIMES)
USA TODAY COVERAGE OF EXCAVATION AT DOZIER

First remains unearthed at Dozier site

MARIANNA — At sunup Saturday, in a clearing surrounded by kudzu-heavy woods on the campus of a brutal reform school, a team of researchers carefully began digging holes around a little clandestine cemetery, hoping the red dirt would give up its secrets.

They were searching for the remains of young wards of the Dozier School for Boys, who died in state custody and were buried without the dignity of a permanent marker.

A few hours after noon, the first human remains were found at the bottom of a shallow hole about 30 yards north of rows of crooked pipe crosses, which were planted in the 1990s based on folklore. The researchers, from the University of South Florida, gathered around the hole to examine a casket handle found near the remains.

 

"The hardware puts it in the 1940s or later," said Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF who is leading the tedious effort to find and identify all the remains, to learn how they died and then to return those identified to families. She expected the northern burials to be the oldest, but school records show that many of the burials came before 1940. "We'll learn more as we go," she said.

The team of about 20 anthropologists, archaeologists, police detectives and graduate students say their fieldwork on this inaugural trip will end Tuesday, but they plan to return later for several more weeks of work. The first day "went very well, as we expected," Kimmerle said. "It's a very slow process and we wanted to start out using very traditional archaeological methods to control the context."

By sundown, they had opened three large holes, slowly digging deeper into the red clay and darker patches of mottled earth, which indicate burial shafts. They sifted the dirt for coffin nails, burial furniture and other artifacts that might add context.

Across Pennsylvania Avenue, on what was the white side of campus before integration, a group of older men stood before a tall chain-linked fence topped with razor wire. They call themselves the Black Boys of Dozier and the White House Boys, and they're the impetus for the archaeological work.

In 2008, after decades of silence, a group of them went public with stories of physical and sexual abuse in the 1950s and 1960s at the school, then called the Florida School for Boys or the Florida Industrial School. As their numbers grew into the hundreds, stories surfaced of classmates who disappeared and of ruthless guards who beat them bloody in a squat building on campus called the White House. The men felt insulted when the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in 2009 found no evidence of foul play and didn't use ground penetrating radar to map the graveyard. Using GPR two years later, USF found 50 possible grave shafts, 19 more than the FDLE found.

The men came Saturday to show solidarity, and to bear witness.

Among them stood Tananarive Due, an author and professor from Atlanta. Her great uncle, Robert Stephens, died at the school in 1937. School records say he was killed by another student, but the family has heard conflicting stories. They want to learn what happened to him, and to rebury his remains at the family plot in Quincy.

"That would be a great sense of homecoming," she said.

She and her family drove to the little cemetery and stood among the crosses as pastor Ronald Mizer, from the local St. James AME Church, prayed with them.

"We're not here to castigate the state of Florida, but it was important to me to be here so that my grandson could understand," said her father, John Due, a lawyer, who draped his arm over the 9-year-old grandson's shoulder. "So that we could resolve some of the bitterness."

"Thank you all for your good work," Tananarive Due told the researchers.

"Thank you for keeping the story alive," her father said.

The Dues and the families of six other boys who died here have submitted DNA samples to help identify remains. They were happy the project was approved by the Florida Cabinet last month, after several challenges.

Some Jackson County residents, led mostly by amateur historian Dale Cox, have been upset by the project and have tried to stop it. Cox only recently quit his campaign to halt the exhumations. Local politicians say they're worried the media coverage of the exhumations will reflect poorly on rural Jackson County and on Marianna, "the City of Southern Charm," population 9,000.

But many here have been welcoming. Deputies from the Jackson County Sheriff's Office are providing security at the site. The Marianna police chief drove out to see if the researchers needed anything. One woman approached the group at a Mexican restaurant on Friday evening.

"Are you the folks doing the exhumations?" she whispered. "I hope you find the truth."

Jan Poller, who has lived in Marianna since 1983, drove to the site Saturday morning and introduced herself to a USF representative. She said she wanted to thank the team.

"I know you got a lot of negative responses, but this is something that needs to be resolved," she said. "If you had a relative missing all these years, you'd want to know what happened."

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650.

WUSF NEWS - UNIVERSITY BEAT 

USF Researchers Receive $423K Federal Grant for Dozier Work

 

Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF
File photo of trenches dug in the cemetery at Dozier Reform School to determine the age of possible grave shafts that might contain human remains.

University of South Florida researchers are scheduled to begin exhuming human remains on the grounds of the Dozier School for Boys this weekend. Now comes word that they'll be getting some assistance from federal authorities.

The U.S. Department of Justice is giving the researchers, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, $423,528 in federal grant money to help conduct their search of unmarked graves in the now-closed reform school.

The funds come from a DOJ National Institute of Justice grant for universities and other non-profit organizations that use DNA technology to identify missing persons. The researchers have taken DNA samples from a number of living relatives of boys who died decades ago at Dozier, some under mysterious circumstances.

DNA samples will be taken from the remains exhumed from the unmarked graves at Dozier. If matched with the samples from living relatives, the remains will be given to the families for proper burials. Unidentified remains will be given an ID number and reburied, with the hope identities may be determined at some point in the future.

Dr. Greg Ridgeway, acting director of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), tells the Tampa Bay Times one of the reasons for backing the project is its unique nature. (see the NIJ's announcement of the award below)

"As far as I know, we haven't done this kind of mass site before," he said. "In addition to the compelling story in this particular case … as a science agency, we recognize that there's a lot we can learn here."

In thanking the Department of Justice, the NIJ and Senator Bill Nelson, a long-time backer of the research team, Kimmerle said the funding is critical in the next steps of their work.

"This funding is critical for completing the next steps in our research at the Dozier School for Boys including excavating human remains and performing a full anthropological analysis on them," USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle said.

“The NIJ offers an incredible program for cold cases and identification of missing persons.  This funding is critical for completing the next steps in our research at the Dozier School for Boys including excavating human remains and performing a full anthropological analysis on them,” Kimmerle said in a USF press release.

Nelson, who helped identify the grant and later wrote a letter to the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in support of the research, also voiced his approval of the decision.

“Hopefully, the scientists can use DNA technology to give the boys who are buried in these 50-or-so unmarked graves a name and to provide some closure to surviving family members,” Nelson said.

While 31 metal crosses mark the "Boot Hill" cemetery on the Dozier grounds, the USF reseachers have identified at least 19 more grave shafts in areas outside the cemetery grounds. And while school records show 84 deaths were reported at the institution between 1911 and 1973, USF researchers found 98 deaths occurred there in that time period. The school closed in 2011 after decades of reports of abuse, torture and death.

Researchers recently received unanimous approval from Governor Rick Scott and the rest of the Florida Cabinet members to exhume the bodies. They'll have a one-year window to search the grounds for the reportedly unaccounted-for bodies of boys said to have died at the school between 1900 and 1952.

The Legislature had approved $190,000 dollars for research to determine the causes of death, identify remains, locate family members and pay for any re-burials.

The team will begin exhumations Saturday. The first phase of their work is expected to last until next Tuesday. 

THE NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF JUSTICE FUNDS DNA ANALYSIS AT SITE OF DOZIER SCHOOL

WASHINGTON –Today the Office of Justice Programs’ National Institute of Justice (NIJ) announced a $423,528 grant award to the University of South Florida (USF) to assist in the investigation of missing and unidentified children (ages 6-18 years) who died under unexplained circumstances and were buried in unmarked graves at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

The objectives of this grant are to perform DNA testing and conduct forensic anthropological examinations of human remains for identification. The University of North Texas Center for Human Identification will perform all of the DNA analyses, compare the samples and enter that data into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs).

The project lead at USF is Dr. Erin Kimmerle. Dr. Kimmerle’s research is in the areas of international human rights and forensic anthropology. She created the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory at USF and initiated the Tampa Bay Cold Case Project in which more than 80 local unsolved cases are being reanalyzed for human identification, including the application of newer methods such as 3D digitizing, isotope sampling and facial reconstructions.

The grant was awarded through NIJ’s 2013 competitive funding solicitation, “Using DNA Technology to Identify the Missing.” In recent years, newer DNA technologies have become available thanks in part to NIJ-funded research and development, which has contributed to the ability of crime laboratories to successfully analyze aged, degraded and compromised biological evidence.

The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Karol V. Mason, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.

 
Feds to fund Tampa scientists’ exhumation work at old reform school cemetery  
  

Sen. Nelson helped USF find more than $420,000  

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Scientists searching for clues at dozens of unmarked graves they found at a now-shuttered Florida Panhandle reform school will be getting some help from the U.S. Department of Justice.  

The help will be in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money from DOJ that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sought on behalf of the University of South Florida. 

Nelson wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in May - a copy of which is below - backing the school’s application for funds.  The school will receive about $423,000 from a grant for universities and non-profits involved in identifying missing persons using DNA technology.  

“Hopefully, the scientists can use DNA technology to give the boys who are buried in these 50-or-so unmarked graves a name and to provide some closure to surviving family members,” Nelson said today. 

Today’s announcement comes on the heels of a decision earlier this month by the Florida Cabinet and governor to issue the permits USF researchers needed to exhume the bodies buried on the grounds of the now-defunct Arthur  G. Dozier School in Marianna. 

The USF research team, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, is expected to begin work on the exhumations this Saturday.  The team will try to match DNA samples they get from any bodies to samples taken from living relatives of boys who died at the school long-ago. 

Over the years, the reform school has been the subject of several major investigations stemming from allegations of abuse there.  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 the state probe 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. 

Nelson got involved last fall 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.  He helped find the grant, wrote the governor urging him to the back the scientists’ work, and he visited the Dozier site with Dr. Kimmerle earlier this year.  In June, he assisted researchers in collecting DNA samples from living relatives gathered on USF’s campus in Tampa. 

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

May 20, 2013  

The Honorable Eric H. Holder Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530 
 

Dear Attorney General Holder: 

I am pleased to write again in support of the University of South Florida’s efforts to obtain a federal grant.  I understand the Florida Legislature has set aside limited funding in its most recent budget to support this research.  Federal and state funding together would go a long way to support assisting the District 14 Medical Examiner and Attorney General of Florida in the investigation of missing and unidentified children who died under suspicious or unexplained circumstances at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.  I respectfully reiterate my request for your speedy consideration of USF’s application for federal funding. 

In 2011, USF started the task to document and identify the remains of the students who have been buried in unmarked graves at the reform school site.  Some of these young boys died under suspicious or unexplained circumstances, making it is necessary to investigate the cause of death and identify these remains.  Funding for this project will allow the medical examiner to exhume the remains so additional investigations may be performed in establishing the identities of the persons and in conducting further research to find surviving family members.  

This research project is essential and will be in collaboration with a number of other agencies.  Once this project is completed, a final report will provide a comprehensive overview.  But most important of all, the families of the deceased will have closure. 

Again, I encourage your consideration of this grant application.  If I can be of further assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me. 

Sincerely, 
Digna C. Alvarez
Regional Director
United States Senator Bill Nelson

WASHINGTON TIMES

Tuesday, August 27, 2013 -
Disrobing Blind Justice by Clare O'Toole  

5 Photos Florida school mass grave exhumations begin amidst murder allegations

 THE YOUTUBE VIDEO USED BY WASHINGTON TIMES WITH THIS ARTICLE  IS BELOW  (warning - cussing + disturbing content)

WASHINGTON, August 27, 2013 — The State of Florida has announced exhumations will commence on August 31 at one or more mass grave sites in the deserted grounds of the notorious, Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys at Marianna Florida, a former reform school forcibly closed in June 2011.

The news comes as a past inmate and “White House Boy” announced plans to present a case to the Department of Justice to plead for an official investigation into the death of football player, 16-year-old Edgar Elton, allegedly murdered at the school during an illegal pre-season practice in 1961.

Elton is one of around 100 boys aged between 6 and 18 years old who are said to have died at the school in questionable or “unknown” circumstances between 1914 and 1973

A murder investigation into any of the deaths could provide crucial evidence and give added impetus to the painstaking bid to piece together the mystery of the lost boys of Marianna in the South Florida panhandle and bring justice for the decades of heinous crimes against children said to have been committed there.

Researchers trying to match documentary evidence with 31 crudely marked graves have shown far more bodies are buried at the school than acknowledged by the State in a 2009 report following a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation.

That report concluded, “No crimes were committed in association with the deaths.” Yet records have been found showing 45 bodies were buried on the school’s 1,400 acre tract between 1914 and 1952 and a further 31 bodies were possibly sent “elsewhere.” What happened to the remainder is unknown.

The FDLE report favored official state and school records and newspaper accounts that many of the students died from natural causes such as influenza, or in a fire. Only the persistence of former inmates, aided by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist from the University of Florida who used ground penetrating radar and trenching methods to locate bodies, was able to persuade Florida Governor Rick Scott that more action was needed to resolve matters pertaining to Dozier’s troubled history.

In early August this year, Scott finally acknowledged the need for exhumations to identify human remains and where possible, establish cause of death. He also agreed to reinter bodies under respectful burial conditions in a bid to bring closure to long grieving relatives.

In recent years, over 300 former school inmates have stepped forward and declared that abuse, torture, rape and murder were a regular part of the staff culture at Marianna. They allege that institutionalized depravity went to the highest levels of management.

The “White House Boys,” epithet was chosen in common recognition of a dank, white school building, forever etched in their minds.

The boys say many of them and their fellow students, some as young as eight-years-old, were forced to lie on a soiled, torture stained bed, their heads biting into a filthy pillow. There, they say they were systematically beaten till their bodies were limp and bloodied and undergarments were embedded in their skin, requiring surgical removal.

Survivors have talked of sadistic brutality and a Ku Klux Klan mentality towards students of color. They have told of boys trying to escape who were hunted down and savaged by vicious dogs or shot at by pursuers whose careless bullets too often made their human mark.

Some boys were allegedly taken from their beds in the middle of the night to be punished, often for a minor infraction such as eating too fast or too slowly. They were taken to the white house to be beaten. Some were never seen again. Many survivors believe murder was commonplace and they point to the mass graves and the inconsistency of the records of deaths and burials.

As details steadily emerged, the sordid tales sent shockwaves around the Nation and overseas.

Jerry Cooper, 68, a former quarterback, was known to be a “jock.” He was the all-star pitcher for the school’s baseball team and the only pitcher who had ever pitched a two-hitter game to win the series conference in the history of the school. He was an obvious choice to train for football selection in 1961, the year the school was so desperate to win the conference they bought in a pro-player, Vic Prinzi to coach the team.

Prinzi had been a star quarterback with the Denver Bronco’s and New York Giants before injury resulted in the removal of his spleen.

Prinzi was best friends with actor Burt Reynolds, and his experience at Dozier is said to be the inspiration behind the 1974, Burt Reynold’s movie, “The Longest Yard.” Ironically, both the original movie and the 2005 Adam Sandler remake were produced as comedies, despite the alleged torture and abuse at the school.

Cooper is seeking justice for the death of his former best friend and member of the Yellow Jackets football team, Edgar Elton. Cooper and other students say they witnessed Elton cruelly “run to death” in over 100 degrees of stifling heat during an illicit practice session in the school gym on July 10, 1961.

He said the practice flouted season regulations, and staff showed contemptuous disregard for Elton’s medical condition and doctor’s advisory that he should not participate in sports.

Cooper has asked Florida State Attorney Glenn Hess to press charges against the man he claims is the remaining living perpetrator, named as former school supervisor Troy Tidwell, 87. An earlier attempt to indict Tidwell in a class action suit launched in spring 2009 failed. Cooper says if Hess is not forthcoming, he will take his case all the way to Washington.

Cooper says the official version of Elton’s death as reported at the time in the school’s Yellow Jacket newspaper was “a complete and total lie.” Elton was said to have died of a heart attack after receiving expert medical attention on site. There was no mention of forced exercise or neglect contributing to his death.

In contrast, on the day in question Cooper claims,

“We were forced to practice football in the stifling hot gym even though we had a perfectly good football field. We were told we couldn’t afford to be seen.

When you were called to play football, practice was mandatory. Refusal would have led to a trip to the white house.

I was the second player in line behind Edgar during a passing session. It was extremely fast pace and very exhausting, and it was very difficult for every team member to keep pace. Edgar went into an asthma attack and fell to his knees. I didn’t know till that day he had asthma, but at the start of practice he told me he couldn’t breathe. I told him to go to Troy Tidwell and Mr. Hatton (the director) who were both present in the gym. As he climbed to his feet and stumbled toward them; he was met by Tidwell about half-court. Tidwell screamed “get your f***ing ass back in line.

Tidwell made Edgar keep running. When I broke line to tell them he was having a breathing attack; Hatton reached up to his side and placed his hand on his pistol. Tidwell turned toward me and began screaming, calling me a “motherf***er.”

Cooper said the next run Edgar made was his last. He collapsed, hitting the floor “like a ton of bricks.”

“I saw him go purple and he urinated in his pants. I knew then it was all over and he was dead within a minute. He was not rushed to the hospital as the school later claimed. It took at least 15 minutes for Dr. Wexler, the decrepit and half blind school physician to show up. He just looked at him and pronounced him dead. His lifeless body was lying on the floor. No one gave him any kind of aid. No attempt was made to resuscitate him. No other Doctor was involved, whatsoever. He certainly wasn’t rushed to the infirmary as the newspaper article suggests.”

Cooper has obtained witness statements corroborating his evidence. He surmises,

“What was the purpose for all these lies; other than to cover up a murder or manslaughter conviction for those responsible?”

Since the story of the Dozier Schools gruesome past and the sufferings of the White House Boys first came to light, it has drawn a huge media response and has spawned more than one documentary and there are further ventures in the offing. As Cooper says,

“Now we have the green light for exhumations, I believe the best stories are yet to come.”

Cooper has approached and been rebuffed by Burt Reynolds. He thinks Reynolds may have been worried he wanted financial redress and was seeking to take some kind of copyright action against him. Cooper swears this was not the case. All he wanted was information to help him get justice for Elton.

He is convinced Vic Prinzi must have confided in Reynolds about conditions at the school when they were discussing the plot for the Longest Yard. He wants to know what Prinzi told Reynolds about the fateful day Edgar Elton died in the school gym.

Cooper is hoping to be able to reach Adam Sandler whom he thinks might be more amenable to help if he were to hear the story of Elton’s death and the conditions at Dozier. He hopes Sandler’s influence might be able to bridge the gap between the official story of his friend’s death and justice. 

Read more:
http://communities.washingtontimes.com/neighborhood/disrobing-blind-justice/2013/aug/27/florida-school-mass-grave-exhumations-begin-amidst/#ixzz2dJzR5fRh

Hefty federal grant will help unearth graves at old Dozier School for Boys   Wednesday, August 28, 2013 5:00am

Watch WCTV VIDEO below or by clicking here: Dozier Excavations Begin This Weekend 8-27-13 6pm


For decades, the little graveyard on the campus of the old Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna was all but forgotten. Once in a while, inmates from the nearby county jail would cut the grass at Boot Hill while the Panhandle sun baked the crooked rows of 31 pipe crosses that didn't even mark actual graves. But visitors to the clearing in the pines were few and far between.

On Saturday, as forensic anthropologists and archaeologists from the University of South Florida will begin unearthing remains of the boys buried here, many will turn their attention to the cemetery on the edge of town, about an hour's drive west of Tallahassee.

USF has fielded requests for information from media outlets around the world, a spokeswoman said. And a new Department of Justice grant for $423,528, announced today, coupled with $190,000 from the state, will fund the exhumations and DNA testing that researchers will use to identify the remains and determine how the boys met their deaths.

Dr. Greg Ridgeway, acting director of the DOJ's National Institute of Justice, which issued the grant, said the project is unique.

"As far as I know, we haven't done this kind of mass site before," he said. "In addition to the compelling story in this particular case … as a science agency, we recognize that there's a lot we can learn here."

Exhumations, and answers, can't come soon enough for the families of the dead, and for a group of men who call themselves the White House Boys. In October 2008, five of them who had connected on the Internet persuaded a former state legislator to let them return to campus and tell of the beatings they received from school administrators in a little white building in the 1950s and '60s. They spoke of boys who disappeared in the night, and of witnessed atrocities choked back for decades by silence or booze or anger.

When news spread in a series of articles in the Tampa Bay Times called "For Their Own Good," hundreds more men came forward with the same memories about being beaten so badly with a weighted leather strap that they had to pick pieces of their underpants from the lacerations on their backsides.

Former Gov. Charlie Crist ordered the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the allegations and the cemetery. The FDLE found that school records indicated 29 boys and two men were buried at Boot Hill, a perfect fit to the 31 crosses, planted by a superintendent in 1996 based on folklore. Case closed.

But three years later, USF researchers used ground-penetrating radar and found 50 probable burial shafts, many scattered in woods outside the perimeter of the graveyard. They also believe there may be another cemetery on campus. They'll begin Saturday to carefully remove the remains from the grave shafts and transport them to a lab at USF in Tampa for study.

DNA samples will be shipped to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification, where they will be compared to samples submitted by relatives of several of the dead and entered into the Combined DNA Index System and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System.

The relatives of seven dead boys have submitted DNA. DNA and other biological evidence from the unidentified remains will be used to compare with others from the two national databases in hopes of finding matches.

Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650. 

BAYNEWS 9 
USF wins federal grant for Dozier research   

By TAMARA LUSH,
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 28, 2013, 6:36 PM    

Video Stories  Man who went to Dozier: They need to dig Watch Video 
More Information Previous stories on the Dozier School for Boys

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- 
(AP) The National Institute of Justice has awarded University of South Florida researchers a $423,000 grant to help with exhuming the gravesites located at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

The grant was announced Wednesday morning. It allows researchers to perform DNA testing and conduct investigations on human remains for identification. Starting 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 and family members of the deceased say exhuming the remains might shed light on how the students died - and how they lived their final days at the school.

The school opened in 1900 and was shut down in 2011 for budgetary reasons.

Some 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.

“They need to dig. These boys are missing. Their families are missing them,” said Eddie Horne, 63.

Horne, who now lives in St. Petersburg, was 14 years old at the time when he went to Dozier School for Boys.

He said one time he was sent to the infamous ‘white house’ for fighting and that's where he was beaten.

“I don't know how many lashes they gave me but I know it was excruciating. I mean, they come down on you like they swinging a baseball bat. But like I said the pain was so bad, you couldn't cry,” he said.

Horne spent a year at the School for Boys and says he was one of the lucky ones. He and his two brothers made it out.

“I believe the only thing that saved us, our parents kept coming to visit us and i think that's what saved us a little bit,” he said.

Researchers said they have already used historical documents to discover more deaths and gravesites than what the law enforcement agency found; they have verified the deaths of two adult staff members and 96 children - ranging in age from 6 to 18 - between 1914 and 1973.

Researchers received nearly $200,000 from state legislators to begin their project on the site 60 miles west of Tallahassee. The federal grant announced Wednesday will allow researchers to work with the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification in performing all of the DNA analysis. All of the data will be entered into the Combined DNA Index System and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, said Erin Kimmerle, an anthropologist and one of USF's head researchers on the project.

Once DNA is collected, the information will be entered into national databases in hopes of finding families of the boys. In some cases, researchers have found families and have collected DNA, which will make identification of remains easier.

Kimmerle said researchers can also use facial reconstruction on remains that don't yield DNA results. The research team will also try to determine a cause of death for each student.

Greg Ridgeway - the acting director of U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice - said such grants usually are given to law enforcement or medical examiners' offices to clear cold cases and identify unclaimed bodies. 

Reporter Dalia Dangerfield contributed to this report.

wmbb.com
 
Sen. Bill Nelson Announces Federal Funding for Dozier Exhumation 

Posted: Aug 28, 2013 9:47 AM EDT
Scientists searching for clues at dozens of unmarked graves they found at a now-shuttered Florida Panhandle reform school will be getting some help from the U.S. Department of Justice. 

The help will be in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant money from DOJ that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sought on behalf of the University of South Florida.

Nelson wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. in May - backing the school's application for funds.  The school will receive about $423,000 from a grant for universities and non-profits involved in identifying missing persons using DNA technology. 

"Hopefully, the scientists can use DNA technology to give the boys who are buried in these 50-or-so unmarked graves a name and to provide some closure to surviving family members," Nelson said today.

Today's announcement comes on the heels of a decision earlier this month by the Florida Cabinet and governor to issue the permits USF researchers needed to exhume the bodies buried on the grounds of the now-defunct Arthur  G. Dozier School in Marianna.

The USF research team, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, is expected to begin work on the exhumations this Saturday.  The team will try to match DNA samples they get from any bodies to samples taken from living relatives of boys who died at the school long-ago.

Over the years, the reform school has been the subject of several major investigations stemming from allegations of abuse there.  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 the state probe 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.

Nelson got involved last fall 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.  He helped find the grant, wrote the governor urging him to the back the scientists' work, and he visited the Dozier site with Dr. Kimmerle earlier this year.  In June, he assisted researchers in collecting DNA samples from living relatives gathered on USF's campus in Tampa. 

JC FLORIDIAN  
Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys Feds to help fund Dozier exhumation

Project leader expected here Thursday and Saturday

6:24 pm, Wed Aug 28, 2013.
  

 

 

Mark Skinner/Floridan
Dr. Erin Kimmerle 

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Wednesday that the agency will help fund the continued graveyard research at the old Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. According to Congressman Bill Nelson, the agency is awarding a $423,000 grant to the project. The money will come from the DOJ’s National Institute of Justice program.

University of South Florida professor Dr. Erin Kimmerle, her team of researchers and the state Medical Examiner are leading the examination, and Kimmerle is wasting no time; she is scheduled to be in Marianna Thursday to conduct preliminary field work and is to start her next stage of work in earnest on Saturday now that the funding is in place.

She and her team are trying to identify the known remains at Dozier, establish the true boundaries of the cemetery and determine whether there are any previously unknown graves on the grounds. They are also examining the remains for comparison with existing records related to their manner of death.

The known graveyard, referred to as “Boot Hill,” is generally marked with a series of crosses that were erected long after the last burials at Dozier, and which were placed in the general area known to be the site of the graveyard, as a symbolic gesture rather than in direct correspondence with the remains.

Kimmerle and her team intend to disinter the known remains, examine and identify those they can by means of DNA comparisons to living relatives, release the identified remains to relatives for family burial if that is desired, and to re-inter the other remains in a more appropriate manner when the field work is complete.

The researchers have already examined some areas minimally, using ground-penetrating radar, and determined there is evidence that some remains may lie outside the marked gravesite.

They have reviewed and reported findings about conflicting and incomplete institutional reports, obtained state archival photographs related to Dozier, interviewed several former residents, carried out other research and have produced a preliminary report about Dozier that runs to more than 100 pages. It can be viewed on the University of South Florida website within the anthropology department and is easily found on general search engines by searching the name of Dr. Erin Kimmerle.

The Rev. Ron Mizer, president of the Jackson County NAACP, said that news of the funding is to be celebrated and summed up his reaction in a word: “Joy.”

Miser believes the decision will be good news for the county. “I think it satisfies the first concern of the county commissioners, in that they wanted to make sure that it would cost them nothing. This funding, I think, settles that issue for them and others in the Jackson County area who have expressed the same concern.”

Almost since the facility’s founding, rumors surfaced periodically through the years that some of the boys living there were mistreated and that some deaths were considered suspicious.

 

WTSP - 10 NEWS - TAMPA BAY
Researchers prepare to exhume Dozier bodies
4:50 PM, Aug 27, 2013  

Tallahassee, Florida - University of South Florida researchers will start exhuming bodies at the former, state-operated Dozier School for Boys in Marianna on Saturday.

Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet have given USF one year to dig up remains on the property, look for additional graves, and perform DNA testing to try to reunite the remains with families.

Some relatives of boys who died at Dozier have already given their DNA, hoping they can finally find their long-lost loved ones and discover the truth about how they died.

Boot Hill Cemetery on the school's property contains 31 metal crosses, but the markers don't correspond to the actual interments. The grave markers were placed in the 1960s and the mid-1990s, long after the burials. The exact locations of burials were never documented.

USF researchers used ground penetrating radar in the cemetery last year and found 50 undocumented graves in the area. Their research also uncovered historical documents showing a total of 96 boys' deaths, as well as two adult staffers, between 1914 and 1952.

Records indicate 45 people were buried on school grounds and 31 bodies were shipped to other locations for burial. A total of 22 cases have no records of burial locations.

The cause of death is not known in most cases. Of those recorded, infectious disease, fires, physical trauma, and drowning were the most common explanations.

However, USF researchers discovered some unusual patterns among the deaths. Seven boys died following attempted escapes from the school and a high number, 20, boys died within the first three months of arriving there.

Former students are coming forward now and accusing school guards of torture and abuse. The students believe boys were killed and their deaths covered up by school administrators.

Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, says he's talked with families who lost loved ones at Dozier and he thinks it's time to reunite the remains with their families.

"That's what we're trying to do, close this chapter and finally send those men home. They went in as boys and never came home and so now is our time to send them back home to their loved ones."

Originally known as the Florida State Reform School, the facility operated from 1900 to 2011. There are reports as early as 1901 of boys being chained to walls and receiving brutal whippings.

Children as young as five were originally sent to the school for serious crimes. That changed later to include "incorrigibility, truancy, and dependency." They were segregated by race until the 1960s.

Rep. Williams says the exhumations will help start the healing process for families who had a loved one sent to the school, never to return.

"For the state of Florida to begin to close this chapter I think is important. And the work that the University of South Florida, without them this wouldn't be possible."

But there are very mixed feelings in Jackson County about the effort to exhume bodies from the school's property. Some residents are concerned about how the work will reflect on the community and they fear it could hurt their local economy.

Rep. Marti Coley, R-Marianna, calls it a very difficult issue for Marianna, Jackson County, and surrounding counties as well. She says Dozier School was an integral part of the community for many years and provided many employment opportunities for residents.

Coley hopes the work moves quickly.

"Now that the decision has been that the remains need to be exhumed and moved and give the families an opportunity to relocate them if they so choose, then I hope it can be done quickly and without bringing any negative reflection on the community itself. Jackson County is a wonderful place to live and to raise children and to work and I certainly hope that it is not done in such a way to make this community look bad."

The first phase of USF's work at Dozier School will be done from Saturday, August 31 to Tuesday, September 3.

USF says the work will be a "closed research site" in respect to families and for safety reasons. However, researchers say they want their work to be transparent, so they will allow one videographer and one still photographer to have access to the burial site to record the effort to exhume bodies.

USF emphasizes the images will follow ethical guidelines and won't include "close-up images of skeletal remains." The photos and video will be distributed to news outlets twice a day so the rest of the world can monitor the search for boys buried decades ago.

More Stories on the Dozier School for Boys:

NEWS-PRESS.COM

Florida School for Boys exhumations offer solace for Cape Coral man
Aug. 8, 2013 10:46 AM 
Florida School for Boys remembered: Decision Tuesday to exhume bodies at Florida School for Boys brings reaction from local man who was a student there.
Video by Mike Braun 


 
About Tuesday’s decision

Researchers said they have already used historical documents to discover more deaths and grave sites than what state police found earlier.
 Researchers said they verified the deaths of two adult staff members and 96 children — ranging in age from 6 to 18 — between 1914 and 1973.
 Records indicated 45 people were buried on the 1,400-acre tract from 1914 to 1952, and 31 bodies were sent elsewhere, leaving some bodies with whereabouts unknown.
Source: Associated Press

For more than 50 years, Jerry Cooper has been determined to right a wrong that affected hundreds of Florida boys.

The Cape Coral resident was partially relieved of that burden this week.

Cooper, 68, is one of the White House Boys at the Florida School for Boys. He was one of hundreds of young and troubled youths who were sent to the school and who were beaten and abused — some killed.

Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a permit that will allow University of South Florida researchers to exhume and identify bodies buried at the now-defunct school west of Tallahassee in Marianna.

“That was like someone took a ton of bricks off my heart,” he said.

The school, just south of the Alabama and Georgia state lines, was where wayward teens, marginally criminal young men, runaways, orphans and other Florida males ended up from 1900 to 2011.

Talk of abuse and deaths had percolated from the school for years, but investigations always failed to turn up evidence.

Florida officials cited budget issues in 2011 when they closed the school, then called the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. But the closure followed a state police probe into the latest allegations that found no evidence of any crimes.

It was that investigation, Cooper said, that sparked former “students” at the school to start publicizing the abuse they suffered at the hands of staff and to push for the exhumation of bodies on the grounds.

Cooper, who passed a lie-detector test about the abuse he suffered, said the move by the Florida government provides some balm for the abused.

“It may take a while yet,” he said. “But there will be some sort of closure for all. It has been one hell of a walk.”

The name White House Boys stems from the white building where punishment and abuse was meted out on boys ages 10 to 16. Cooper said that, prior to his time there in 1960-61, talk was that even kids as young as 6 or 7 had been there at times. 

The craggy-faced former heavy equipment operator, utility lineman, business owner and country and western singer knows firsthand the wreckage that came from the beatings.

His own night of terror encompassed a severe lashing with a thick leather strop — 135 lashes another student listening from an adjoining room later said. The results stayed with him through a stint in the Army, two marriages, jobs and to this day. His punishment came for allegedly helping another youth try to escape, which he said he did not do.

“I still have severe anger issues. I take medications. I have been diagnosed with PTSD,” Cooper said. “Aggression breeds aggression. There’s no doubt about that.”

His beating was so severe, he said, that his thin nightgown and underwear were embedded in his wounds.

“I had to report to work the next day,” he said, despite not being given any medical care. For months, he said, the wounds would reopen, and there were times when he would walk around in blood-soaked clothing.

Work was as a teacher’s aide, but Cooper said it was actual teaching.

“The teacher would read a book while I taught the class,” he said. “But I did accomplish a lot. I taught kids to read. They would come up to me later and say ‘Mr. Jerry, thank you for teaching me to read.’ That was a joy.”

Even his role as quarterback for the school’s Yellow Jackets’ football team — which he said he was forced to do on penalty of going to prison — couldn’t sooth the trauma of being at the school.

Cooper said others fared even worse. “One of my best friends there, Edgar Elton, was run to death in the gym. It was about 100 (degrees) in there.”

Cooper said Elton, about 16, was forced to run during a football practice in mid-July that was illegal, even at that time. “We weren’t supposed to be practicing in July,” he said, and pointed to a photo of the team in full-pads practicing that ran in a June 1961 issue of the school newspaper.

The death was covered up, he charged, and made to look accidental.

He escaped the school as he approached his 17th birthday by joining the Army.

The Army saved my life,” he said. He never told the Army doctors who helped heal his wounds about the beatings, nor did he ever tell his mother.

“They would have sent me back,” he said.

Cooper gives a lot of credit to Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson for Tuesday’s move.

“I love her,” he said of Bondi. “She’s a good little gal. She has been our savior. Without them we’d have had a much harder road.”

Cooper would also like to see some surviving staffers be punished and vowed to continue working to that end, maybe by getting the U.S. Department of Justice involved.

This month, researchers at the University of South Florida hope to start exhuming bodies from unmarked graves, and perhaps return them to family members for a proper burial.

Tuesday’s vote triggered a round of applause from former Dozier students at the Cabinet meeting, including Cooper.

“This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation,” said Nelson on Tuesday. “Nothing can bring these boys back, but I’m hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve.”

John Bonner, another White House Boy at the meeting who called some of the Dozier employees “vicious,” said the university’s work could help people and families get answers about what happened at the school.

Cooper said another former student at the Tuesday meeting, Bryant Middleton, who served in Vietnam and received a Purple Heart for his wounds, told him that he would rather go back to war than go back to the White House.

Cooper has been trying to help other White House Boys through a website, officialwhitehouseboys.org, and counsels them .

His wife, Carol, fielded three calls Wednesday afternoon. “They’re coming out of the woodwork,” she said.

wctv  news
  • Florida Agrees To Exhume Bodies At School Property 8-6-13 6pm 
  • Florida Approves Digging Of Unmarked Graves At Dozier 8-6-13 5pm 
  • State 'Doesn't Have Authority' To Exhume Human Remains At Dozier
  • 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.  

     

    WTEV

    State approves USF plan to exhume bodies at the Dozier School for Boys

    Published: 8/06 10:28 am  

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Researchers can now exhume the bodies at the Dozier School for Boys.

    Tuesday, the Florida Cabinet voted to grant the exhumation permit. "Dozier has a history and we are not proud of it," said Attorney General Pam Bondi.

    Last month, Action News told you how the state repeatedly denied USF researchers in their efforts to dig up the grounds at the Dozier School for Boys where there are stories of abuse and torture.

    USF has been fighting to bring these bodies up from the graves at the now defunct school.

    The state denials were a big concern for the Commissioner of Agriculture before the vote.

    "I don't why the Department of State was unable to find the appropriate rationale two times when they applied and were denied," said Adam Putnam.

    Former students of the school cheered.

    It's the answer Roger Kiser has been waiting years to hear. The bodies beneath the crosses can finally be exhumed. The secrets he says are buried there can finally be exposed.

    "I was really almost brought to tears. I've been working over 22 years for this.

    The Brunswick man went to the school for boys in the 1960s. He wrote a book about the abuse he and others endured in what they called the "White House."

    Researchers from USF discovered the state has no record of the bodies.

    That's why they've pushed to exhume the bodies.

    USF Dr. Erin Kimerle says she has always wanted one thing, to bring closure to the families.

    "This is hopefully that missing piece to fill in that," Kimerle says.

    But we had just one question for the attorney general. Why did it take so long?

    "It's sad, isn't it. It's very sad it took this long," said Bondi. "We can't answer why it took so long but it's being dealt with now."

    The permit is for one year. The exhumations will start later this month.

    Researchers will also be looking to see if there are more gravesites on the property.
    NY POST
    AP
    August 7, 2013


    RESEARCHER TO ID REMAINS  OF 18 BOYS IN UNMARKED GRAVES ON GROUNDS OF CLOSED FLA REFORM SCHOOL AMIDST ACCUSATIONS OF ABUSE AND TORTURE

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Saying it was time to provide answers from a painful period in the state's past, Florida's top officials voted Tuesday to let researchers dig up and try to identify remains buried at a closed reform school for boys.

    Former students have accused employees and guards at The Dozier School for Boys of physical and sexual abuse, so severe in some cases it may have led to death. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated, but in 2009 the agency concluded it was unable to substantiate or dispute the claims.

    Later this month, researchers at the University of South Florida hope to start exhuming bodies from more than 100 unmarked graves, and perhaps return them to family members for a proper burial.

    WFLA-TV News Channel 8

     

    Researchers said they verified the deaths of two adult staff members and 96 children — ranging in age from 6 to 18 — between 1914 and 1973.

    Records indicated 45 people were buried on the 1,400-acre tract from 1914 to 1952 and 31 bodies were sent elsewhere, leaving more than 20 bodies with whereabouts unknown. CNN reported researchers have found 18 bodies with no burial records on the school grounds.

    In its quest to exhume the bodies, the university was rebuffed by a judge and by one state agency before Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet members approved the plan Tuesday.

    Researchers received nearly $200,000 from state legislators to begin their project on the site 60 miles west of Tallahassee. The decision by the governor and others came despite opposition of some Jackson County residents who maintain the effort will result in negative publicity.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state needed to act.

    "We have to look at our history, we have to go back," Bondi said. "We know there are unmarked graves currently on that property that deserve a proper burial. It's the right thing to do."

    The vote triggered a round of applause from former Dozier students at the Cabinet meeting.

    John Bonner, who called some of the Dozier employees "vicious," said the university's work could help people and families get answers about what happened at the school.

    "There's just so many things that could come out of this that could benefit people," said Bonner, who was at Dozier in the late '60s.

    The school opened in 1900 and was shut down in 2011 for budgetary reasons.

    Sid Riley, the managing editor of the weekly Jackson County Times, wrote to state officials in July, calling the plans a "terrible project."

    "We have an active industrial development program and a tourist development program here. If they proceed with this terrible project, our community will be exposed to over a year of negative publicity," Riley wrote.

    Riley said the groups "promoting this effort" would ultimately seek compensation and the "politicians are playing up to the minority voters."

    Jackson County Commissioner Jeremy Branch said the project would continue to blemish the county and Marianna, where the school is located. He said he was confused as to what the exhumation of the bodies would discover.

    "Are we trying to determine if bad things happened 100 years ago in America?" Branch said. "We know bad things happened in America."

    Researchers said they have already used historical documents to discover more deaths and gravesites than what the law enforcement agency found.

    In May, a judge rejected a request to exhume bodies from what is called "Boot Hill Cemetery," saying the case did not meet the "threshold" to grant the order.

    Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who reports to Scott, said in July his agency lacked the legal authority to grant a permit even though the land is state-owned. That led to a push by Bondi to get approval from the state agency that oversees state land. The agency is controlled by Scott and the Cabinet.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press show State Archaeologist Mary Glowacki in late April distributed a list of recommendations to the head of the state's Division of Historical Resources, raising questions about the project.

    The list asked questions about why an entire cemetery had to be disturbed and she raised doubts about the ability of researchers to find and identify everyone buried there.

    CNN

    Florida lets university exhume bodies at school where boys disappeared  
    By Rich Phillips, CNN
    updated 2:54 PM EDT, Tue August 6, 2013
    Rusting white steel crosses mark the graves of 31 unidentified former students at the Dozier School for Boys.
    Rusting white steel crosses mark the graves of 31 unidentified former students at the Dozier School for Boys.
    STORY HIGHLIGHTS
    • University researchers permitted to dig up bodies at now-defunct reform school
    • Former inmates say children were beaten and disappeared at school
    • Already, researchers have found 18 more graves than previously thought 

    (CNN) -- The Florida Cabinet gave the go-ahead Tuesday for dozens of unmarked graves, buried deep in the woods near a now-defunct reform school, to be exhumed, in an attempt to return the bodies to their families.

    Gov. Rick Scott along with the rest of the Florida Cabinet voted to allow University of South Florida researchers to begin exhumation at the site of the former Dozier School for Boys in the panhandle city of Marianna.

    "It's a relief. The real work has yet to begin, but now we can now move forward," said Erin Kimmerle, a University of South Florida anthropologist who is leading the effort. "We will go slow and test our methods and really be able to make progress when it dries off."

    Many of the families were present in Tallahassee at the Cabinet meeting. Attorney General Pam Bondi voted in favor of the effort.

    "From the beginning, I have supported efforts at the Dozier School for Boys in order to provide family members who lost loved ones with closure," she said in a written statement.

    The small cemetery dates back to the early 1900s. For years, former inmates say children who were sent to the reform school were beaten and mysteriously disappeared.

    Rusting white steel crosses mark the graves of 31 unidentified former students. Using ground-penetrating radar, Kimmerle's team have located what she says appears to be 18 more remains than previously thought. All are unidentified.

    State and school records show that out of nearly 100 children who died while at the school, there are no burial records for 22 of them, Kimmerle said.

    "This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida. "Nothing can bring these boys back, but I'm hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve."

    Only 10 families have been identified as having descendants who are buried here. Many are seeking to claim the bodies of their loved ones so they can be buried properly in family cemeteries. DNA has already been collected from many of them.

    Glenn Varnadoe says his father, Hubert Varnadoe, and Hubert's brother, Thomas Varnadoe, were sent to Dozier for stealing. A month later, administrators allegedly woke up Hubert Varnadoe and took him to a place in the woods where men had just buried Thomas Varnadoe.

    The cause of death was listed as pneumonia. Glenn Varnadoe wants his uncle's body found so his uncle can be buried properly.

    "I think this is a banner day for every kid who ever went through Dozier, for the kids who are dead, buried and forgotten," he told CNN. "They will finally be remembered and given a proper burial and finally respected as human beings."

    Former students said the deaths were at the hands of abusive administrators, but a 2009 state investigation determined there was no evidence of criminal activity.

    In the wake of that investigation, more former students -- now senior citizens -- have come forward with stories of abuse, including alleged beatings, killings and the disappearance of students,during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.

    "These are children who came here and died, for one reason or another, and have just been lost in the woods," Kimmerle said in an interview earlier this year. "When there's no knowledge and no information, then people will speculate and rumors will persist or questions remain."

    Kimmerle, who worked on an international forensics team that amassed evidence used in Yugoslavian war crimes trials, called the Florida project a humanitarian effort for the families of the former students and for the community.

    Many wonder if the tales of beating and murder are true or if anyone can be charged with any crimes.

    Glenn Hess, the state attorney for Jackson County, Florida, where Marianna is located, said, "From a prosecutor's point of view, these things happened so far in the past, the probability that they're going to be able to put a probable cause with a homicide with a probable cause that somebody did it, are probably remote."

    Researchers are hoping to begin the exhumation process later this month. It will be a tedious scientific process which the families hope, may one day, answer the mysteries of what really happened at Marianna.


     

    NPR - ALL THINGS CONSIDERED

    Florida To Reopen Dark Chapter In State's History


    Listen to the Story:

    AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

    Florida officials today voted to reopen a dark chapter in the state's history. Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet voted to allow researchers to exhume some 90 unmarked graves at a state-run reform school. The Dozier School for Boys was closed two years ago, but over its 100-year history, it was notorious for physical abuse. As NPR's Greg Allen reports from Miami, the hope is that today's decision will unearth answers about the children who died there and why.

    GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: Over the last five years, former residents of the Dozier School started speaking out about the harsh treatment and physical abuse they received there. More than 300 men, many now in their 70s and 80s, formed a group called the White House Boys, named for a small white building on the school grounds where boys were beaten.

    Last weekend, Johnny Lee Gatti(ph) was one of a group of former African-American residents who visited the school grounds. Gatti said guards used a leather strap and insisted the boys call them beatings, not spankings.

    JOHNNY LEE GATTI: The first time I got hit, I had never been hit like that before in my life. I said, my god, what's happening here?

    ALLEN: Gatti was just 11 years old when he was sent to Dozier in 1957. He recalled receiving 35 to 40 blows that left him bloody. Other boys, he said, received far worse treatment. He remembers seeing one boy, a runaway, beaten so badly that Gatti believes he died.

    GATTI: They said, we've taken him home. We didn't see the guy no more. We know that that guy didn't go home. They killed him. He was beaten to death when he left us. You didn't leave this place.

    ALLEN: In recent years, books and news accounts drew attention to the Dozier School's sordid history, but many leaders seemed content to allow that chapter of the state's history to remain closed. Researchers from the University of South Florida, however, received permission to begin an investigation and soon found 90 unmarked graves on school grounds, dozens more than previously known.

    Backed by relatives of boys who died there, the researchers asked the state for permission to exhume the bodies so remains can be identified and returned to their families. At first, the administration of Governor Rick Scott refused, but after weeks of pressure, today the governor brought it up for a vote at his cabinet meeting.

    GOVERNOR RICK SCOTT: Any comments or objections? Hearing none, the motion carries.

    (APPLAUSE)

    JERRY COOPER: I'm going to be honest with you. When I heard the yays all the way across the board, I felt like a ton of weight has been lifted off of my heart.

    ALLEN: White House Boy Jerry Cooper traveled from his home in Cape Coral to be in Tallahassee for today's vote. Although Governor Scott had appeared reluctant, other members of the cabinet, led by Attorney General Pam Bondi, supported the researchers. Another cabinet member, Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam, said the families of the boys who died there deserve answers.

    SECRETARY ADAM PUTNAM: It is not a judgment or an indictment whatsoever on the community that hosted this state facility. This was a state facility that was ignored for too long by state officials.

    ALLEN: With today's vote, a team from the University of South Florida will soon begin exhuming remains at the old Dozier School. Since last year, the researchers lead by forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle have used ground penetrating radar to survey a burial ground at the school known as Boot Hill. Kimmerle says some of the graves found by the team were in a wooded area and some under a nearby road.

    ERIN KIMMERLE: You know, these graves and individuals were never in marked plots from the beginning and there were never good records about who was there, so it's not a cemetery in the conventional sense.

    ALLEN: While Kimmerle and her team have been making plans for the exhumations, they've also been carrying out other work that may raise new questions. The Dozier School was segregated. The burial ground where Kimmerle will be working is on what was the black side of the school grounds. Many of the White House Boys say they believe there is another burial area on the white side.

    Along with the 90 found so far, Kimmerle believes there may be many more unmarked graves at the school yet to be discovered. Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami


    NPR
    BODIES CAN BE EXHUMED FROM FLA. REFORM SCHOOL

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Saying it was time to provide answers from a painful period in the state's past, Florida's top officials voted Tuesday to let researchers dig up and try to identify remains buried at a closed reform school for boys.

    Former students have accused employees and guards at The Dozier School for Boys of physical and sexual abuse, so severe in some cases it may have led to death. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated, but in 2009 the agency concluded it was unable to substantiate or dispute the claims.

    Later this month, researchers at the University of South Florida hope to start exhuming bodies from unmarked graves, and perhaps return them to family members for a proper burial.

    In its quest to exhume the bodies, the university was rebuffed by a judge and by one state agency before Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Cabinet members approved the plan Tuesday.

    Researchers received nearly $200,000 from state legislators to begin their project on the site 60 miles west of Tallahassee. The decision by the governor and others came despite opposition of some Jackson County residents who maintain the effort will result in negative publicity.

    Attorney General Pam Bondi said the state needed to act.

    "We have to look at our history, we have to go back," Bondi said. "We know there are unmarked graves currently on that property that deserve a proper burial. It's the right thing to do."

    The vote triggered a round of applause from former Dozier students at the Cabinet meeting.

    John Bonner, who called some of the Dozier employees "vicious," said the university's work could help people and families get answers about what happened at the school.

    "There's just so many things that could come out of this that could benefit people," said Bonner, who was at Dozier in the late '60s.

    The school opened in 1900 and was shut down in 2011 for budgetary reasons.

    Sid Riley, the managing editor of the weekly Jackson County Times, wrote to state officials in July, calling the plans a "terrible project."

    "We have an active industrial development program and a tourist development program here. If they proceed with this terrible project, our community will be exposed to over a year of negative publicity," Riley wrote.

    Riley said the groups "promoting this effort" would ultimately seek compensation and the "politicians are playing up to the minority voters."

    Jackson County Commissioner Jeremy Branch said the project would continue to blemish the county and Marianna, where the school is located. He said he was confused as to what the exhumation of the bodies would discover.

    "Are we trying to determine if bad things happened 100 years ago in America?" Branch said. "We know bad things happened in America."

    Researchers said they have already used historical documents to discover more deaths and gravesites than what the law enforcement agency found.

    Researchers said they verified the deaths of two adult staff members and 96 children — ranging in age from 6 to 18 — between 1914 and 1973.

    Records indicated 45 people were buried on the 1,400-acre tract from 1914 to 1952 and 31 bodies were sent elsewhere, leaving some bodies with whereabouts unknown.

    In May, a judge rejected a request to exhume bodies from what is called "Boot Hill Cemetery," saying the case did not meet the "threshold" to grant the order.

    Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who reports to Scott, said in July his agency lacked the legal authority to grant a permit even though the land is state-owned. That led to a push by Bondi to get approval from the state agency that oversees state land. The agency is controlled by Scott and the Cabinet.

    Documents obtained by The Associated Press show State Archaeologist Mary Glowacki in late April distributed a list of recommendations to the head of the state's Division of Historical Resources, raising questions about the project.

    The list asked questions about why an entire cemetery had to be disturbed and she raised doubts about the ability of researchers to find and identify everyone buried there.

    ___

    Follow Gary Fineout on Twitter: http://twitter.com/fineout

    WUSF NEWS
    Law & Order 
    9:39 pm Tue August 6, 2013

    "Today Somebody Pulled Us Up Out of That Hole:" Reactions to Dozier Decision

    The excavation will soon begin to unearth the remains of boys believed to have died from alleged abuse at the Dozier School for Boys.

    The Florida Cabinet today approved the request of USF researchers to exhume the bodies at the now-closed Florida Panhandle reform school to provide closure for the boys’ loved ones.

    For months, University of South Florida researchers have been trying to dig up the bodies at the Marianna school, but their request has been denied several times, twice by the state, which is why 66-year-old Robert Straley, a former Dozier resident, says he was happily shocked when Governor Rick Scott and the rest of the Florida Cabinet approved the researchers’ request Tuesday.

    “I never thought we’d get this far, to tell you the truth," Straley said. "But, we finally got far enough where this will all happen. You know, our little part is over in this dark history of the Dozier school.”

    Straley is part of the so-called "White House Boys," a group of older men who several years ago brought attention to their claims of decades of abuse in a white house on Dozier's grounds.

    Richard Huntley, the president of a group called "Black Boys at Dozier Reform School," which alleges similar mistreatment, also expressed relief at the decision.

    "I've been screaming out of a hole for help. Just throw me a rope, somebody help. Today I caught that rope. Today somebody pulled us up out of that hole and I thank God," Huntley told WTSP. "I'm happy in my heart. I'm really happy in my heart. They say when a grown man cries, it's something that's really touched him. Today I was touched."

    Lead investigator, USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle told CNN, "It's a relief. The real work has yet to begin, but now we can now move forward. We will go slow and test our methods and really be able to make progress when it dries off."

    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson was quick to speak up, releasing a statement saying, “This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation. Nothing can bring these boys back, but I’m hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve.”

    Credit Sen. Bill Nelson's office
    U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's tweet shortly after the FL cabinet decided to issue USF researchers the permits they need to exhume human remains at the Dozier School for Boys 

    Nelson has been an outspoken advocate on behalf of the USF research team's efforts at Dozier.

    He's backed their request for a Department of Justice grant to help with their forensic research, and last month, after Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied their request for a permit to begin exhumations (an assessment researchers disagreed with), Nelson challenged Gov. Rick Scott directly, calling him out for what he termed as a "lack of leadership."

    Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who voted in favor of the land use agreement, also released a statement:

    "From the beginning, I have supported efforts at the Dozier School for Boys in order to provide family members who lost loved ones with closure. I was proud to vote in favor of the land use agreement that authorizes the University of South Florida to continue their work to return the human remains to the families and provide them with proper burials."

    As did Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam:

    "In a state as old as Florida is, we're going to have chapters in our history that we're more proud of than others, but there is no shame in searching for the truth, and the families of the victims who want closure, who want answers, deserve those things."

    Bondi and Putnam were joined by Gov. Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater in the unanimous vote to allow the USF team to start the exhumations, likely later this month. They've already been in the process of taking DNA samples from relatives of boys suspected of being buried on the former reform school grounds in hopes of identifying the bodies.  


    U.S. NEWS ON NBCNEWS.COM

    'They're going to find out the truth': Florida to excavate remains of boys who died at reform school

    Michael Spooneybarger / Reuters

    White metal crosses mark graves at the cemetery of the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida,

    Florida officials Tuesday authorized university researchers to excavate the remains of boys buried on the grounds of a notorious reform school where former students allege they were beaten and raped.

    Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet issued a permit allowing University of South Florida anthropologists and archaeologists to begin unearthing the bodies of boys who died at the defunct Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in the panhandle city of Marianna over several decades.

    The vote in Tallahassee drew a round of applause from former wards in the audience, some of whom broke down crying, according to Roger Kiser, 67, who says he was brutally attacked by administrators and staff during two stints at Dozier between 1959 and 1961. 

    "I went numb," Kiser told NBC News. "Everyone stood up, gave a standing ovation. It was absolutely incredible."


    The state's decision was also welcome news for researchers at the University of South Florida, who have spent years pushing the state to allow them to exhume the boys' bodies.

    "I was so relieved," said Erin Kimmerle, the forensic anthropologist heading up the project.

    The excavations of an estimated 50 or more unmarked graves at Dozier may help investigators determine the circumstances surrounding scores of mysterious deaths, which likely transpired between 1914 and 1952, Kimmerle said.

    The bodies of some of the boys recovered from grave shafts marked by rusting pipe crosses may be reburied in their hometowns, near their families and loved ones, Kimmerle said.

    Kimmerle and her colleagues began researching Dozier's dark history more than two years ago, in the wake of news reports detailing disturbing allegations from aging former students and the relatives of deceased children.

    Phil Coale / AP Dick Colon, right, and Mike McCarthy, left, recall their times in one of the white house rooms at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys during ceremonies dedicating a memorial to the suffering of the "White House Boys" in 2008.

    Victims have alleged that the school, once one of the country’s largest reform institutions, was a veritable hellhole of savagery and degradation in which hundreds of boys were routinely bludgeoned and battered, sometimes to death, at the hands of administrators and staff.

    Kiser, who said he was once beaten so mercilessly that his bloodied underwear had to be picked off his skin with tweezers, has lobbied the state government for nearly 25 years to investigate accusations of criminality at Dozier.

    "When the evidence is just so overwhelming, you can't deny it anymore," Kiser said.

    In "The White House Boys — An American Tragedy," a book Kiser wrote about the horrors he purportedly witnessed and experienced while incarcerated at Dozier in the 1950s, he described the school as a "concentration camp for little boys."

    They’re called the White House Boys because much of the alleged abuse took place in a squalid 11-room building on the campus known as the White House.

    Former students, many now in the twilight of their lives, allege they were savagely beaten there with leather straps by administrators and staff. The oldest living victim is 84, Kiser said.

    The school, which opened in 1900, was shuttered in June 2011 after the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division confirmed pervasive abuse over several decades, although a 2009 state investigation did not find evidence of criminal conduct.

    A group of those former students sued the state in 2010 after reports of criminal activity captured national attention in 2008. But the case was tossed out because the statute of limitations had expired.

    Records had shown that 31 boys were buried on school grounds and that most of them died in a fire and an influenza outbreak at Dozier at the turn of the century.

    But Kimmerle and her colleagues say they now estimate there are at least 50 grave shafts in the school’s makeshift graveyard and scattered throughout the nearby woods — 19 more than state investigators discovered during a 2009 inquiry ordered by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

    “There’s not going to be enough crime scene tape in the state of Florida to take care of this situation,” Jerry Cooper of Cape Coral, Fla., who says he was lashed more than 100 times during a beating at the school, told The Miami Herald on Tuesday.

    Nearly two dozen former wards of the school, which was also known as the Florida State Reform School, rose to their feet, clapped and wiped tears from their eyes when Scott and the Cabinet announced their decision Tuesday.

    Andrew Wardlow / AP  
    Professor Erin Kimmerle, University of South Florida's lead researcher, and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson speak before touring the building known as the "White House" on March 27.

    “We have fought so hard to get to this point,” Bryant Middleton, 68, told the Herald. “They’re going to find out the truth.”

    Kimmerle, who worked with an international forensics team to gather evidence presented in Yugoslavian war crimes trials, said that she doesn’t know how long the excavation project will take.

    What's more, there may be another, secret graveyard somewhere on the grounds, given the number of still-unaccounted-for boys, Kimmerle told reporters in December 2012. African-American boys made up the majority of the school's population for much of history and may not have been buried beside white boys.

    "I didn't realize going in how much of a story of civil rights it was," Kimmerle told reporters last year.

    The research team used ground-penetrating radar and other techniques to map the school's graveyard and chemically analyzed the soil to identify the number of graves, nearly all of them on the north side of campus, called Boot Hill, where African-American boys were segregated.

    It will involve painstaking forensic examination, identification of the remains and, in some cases, DNA testing, she said.

    The state signed off on a use agreement that gives the university researchers one year to excavate the backwoods graveyard.

    M. Alex Johnson of NBC News contributed to this report. The Associated Press and Reuters also contributed.

    USF NEWS
    Florida Cabinet Approves Additional USF Research at Dozier
    USF research team could begin excavations later this month.


    From left to right: USF Researcher Dr. Erin Kimmerle, Attorney General Pam Bondi,
    USF Research Dr. Christian Wells. Photo by Lara Wade-Martinez | USF News.


    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Aug.6, 2013) - The Florida Cabinet voted unanimously Tuesday to allow University of South Florida researchers to continue their work at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla., including the excavation of human remains.

    The Cabinet, acting as the Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, approved a joint land-use agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection.

    Earlier this year the Florida Legislature allocated $190,000 to USF for this research.

    USF researchers could begin excavation work in August.

    Led by forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor in USF’s Department of Anthropology, the team has previously used ground penetrating radar to map the area and dug trenches to analyze soil displacements at the site off Interstate 10 in Florida’s Panhandle.

    The Dozier site contains a cemetery with 31 metal crosses, but the USF team has identified at least 19 additional grave shafts in wooded areas outside the marked cemetery. Dozier school records show 84 boys died at the institution between 1911 and 1973.

    Kimmerle was previously granted permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to access the land, and received a permit for archaeological research to locate and document graves associated with the Boot Hill Cemetery from the state Division of Historical Resources.

    The multi-disciplinary effort involves USF’s departments of Anthropology, Biology, the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory and USF Libraries Special Collections. The group is attempting to document the history of the cemetery.

     Cabinet agrees to let USF researchers exhume bodies at Dozier

    Tuesday morning, they slid into chairs before the Florida Cabinet. In the 1940s, '50s and '60s, Florida carried them away from their families and deposited them at one of the country's largest reform schools, in the Panhandle town of Marianna, a place where, some of them say, they were beaten so badly they can still feel it.

    Many of them never told a soul what happened inside a dank building called the White House, where the boys bit a pillow and tried to pray the pain away. Their secrets gathered dust. But decades later, when a group of them reunited on the campus and discovered a backwoods cemetery, where crude pipe crosses marked clandestine graves, they set to find out what happened to the boys who never left.

    Their petition, spearheaded by anthropologists and archaeologists at the University of South Florida, finally landed before the top four officials in a state they say has failed them at every turn. And finally, the state didn't let them down.

    "In a state as old as Florida is, we're going to have chapters in our history we're more proud of than others," said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, "but there is no shame in searching for the truth." The issue, he said, has been ignored too long by state officials.

    The Cabinet voted to approve a use agreement that gives USF a year to excavate the little cemetery in the hopes of finding all burials and identifying the remains. In some cases, researchers said, they'll rebury boys in their home towns, beside their families.

    Led by forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, USF researchers will start excavations this month.

    "We've very grateful to (Attorney General) Pam Bondi for helping to make this happen," Kimmerle said after the meeting. "And we're thankful to the Cabinet and the governor. It's been a long process."

    The researchers have already used ground-penetrating radar to count some 50 burial shafts surrounded by thick pines, 19 more than state investigators found in an earlier investigation ordered by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

    But some believe there are even more, and USF is searching for a second burial site.

    "There's not going to be enough crime scene tape in the state of Florida to take care of this situation," said Jerry Cooper of Cape Coral, who received more than 100 lashes during a beating at the school.

    About two dozen former wards of the school, known recently as the Dozier School for Boys, stood and clapped and wiped their eyes when the Cabinet's decision was announced.

    "I'm numb," said Roger Kiser, 67, of Brunswick, Ga., who was sent to Marianna after running from an abusive orphanage. "I don't know what to say. I'm just glad that Florida is finally doing the right thing."

    "We have fought so hard to get to this point," said Bryant Middleton, 68, of Fort Walton Beach. "They're going to find out the truth."

    "Marianna made slaves out of us. I cut my toes in the fields of Marianna at 11," said Richard Huntly, president of the Black Boys at Dozier Reform School. "They were supporting their finances on the backs of us children."

    Some of his classmates, he said, disappeared.

    "We all came back for them. We remembered," he said. "If they could hear us today. We came back for you. You boys can go home today."

    Antoinette Harrell, a genealogist and peonage researcher, said the decision, and USF's continuing work, will go a long way toward bringing closure to the men who still live with trauma from beatings at the school.

    "It was slavery. It was one big plantation," she said. "The ones who survived, they deserve closure."

    The school opened in 1900 and was shuttered in 2011, after a century of scandals involving claims of sexual abuse, neglect and severe belt beatings. In 2008, five men went public with stories of abuse at the hands of guards. Hundreds more came forward with similar stories. Several recall their classmates disappearing, and a few even claim to have dug boy-sized holes on command.

    Some locals in Jackson County dispute those claims and say the corporal punishment, common at the time, is misremembered, that their friends and relatives and neighbors would never have treated boys in that fashion. A handful made efforts to stop any further research into the graveyard. The USF team, with the backing of the local medical examiner and the state Attorney General's office, have seen their project delayed by a circuit court judge, and more recently the Secretary of State, who said it wasn't within his power to allow them to exhume the remains.

    What is known is that school records show nearly 100 boys died on school grounds or while trying to run away, but questions persist about where many of them are buried. Andrew Puel, who was sent to the school in 1966, says he has found the names of 169 boys who school records show were not discharged. He wonders what happened to them.

    USF's Kimmerle said she shared the news with Ovell Krell of Lakeland. Her brother died at the school under suspicious circumstances and the loss, she says, crippled her mother. Krell was overjoyed.

    Kimmerle said she's not certain how long the process —which includes forensic examination, identification and DNA testing in some cases — will take.

    "Our goal is to identify every individual," she said. "That's probably not possible, but we're going to try. Those not identified will be re-interred at the location."

    Florida CFO Jeff Atwater said he hopes the Legislature, which already approved spending $190,000 on USF's project, will continue to fund it until all the remains are reunited with families.

    "This is a historic day," said Robert Straley, 66, of Clearwater. "We finally found an administration with the guts to go back in time to help the boys who couldn't help themselves."

    Ben Montgomery can be reached at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650.

                          -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cabinet okays exhumation work at Dozier School for Boys

    Tuesday, August 6, 2013 10:31am

    After decades of questions about how many boys are buried on the abandoned grounds of the state’s first and oldest reform school on the outskirts of the Panhandle town of Marianna, a team of anthropologists and archaeologists from the University of South Florida may soon use science to provide some answers.

    The Cabinet agreed Tuesday morning to allow the researchers to continue with the next step in a project they started two years ago: to account for all the burials by unearthing the boys’ skeletal remains and, hopefully, identifying each of them.

    The researchers, using ground-penetrating radar, have already tallied some 50 burials in and around a clandestine graveyard surrounded by thick pines, 19 more than state investigators found in an earlier investigation ordered by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.  Read more about the history of the school in this special report. Follow the breaking news here

    Florida Cabinet Approves Additional USF Research at Dozier

    USF research team could begin excavations later this month.


    From left to right: USF Researcher Dr. Erin Kimmerle, Attorney General Pam Bondi, USF Research Dr. Christian Wells. Photo by Lara Wade-Martinez | USF News.

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Aug.6, 2013) - The Florida Cabinet voted unanimously Tuesday to allow University of South Florida researchers to continue their work at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla., including the excavation of human remains.

    The Cabinet, acting as the Florida Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund, approved a joint land-use agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection.

    Earlier this year the Florida Legislature allocated $190,000 to USF for this research.

    USF researchers could begin excavation work in August.

    Led by forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, an associate professor in USF’s Department of Anthropology, the team has previously used ground penetrating radar to map the area and dug trenches to analyze soil displacements at the site off Interstate 10 in Florida’s Panhandle.

    The Dozier site contains a cemetery with 31 metal crosses, but the USF team has identified at least 19 additional grave shafts in wooded areas outside the marked cemetery. Dozier school records show 84 boys died at the institution between 1911 and 1973.

    Kimmerle was previously granted permission from the state Department of Environmental Protection to access the land, and received a permit for archaeological research to locate and document graves associated with the Boot Hill Cemetery from the state Division of Historical Resources.

    The multi-disciplinary effort involves USF’s departments of Anthropology, Biology, the Forensic Anthropology Laboratory and USF Libraries Special Collections. The group is attempting to document the history of the cemetery.
     

    Cabinet agrees to let USF researchers exhume bodies at Dozier

    TALLAHASSEE — After decades of questions about how many boys are buried on the abandoned grounds of the state's first and oldest reform school on the outskirts of the Panhandle town of Marianna, a team of anthropologists and archaeologists from the University of South Florida may soon use science to provide some answers.

    The Cabinet agreed Tuesday morning to allow the researchers to continue with the next step in a project they started two years ago: to account for all the burials by unearthing the boys' skeletal remains and, hopefully, identifying each of them.

    The researchers, using ground-penetrating radar, have already tallied some 50 burials in and around a clandestine graveyard surrounded by thick pines, 19 more than state investigators found in an earlier investigation ordered by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

    in 1900 and recently called the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, was shuttered in 2011, after a century of scandals involving claims of abuse, neglect and severe belt beatings in a dank building state wards called the White House. In 2008, five old men went public with stories of suffering sexual and physical abuse at the hands of guards. Hundreds more came forward with similar stories. Several recall their classmates disappearing, and a few even claim to have dug boy-sized holes on command.

    Some locals in Jackson County dispute those claims and say the corporal punishment, common at the time, is misremembered, that their friends and relatives and neighbors would never have treated boys in that fashion. A handful have made efforts to stop any further research into the graveyard. The USF team, with the backing of the local medical examiner and the state Attorney General's office, have seen their project delayed by a circuit court judge, and more recently the Secretary of State, who said it wasn't within his power to allow them to exhume the remains

    What is known is that school records show nearly 100 boys died on school grounds or while trying to run away, but questions persist about where many of them are buried.

    Read more about the history of the school at tampabay.com/specials/2009/reports/marianna/. Stay tuned to tampabay.com for more news.

    Cabinet agrees to let USF researchers exhume bodies at Dozier 08/06/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 6, 2013 10:38am]    

    CLICK HERE for related links 

     TBO.COM- THE TAMPA TRIBUNE

    BY JAMES L. ROSICA

    Tribune staff 

    Published: August 6, 2013

    USF gets OK to exhume bodies at Dozier school

    Attorney General Pam Bondi pushed to get the agency that manages state lands to grant USF a one-year permit. ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO
    Attorney General Pam Bondi pushed to get the agency that manages state lands to grant USF a one-year permit.
    ASSOCIATED PRESS PHOTO


    TALLAHASSEE — The ghosts of Dozier may finally rest.

    Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet voted unanimously Tuesday to allow University of South Florida researchers to locate, exhume and identify human remains at a defunct but still-notorious boys’ reform school in the Panhandle.

    “We know there are unmarked graves on that property (with boys) who deserve proper burial,” Attorney General Pam Bondi, who championed the search, said just before she and the rest of the Cabinet cast their votes. “We must do what is right.”

    Former students at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna have said the school, opened in 1900 and closed in 2011, was the scene of physical and sexual abuse and even wrongful death. A building called the “White House” was known for floggings and other beatings.

    USF anthropologists previously found at least 50 gravesites on the grounds, about 70 miles west of Tallahassee. They suspect there may be as many as 100 and possibly more.

    “A lot of us are seeking closure,” said John Bonner of Tampa, who was a Dozier resident from 1967 to 1969. He was sent to the reform school after a juvenile breaking-and-entering charge.

    “A lot of people were abused there. A lot of people’s rights were trampled on,” Bonner said. “I was strapped with the belt so many times, one time just for looking at a supervisor the wrong way.”

    Bonner and other students “had no recourse, nobody to turn to,” he added. “Nobody cared about us. Nobody.”

    Tuesday’s land-use agreement with the Department of Environmental Protection enables the USF anthropology department to investigate the grounds for one year. The Cabinet acted in its capacity as the Board of Trustees of the Internal Improvement Trust Fund. The school grounds are still state property.

    In 2011, a team led by USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle got permission to use ground-penetrating radar and do surface digging in a cemetery known as Boot Hill on the grounds.

    They found more bodies than were listed in official reports at the time and discovered that a series of crosses that supposedly marked graves didn’t match burial records.

    The team also learned that some of the makeshift graves were adjacent to a garbage dump and others were in danger of being destroyed by roots and water seepage.

    USF applied to a circuit court judge to expand the investigation and remove remains from the site, but was denied. The university then went to Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who declined to grant the necessary permit, saying it was outside his department’s jurisdiction.

    Detzner was appointed by and reports to Scott. The governor, who previously extended his sympathy to family members of boys buried in Marianna, ignored a question Tuesday about the Dozier decision at his customary post-Cabinet meeting news conference.

    Still, he joined in the unanimous vote with Cabinet members Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.

    Putnam told USF deputy general counsel Gerard Solis he was happy to help.

    “I don’t know why the Department of State was unable to find the appropriate rationale … but I’m delighted this Cabinet can provide you with the remedy to pursue the search for the truth,” Putnam said.

    With the Cabinet’s OK, researchers now can try to identify remains and let families bury their dead. Family members of former Dozier students have provided DNA in hopes of identifying remains. The team’s findings might lead to a larger investigation into how the boys died.

    “I never thought we’d get this far,” said Robert W. Straley, another Dozier student. He was there in 1963 and 1964 for running away from home four times.

    “When Erin Kimmerle came out and found all those graves, and we realized there was a bigger picture, then it was all about finding those boys, and getting them up out of the darkness and into the light,” Straley said. “That’s the way it should be.”

    jrosica@tampatrib.com  *   (850) 765-0807   *   Twitter: @jlrosicaTBO


    BAY NEWS 9, TAMPA
    Gov. and others vote to allow USF to exhume bodies at school

    Tuesday, August 06, 2013, 12:08 PM
    More Information

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet voted Tuesday to grant permits to University of South Florida researchers to exhume bodies at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

    USF researchers want to see if they can identify who is buried at the closed, state-run reform school.

    The facility closed amid controversy in 2011. Former students claim teachers and administrators severely beat and abused them there during the 1950s and 60s.

    If any of the alleged beatings were fatal, the bodies of the young boys could be in the dozens of recently uncovered, shallow, unmarked graves on the school site.

    "In a state as old as Florida is, we're going to have chapters in our history that we're more proud of than others, but there is no shame in searching for the truth, and the families of the victims who want closure, who want answers, deserve those things," said Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam after the vote.

    “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.” 

    This decision could help the families of those who died at Dozier who have tried for decades to move their loved ones' remains to their hometowns.

    It could also answer whether there were fatal beatings.

    Former students said the abuse occurred most often in a white building on the school's property.

    The group, known now as "The White House Boys," was present for the vote.

    Tuesday's vote 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, saying the request was outside her authority.

    USF also went to Secretary of State Ken Detzner in mid-July to gain permission for the exhumations.

    However, Detzner said his department didn't have the legal right to grant the request.

    The research team, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, will begin the exhumations later in August.

    They will try to match DNA samples taken from living relatives of boys buried on the school's grounds.

    A state police investigation found no evidence of recent crimes.

    The USF forensic team later found more unmarked graves than police had acknowledged. 

    USF has applied for a Department of Justice grant to 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.

    In addition to Gov. Scott and Commissioner Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi, and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater all voted to allow the USF team to start work.

    Marianna is located about one hour east of Tallahassee in the Florida panhandle

    WTSP TAMPA CHANNEL 10 

    State approves exhumation of graves at Dozier School for Boys  
    12:25 PM, Aug 6, 2013 

      

    Tallahassee, Florida -- University of South Florida researchers got approval from the state to begin exhuming grave sites at the now closed Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet unanimously voted to issue permits to the researchers on Tuesday morning.

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

    The graves for at least 22 boys who died while at Dozier have never been located.

    In recent years, former students have come forward to claim they were victims of abuse at the school which the state closed in 2011.

    Last year, using ground penetrating radar and other methods, USF anthropologists and archaeologists found 50 grave sites at Dozier. Previously officials reported only 31 boys were buried on school grounds in a cemetery known as Boot Hill.

    In a 200-page report, USF researchers also say 98 deaths occurred at the state-run reform school between 1914 and 1973; which is 17 more than previously stated.

    The researchers have also identified discrepancies in records regarding the cause and manner of death reported for several boys.

    They noted a high number of boys, 20 in all, also died within the first three months of being sent to the school.

    The permit is good for one year, and USF officials tell 10 News they plan to begin work by the end of the month.

    More stories HERE

    8/6/13
    TO SEE ATTORNEY PAM BONDI'S PRESS RELEASE
     
    MY FOX TAMPA BAY 

    Cabinet gives USF permission to dig at Dozier site
    Posted: Aug 06, 2013 11:34 AM EDT 

    TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) - It's official: Governor Rick Scott and his cabinet have given USF researchers permission to dig up graves at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. USF has been fighting for months to get permission to exhume the bodies. The reform school operated for more than a century before it closed in 2011. Records show the graves of 31 boys who died at the school, but USF researchers discovered about 50 more possible graves in that same area. Many of Dozier's former students support USF's research.  They say it will bring them closure and help them move forward.  

     MORE: http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/23058088/2013/08/06/cabinet-gives-usf-permission-to-dig-at-dozier-site#ixzz2bDq1PcJe  Follow us: @myfoxtampabay on Twitter | FOX13TampaBay on Facebook                                
                           --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

    putnampicTallahassee, FL –Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam issued the following statement today after the Florida Board of Trustees approved further research and excavation at the former Dozier School for Boys property:

    “I want to thank the University of South Florida (USF) for the extraordinary work that they have done and will continue to do and I want to thank the Governor and the Attorney General in particular for bringing this issue before Cabinet. I’m pleased that this Cabinet – in its capacity as the Florida Board of Trustees – granted permission to USF to continue its search for the truth and, hopefully, provide closure to the families and victims who were impacted by the events at Dozier School for Boys decades ago.

    “The Dozier School for Boys was a state facility that was ignored for too long by state officials. There is no shame in searching for the truth. The families deserve to know where their loved ones are buried and make their own personal decisions about the relocation of those remains. I encourage this Cabinet to continue to give its total support to USF’s pursuit of that truth and the support for the resources that USF needs in this effort.”

    For more information about the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit www.FreshFromFlorida.com.
    Contact: Erin Gillespie
    (850) 617-7737
    Twitter: @FDACSNews
                            ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    Attorney General Bondi’s Statement on the Land Use Agreement Regarding Dozier School for Boys

    Aug 6 

    TALLAHASSEE, Fla.–Attorney General Pam Bondi released the following statement on today’s vote by the Florida Board of Trustees to approve a land use agreement regarding the Dozier School for Boys 

    “From the beginning, I have supported efforts at the Dozier School for Boys in order to provide family members who lost loved ones with closure. I was proud to vote in favor of the land use agreement that authorizes the University of South Florida to continue their work to return the human remains to the families and provide them with proper burials.”

    Contact:
    Jenn Meale 
    Phone: 850.245.0150  
    jennifer.meale@myfloridalegal.com

    Local 'White House Boy' hoping for closure     
    Posted: Aug 04, 2013 4:50 PM EDT

    It was described as hell on earth.

    For years we have described the allegations of alleged abuse and death of dozens of school boys at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

    On Tuesday state leaders will decide whether to allow the remains of dozens of bodies to be exhumed from decade-old graves at the school.

    The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, also known as the Florida School for Boys," was a state-operated reform school in the panhandle town.

    We sat down with former Dozier student Jerry Cooper, who now lives in Cape Coral.

    Cooper said he will never forget the night he was beaten until he lost consciousness in 1961. He said his body turned black and his foot broke after 130 lashes.

    He said that bone still sticks out today. 

    "My clothing was beat into my skin that night. My underwear as well as my nightgown was beat into my skin, and I had to rip it out," he described.

    He isn't the only one who claims he was beaten—he says he witnessed many more.

    "I was standing there right when it happened. The boy collapsed and died," he said.

    The former Dozier students have begged for justice for eight years.

    Today dozens of old graves surround the abandoned school that closed its doors in 2011.

    Thirty-one graves are marked, but anthropologists from the University of South Florida say there are many more. The group of anthropologists is working to map out the school's on-site cemetery, trying to determine just how many graves there are.

    "[USF] they have already located at least 50 graves," said Cooper.

    Cooper says those are his friends that were beaten in what's known as "The White House."

    "Hopefully on Tuesday when the Florida cabinet meeting takes place that the vote will swing in our favor to do the excavations that we have begged for," said Cooper.

    Bodies would be identified using DNA.

    Cooper and other students said they would have closure.

    "Serious atrocities went on there, and I don't think it's too much to ask for a formal apology," he said.

    On Sunday Cooper headed to Tallahassee for the debate. He said he would fight for justice and an apology until the end. Today 450 White House Boys are left.


    TAMPA BAY TIMES 
     

    Gov. Scott supports Dozier exhumation efforts once approved by Cabinet

     


    The University of South Florida could be on the verge of getting permission to continue its efforts to find and excavate bodies at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

    Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet will vote on the matter Tuesday. The agenda recommends approval.

    Such action would end months of legal and political arguments surrounding USF’s request. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner had ruled that the state does not have the power to allow the excavation. In July, though, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson scolded Gov. Scott for not helping the university continue its work at the now closed Panhandle campus. And in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday, Ovell Krell, 84, who hopes to recover the body of her brother, George Owen Smith, who died in Marianna in 1941, echoed similar sentiments.  

    "Through all of this, our governor has not shown any interest at all," Krell said.

    Wednesday evening, John Tupps, Scott’s deputy press secretary, issued a statement.

    “The purpose of the proposed research was not within the permitting authority of the Department of State,” he said. “Gov. Scott supports allowing USF to conduct lawful research on the Dozier property once approved by the Florida Cabinet.” 

     

    ORLANDO TV CHANNEL 9 - WFTV 


    4:14 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013

    Vote to exhume bodies at Dozier reform school coming next week  Please wait while video loads....

    If the video doesn't load, then you can click this link:    http://www.wftv.com/videos/news/vote-to-exhume-bodies-at-dozier-reform-school/v73gs/

    MARIANNA, Fla. — 

     

    Closure could soon be coming for abuse victims of the Dozier School for Boys, where more than 400 students claimed sexual and physical abuse. 

      Dozier was a state-run reform school in the panhandle that opened in 1900 and closed in  2011.  University of South Florida researchers believe there are dozens of unidentified bodies buried at the school, but several efforts to exhume them have been blocked. However, there's a new push from the governor's office to find the bodies. 

    Jim Denyke has spent his adult life trying to expose what he calls Florida's darkest secret. 

    Denyke said he and a group of former students call themselves the White House Boys, a distinction he said came from decades of physical, mental and sexual abuse at the reform school.

    "They beat us so bad, they'd beat the clothes into your skin," he said.

    Hundreds of the alleged victims said the brutal and bloody beatings happened in the school, which they nicknamed the White House. In the 1950s and '60s, they say some never made it out alive, and a USF archaeologist found evidence of 100 bodies burned on the grounds in Marianna.

    "To really know who's there, how many and what happened to them, you have to do full excavation," said archaeologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle.

    After years of pushing to exhume those bodies, Gov. Rick Scott and his cabinet are expected to give the go-ahead next week.

    "It will be a major eye-opener," said Denyke.

    So far, efforts to identify remains and causes of death have been blocked. In 2011, a state and federal probe found no evidence of criminal behavior, but Denyke said the new development could change that.

    "We want closure for everybody, for everyone that's suffered, for the families with missing loved ones," he said.

    The dig permit request will be voted on Tuesday in Tallahassee. If approved, the state would give researchers a year to exhume and return the remains to the families.

    FOX CHANNEL 13 -TAMPA BAY AREA 

    DOZIER SURVIVOR SHARES HIS STORY
    Friday, August 3, 2013   
    MARIANNA
         One of the men who grew up at the Dozier School for Boys, shared some painful memories on Saturday.   
         84-year old Leo Collier spent several years at the former reform school in Marianna where boys were allegedly chained up, beaten and tortured.   
       Collier said the administrators were cruel, and his life at the boarding school was like living in a nightmare. 
         He shared his experience with reporters on Saturday.  
        "There were times the teacher said 'boy don't get off that bed, or I'll kill you.' I had to get on that bed, he had a belt that had holes in it and every time he hit me with it, it would take the skin off my behind."  
         Collier said he didn't tell anyone about the abuse, because he was afraid the staff would find out  and kill him.
         A lot of those boys did die. There's an unknown number of unmarked graves at the school.
    University of South Florida researchers are working to get the state's permission to continue exhuming the bodies.
    We're told that USF is moving closer to getting the state's approval.

    Read more: http://www.myfoxtampabay.com/story/23038838/dozier-surviver-shares-his-story#ixzz2bDuJcQF1 
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