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Dozier School task force schedules meetings

JIM ROSICA

A new task force on the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys will meet in August.

The panel will meet on Aug. 3 and Aug. 19, according to a Wednesday press release from the Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources. (A membership list is here.)

Under legislation (SB 708) passed this year, the panel was set up “to submit recommendations regarding the creation and maintenance of a memorial honoring the children who lived and died” at the school in Marianna, Jackson County.

The school, opened in 1900 about 60 miles west of Tallahassee, was shuttered in 2011. It began as a home for children convicted of serious crimes. But the covered offenses were expanded to include minor offenses including truancy.

Some former students have accused school officials of physical and sexual abuse, especially in the 1950s and ’60s. Many former Dozier inmates call themselves “The White House Boys” after the white building where they say the worst abuse took place.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement looked into the allegations, concluding it couldn’t substantiate or dispute the claims because too much time had passed.

University of South Florida researchers concluded a multi-year investigation of the campus and exhumed dozens of bodies buried there. Their final report says nearly 100 people, including two adult staff members, died at Dozier between 1900 and 1973.

“The task force is also charged with recommending the location of a site for the re-interment of unidentified or unclaimed remains that were part of a forensic investigation conducted by the University of South Florida at the school,” the release said.

The task force has to turn in a written report of its findings by Oct. 1.

Both meetings will start 9 a.m. Central time/10 a.m. Eastern time at Marianna City Hall, 2898 Green St.

The first meeting will be organizational, beginning with a vote by task force members to approve an agenda and then focusing on reviewing the task force’s responsibilities under the law, the release said.

“The meeting on Aug. 19 will include an opportunity for public comment,” it added. “At this meeting, the task force members will also vote on their recommendations to be included in the final report to the Legislature.”

For more information on the task force, send an email to flheritage@dos.myflorida.com.

The Associated Press contributed to this post, reprinted with permission.

Jim Rosica
Jim Rosica covers state government from Tallahassee for Florida Politics. He previously was the Tampa Tribune’s statehouse reporter. Before that, he covered three legislative sessions in Florida for The Associated Press. Jim graduated from law school in 2009 after spending nearly a decade covering courts for the Tallahassee Democrat, including reporting on the 2000 presidential recount. He can be reached at jim@floridapolitics.com.
ORLANDO SENTINEL
8-4-17

Quiet probe of Dozier boys school didn't bring charges

 Task force meets to discuss unidentified remains from Dozier school
A task force met Wednesday to determine how to remember dozens of unidentified children found at the Dozier School for Boys.
GARY FINEOUT
Associated Press


Florida quietly launched new probe into Dozier school

Over the past two years, Florida authorities quietly launched new probes into homicide and sexual abuse allegations associated with a notorious and now shuttered reform school in the Panhandle.

But despite interviewing 50 alleged victims of sexual abuse at the Marianna school, the case will not lead to any arrests.

State Attorney Glenn Hess, the lead prosecutor for six north Florida counties, told state investigators in late May there was not enough evidence to pursue murder charges and that too much time had passed to charge anyone with abuse.

"While wine may get better with age, criminal cases do not," Hess said in a May 24 letter obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

The Florida Legislature this year passed a law that calls on the group to devise plans for a memorial and figure out what to do with any unidentified or unclaimed remains.

Jerry Cooper, the president of the White House Boys, a group of former Dozier students, cited the new probe amid a heated and emotional discussion on whether any bodies should be reburied on the site.

Cooper said the inquiry was still open, but when asked about the investigation, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement released final reports on three separate but related probes that had been launched by the agency in early 2015.

Florida struggling to decide next steps for Dozier School for Boys
Investigators looked into allegations of whether a one-time student had been "clubbed to death" in the late '60s and the mystery surrounding the missing remains of a former student. Agents forwarded their findings to Hess, who said there was "nothing beyond suspicion to base a claim of murder" and "further pursuit of this matter would be unnecessarily costly and nonproductive." He said that clubbing allegation also had "similar shortcomings."

FDLE agents said they interviewed former students at Dozier who alleged that school employees engaged in sexual abuse of boys including sodomy and oral sex, and the existence of an alleged "rape dungeon." Investigators said they came up with a list of complete or partial names of 23 Dozier employees who allegedly abused boys during a period dating from 1949 to 1971. Only one of the employees was still alive.

Hess in his letter to FDLE stated that because the abuse claims remained "dormant" until after the statute of limitations "that alone should raise a red flag. Regardless, they are not now prosecutable."

This is not the first time that FDLE has investigated the reform school that was shut down in 2011. It has closed past investigations, including one ordered by former Gov. Charlie Crist, because it couldn't substantiate or dispute the claims because too much time had passed.

The reputation of the school clouded the discussions of the seven-member task force that met Wednesday. Members were split on whether unclaimed remains exhumed at the site should be reburied there or moved to a spot untainted by the allegations.

And local officials — who have been upset with the publicity surrounding the school — made it clear Wednesday that they believe a memorial should be placed somewhere else in the state. Jackson County Commissioner Eric Hill argued that it should be where a larger population could see it. A Florida A&M University history professor advising the task force argued it would be a "slap in the face" to have a memorial situated somewhere else in the state.
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NEWSWEEK
CULTURE
PUTTING NAMES TO DOZIER’S FORGOTTEN DEAD
BY ALEXANDER NAZARYAN ON 6/3/16 AT 9:33 AM
 
CULTURE
One story frequently becomes another story. A couple of years ago, I was working on an article about missing persons. The reporting took me to Fort Worth, where the University of North Texas runs what is probably the nation’s premier lab for identifying unknown human remains, which is what too many missing persons end up as. While I was at UNT, someone told me a story even more disturbing than the one I was covering: In the swamps of Florida, there was a reform school where boys were tormented by the very people charged with protecting them. This went on for decades. Dozens died. They were buried on the grounds of that hellish institution, which was called Dozier. The UNT Center for Human Identification was working with researchers from the University of South Florida to figure out to whom those remains belonged, doing the unglamorous but necessary work of putting names to bones.

My curiosity spiked, but Dozier had already been the subject of an excellent Tampa Bay Times series by Ben Montgomery, whose relentless attention to the abuses there made him a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2010. Now the school’s sickening legacy is the subject of Deadly Secrets: The Lost Children of Dozier, a documentary directed by Heidi Burke that airs on LMN on Friday night. Based largely on Montgomery’s articles, Deadly Secrets convincingly makes the case that the decades of abuse at Dozier were, in fact, no secret at all. Many knew. Many did nothing.

The Florida School for Boys, as it is also known, opened in Marianna, in the Florida Panhandle, in 1900. Its founder, W.H. Milton, was the descendant of slave owners, and he and his successors ran the reform school like a cross between a penal colony and plantation (there were black and white boys at Dozier, but the school was segregated). Boys were sent there for crimes like smoking cigarettes and skipping school. Once at Dozier, they were subject to whippings and, often, rapes, prolonged incarcerations and, sometimes, outright murder. Much of the torture took place in an utterly nondescript building called the White House.

"How long will the intelligent and God-fearing people of Florida stand for a thing of this kind?" asked The Tampa Tribune in 1918. The questions kept coming in the years that followed, but nobody seemed especially enthusiastic about answering them, with Dozier proving immune to the frequently disturbing revelations that marked its existence. Many in Marianna seemed to accept that the boys at Dozier were delinquents, and that delinquents had to be dealt with harshly. The Jackson County Times took up the cause with its “In Defense of Dozier” series. Only in 2011 did the state finally shut down the school, at least in part due to the reporting of Montgomery and his colleagues.

Montgomery is one of the heroes of Deadly Secrets, an archetypically dogged reporter with “the truth” tattooed on the inside of his right arm. His partner is Erin Kimmerle, a forensic archaeologist at the University of South Florida whom Montgomery enlisted to quite literally dig for truth. A half-hearted Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation opened in 2008 decided that Dozier staff had committed no sins worth seriously revisiting. Using ground-penetrating radar and other methods, Kimmerle, who had previously done similarly grim work in the former Yugoslavia and Peru, discovered that many more boys were buried at Dozier than was previously known or admitted (55 have been found thus far). Meanwhile, interviews with surviving family members made clear that the school’s explanations for these deaths—illness, for example—were in many cases transparently untrue.

Deadly Secrets is a straightforward documentary whose main achievement is making more widely known a story that should be a national outrage, especially given its overtones of race and class (many, though not all, of the victims were black). The documentary’s occasional use of historical recreations is unfortunate, and the filmmakers should have given more voice to the Marianna locals who strenuously opposed Kimmerle’s efforts, seeing her as an outsider out to malign “the City of Southern Charm.” There are also scenes that lack tension, strange for a film that deals with such revolting abuses.

But there are also poignant moments in which survivors revisit torments by which they are obviously haunted to this day. “Them people had lost the part of them that had been human at one time," one survivor says. Another calls Dozier a “beautiful hell.” Footage of a former Dozier employee, Troy Tidwell, denying any wrongdoing is a chilling look into the darker corners of the human psyche. The relentless investigations by Montgomery and Kimmerle, however, are evidence that such darkness need not prevail.

“Maybe justice is knowing the truth,” Kimmerle says.

So far, only seven sets of remains from Dozier have been identified and returned to families (there have also been 14 “presumptive identifications”). The process of identification, Deadly Secrets demonstrates, is immensely complex, involving everything from family history to DNA analysis. Some of the boys, reduced to piles of bones, will remain so forever, like unknown soldiers in a mass grave.

The benefit of closure, even delayed, is immense. The film ends with the reburial of one Dozier victim, a proper funeral that comes many decades too late. In the intervening time, the elements have done their work. Now all that’s left of the dead boy fits into a small white box.


From SmithsonianMag.com

Archaeologists Finally Know What Happened at This Brutal Reform School
The Florida School for Boys did anything but rehabilitate its students

By Erin Blakemore
SMITHSONIAN.COM 
JANUARY 25, 2016

Many of the human remains found at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, Florida’s first juvenile detention center for boys, were buried over a century ago. But questions about their identities—and what exactly happened at this notorious school—have remained alive throughout the center’s brutal history. Who is buried in the school’s many graves, and how did they die?

Now, thanks to a new report by archaeologists and forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida, some answers have finally emerged. NPR’s Laura Wagner writes that an investigation of the Marianna, Florida institution, which only closed in 2011, has revealed scores of marked and unmarked graves and sets of remains. In the report, researchers discuss work that revealed 55 on-site graves and 51 sets of remains. Using the remains they did find on site, they made seven DNA identifications and 14 other presumptive matches.

The report is the final step in a four-year process of excavation and archaeological exploration at the school. The detention center opened in 1897 and was initially run by governor-appointed commissioners, but the governor and cabinet of Florida later took control. 

Its original mandate within Florida state statutes was to act as “not simply a place of correction, but a reform school, where the young offender of the law, separated from vicious associates, may receive careful physical, intellectual and moral training." The boys were to to be restored as honorable citizens that contribute to society.

But that mandate quickly proved false for the school’s inmates. Rather than a place for rehabilitation, the school became a site of horrific abuse. Between 1903 and 1913, write the USF team, a series of investigations found some of the school’s children shackled in chains, denied food and clothing, hired out to other people to work, and beaten. The youngest were just five years old.

Abuses continued over the next century. A group of former students eventually formed who called themselves the “White House Boys” after a blood-covered building where beatings were administered. The group provided a support system and a way for the men to share their stories.

The White House Boys were among a group of 100 former students who took part in a 2010 investigation that found that corporal punishment including paddling and beating was common at the school. Even so, no “tangible physical evidence” supported multiple allegations of rapes and other sexual assaults. Eventually, the school closed in 2011 after a Department of Justice investigation found ongoing excessive force, compromised safety and a lack of services at the school.

A history of education in Florida published in 1921 called the institute “a real reclamation school for delinquent boys,” but hundreds died during their time at the facility. The new report found that between 1900 and 1973, over 100 boys died at the Dozier school. The 1400-acre school was the site not only of a cemetery, but also of a number of unmarked graves. The investigation revealed that the school underreported deaths, including those that occurred for reasons like gunshot wounds and blunt trauma. Other deaths took place due to things like fire and influenza.

Many of the unmarked burial sites studied are thought to be of black students, who were segregated at the school. The team found that three times as many black students died and were buried at Dozier than white students, and that some of those boys were incarcerated for non-criminal charges like running away and incorrigibility. Black boys were less likely to be named in historical records, as well, reflecting the grim realities of reform school life in the segregated South.

Reform schools for youth found guilty of crimes ranging from murder to profanity and “incorrigibility” were common at the turn of the century. A 1910 census of juvenile crimes shows that the Florida school was just one of hundreds across the country. That year, 72 children per 100,000 were institutionalized for crimes. Though that number is lower than today’s rate of 173 juveniles per 100,000, the population was only 92 million—28 percent of today’s population of about 322 million.

The new report does not allege any criminal wrongdoing at the Florida school—it only talks about finding and identifying bodies. The team writes in a release that it will push for a plan for burying unidentified children, restoring remains to families and locating surviving family members of the dead. Perhaps now that more is known about life and death at the school, restitution and restorative justice can begin.

Editor's note, January 26, 2015: This article was updated to clarify the number of graves, sets of remains, and confirmed identifications with DNA.

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/archaeologists-finally-know-what-happened-brutal-reform-school-180957911/#KuOhZgwT0yAk3FFf.99
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Florida Cabinet to Talk What's Next for Dozier School

 Exhumation Process Burial site at the Dozier School
 

Florida Cabinet will meet next Tuesday to discuss excavations at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a reform school in Marianna which was allegedly the site of torture, abuse and even the deaths of over 50 boys living there during the school’s 100-year history.

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet voted over two years ago to grant permission to a team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida to exhume bodies and look deeper into what really happened at the Dozier school.

For two years, the team has pored over several gravesites at the school in an attempt to positively identify the remains of boys and bring closure to their families, who have desperately searched for answers about their fates for many years.

The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys has come under fire several times since it was founded 114 years ago in 1900. Allegations of torture and abuse, both physical and sexual, of boys living at the school became more common in recent years, and the calls to exhume bodies grew louder so families could get answers to questions about what happened to their relatives at the reform school.

The school initially reported there were only 31 graves at the site, but researchers found an additional 24 upon further investigation.

USF anthropologists have made many unsettling findings during the exhumation process, including the discovery of a possible ‘rape room’ where boys were sexually assaulted at the school. Since the exhumation process began, several family members have volunteered for DNA testing to help positively identify the remains of the boys at the school.

Several boys were positively identified using DNA testing.

The team of researchers was granted an extension through January to complete the exhumation and identification process at the school. January is also when the anthropologists will submit their final report to the state.

The Florida Cabinet has been heavily involved in the process. Attorney General Pam Bondi called for action on the exhumation process and vowed to be a strong supporter of the process.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater also chimed in on the excavation process, urging Secretary of State Ken Detzner to put the team’s research in the hands of the right department to continue with the recommendations set forth by the anthropologists.

“The issues involving the preservation of historical resources and records, archives, and state monuments seem best to be handled by the Department of State or an appropriate oversight body,” wrote Atwater. “Having one entity to oversee these next phases and ensuring the inclusion of stakeholders and families will be paramount as we move towards eventual closure."

See the Cabinet meeting agenda here. Reach Allison Nielsen by email at allison@sunshinestatenews.com

- See more at: http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/florida-cabinet-talk-whats-next-dozier-school-exhumation-process#sthash.v55JpT5R.dpuf
MEETING ABOUT FATE OF GRAVES, ETC. ON TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 29 IN TALLAHASSEE

Atwater Looks For Next Steps At Dozier Boys School In Marianna

September 23, 2015

The Florida Cabinet is expected next week to discuss the state’s next steps after researchers finish onsite work at the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a former reform school where children are alleged to have been abused and died in Marianna.

State Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater wrote a letter Sept. 4 to Secretary of State Ken Detzner that said University of South Florida researchers, who have been excavating the site and seeking identification of remains, will submit a final report to the governor and Cabinet in the coming months.

Atwater urged that one entity be put in charge of issues that will follow the completion of the researchers’ onsite work.

“Now, the next phases involving the preservation of artifacts unearthed, the storage and reinterment of the remains of those unidentified, decisions regarding appropriate memorials, and state funding appropriations will need to be addressed,” Atwater wrote. “The issues involving the preservation of historical resources and records, archives, and state monuments seem best to be handled by the Department of State or an appropriate oversight body. Having one entity to oversee these next phases and ensuring the inclusion of stakeholders and families will be paramount as we move towards eventual closure.”

In the letter, Atwater asked for the issue to go before the governor and Cabinet, and it has been placed on the agenda of a meeting next Tuesday.

Dozier served as a state reform school for decades. Atwater’s letter said the USF researchers would submit a final report in December, though the Cabinet agenda indicates it will be submitted in January.

by The News Service of Florida


Pictured top: A trench dug in the search for human remains at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. Pictured below: Mapping the graves. Pictured inset: The remains of George Owen Smith have been positively identified. Courtesy photos for NorthEscambia.com, click to enlarge.

Senator demands outside fed probe into burials at state reform school site

Feb 25, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A key Florida lawmaker says federal law enforcement instead of state police should investigate allegations of abuse and mistreatment at a now-shuttered reform school in his state.

WATCH THE VIDEO


U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is calling for a Department of Justice probe into what happened at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida.  State police conducted their own investigation five years ago and concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing. 

But new information from forensic scientists casts doubt on that probe.  Scientists from the University of South Florida, who have spent months excavating unmarked graves on the school grounds, say they have found 51 bodies buried there – 20 more than state police reported in a 2009 investigation.

Nelson says such a discrepancy is what, in part, prompts him to call on the feds.

“Given new information about wards of the shuttered reform school, and a long history of mistreatment allegations surrounding the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, I believe the department is uniquely positioned to provide an outside and independent review,” Nelson wrote in a letter.

Nelson, the state's senior senator, sent the letter late yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. and hand-delivered it to the president's nominee to replace the retiring Holder as the next attorney general, Loretta Lynch. 

“Having brought USF’s initial research to the Justice Department’s attention in 2012, I remain troubled that university researchers have uncovered information not contained in the state’s 2009 report,” Nelson also wrote.

Specifically, Nelson is asking the Justice Department to look into the deaths and burials of numerous boys at the reform school by simply broadening the department's ongoing probe into the more recent deaths of inmates in Florida’s prison system.

Nelson first became involved in the issue in 2012 after a Polk County man asked for the lawmaker’s help in locating his uncle’s remains, believed to be buried on the school campus. He has since been a high-profile and vocal supporter of USF’s investigation, pushing for state permits and lining the scientists up for a Justice Department grant for the use and collection of DNA to identify bodies found. To date, USF has identified the remains of five of the young boys.

Concerns about the reform school lingered even after the 2009 Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation and up until the state shut it down in 2011 reportedly for fiscal reasons.

In an unrelated probe launched just two months ago, the Justice Department began an inquiry into Florida’s prison system because last year saw the largest number of inmate deaths in the state’s history, more than 300, some under questionable circumstances.

Nelson hopes that investigation can be broadened to include a look at the reform school.

Following is a copy of Nelson’s letter to Holder: 

Senate seal

February 24, 2015

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

I am writing to respectfully request that the U.S. Department of Justice examine new evidence about the deaths of youth at a now-defunct Florida reform school as part of the agency’s ongoing probe of more recent inmate deaths in the state’s prison system.  Given new information about wards of the shuttered reform school, and a long history of mistreatment allegations surrounding the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, I believe the department is uniquely positioned to provide an outside and independent review.

Earlier this month, researchers at the University of South Florida (USF) reported that they have found the remains of 51 individuals buried on the grounds of the reform school.  This contrasts with a 2009 Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation concluding that 31 individuals were buried on the school grounds.  Having brought USF’s initial research to the Justice Department’s attention in 2012, I remain troubled that university researchers have uncovered information not contained in the state’s 2009 report.

I am grateful for the assistance the department already has provided USF through a 2013 grant from the National Institute of Justice, which has helped fund the forensic research - research that indicates children at Dozier suffered from nutritional deficiencies, lack of dental care, and underdevelopment.  In one grave, officials discovered what they think may be a buckshot.  Yet in 2012, when the FDLE was asked to comment on the university’s initial findings, officials characterized them as just “an academic research study” with a different standard and scope than a law enforcement investigation.  Local law enforcement, meantime, has expressed no interest in investigating.  Thus, a federal investigation may be the best alternative.

As the Justice Department works to provide answers and closure for the families of Florida prison inmates whose deaths may have stemmed from potential violations of their constitutional rights, I hope you will do the same for the families of these deceased young wards of the state.  I am enclosing a copy of USF’s 15-page report detailing its findings.  Please feel free to contact me with any questions.  I appreciate your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Bill Nelson (signature)
Sen. Bill Nelson asks feds to investigate boys' deaths, burials at Dozier reform school in Marianna
Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 25, 2015 11:56am

USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle exhumes a grave at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. A "lead ball" was uncovered near what would have been a boy’s stomach.
 
[Times (2013)]USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle exhumes a grave at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. A "lead ball" was uncovered near what would have been a boy’s stomach.

Sen. Bill Nelson has asked the Department of Justice to look into the deaths and burials of boys at the state's oldest reform school in the Panhandle town of Marianna.

In letters sent yesterday to Attorney General Eric Holder and to President Obama's nominee to replace holder, Loretta Lynch, Nelson asked the feds to include the reformatory deaths in its ongoing probe of inmate deaths at Florida prisons.

"Given new information about wards of the shuttered reform school, and a long history of mistreatment allegations surrounding the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys," Nelson wrote, "I believe the department is uniquely positioned to provide an outside and independent review."

The letter comes on the heels of a report from anthropologists at the University of South Florida who unearthed the remains of 51 people who died at the school, 48 of them boy inmates. That's 20 more than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said were buried there after an investigation in 2009. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam last week asked the FDLE to review the USF report and investigate the discrepancy.

Several former wards from the 1950s and '60s, part of a group called the White House Boys, complained that an independent agency should conduct the investigation, not the FDLE.

"We don't trust them to do this," Jerry Cooper, 70, president of the White House Boys, told the Tampa Bay Times. "If they're going to reopen this and they can't get the feds in there, they need to use an independent outfit to investigate this."

Several boys known to be buried at the school died under suspicious circumstances. But anthropologists have said their remains are too deteriorated to determine cause of death.

The FDLE found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, but Nelson pointed out that anthropologists have determined boys suffered from nutritional deficiencies, lack of dental care and underdevelopment. He also noted that they found a small metal ball with one boys remains that they think may be buckshot.

"Local law enforcement, meantime, has expressed no interest in investigating," Nelson wrote. "Thus, a federal investigation may be the best alternative."

--------------------------------------
Tampa Bay Times

Editorial: Bring FDLE back to Dozier investigation
Friday, February 20, 2015 4:43pm

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement should open a new investigation into the now-shuttered Dozier School for Boys. The state has a public obligation to account for the abuses at the reform school committed under its name, and it's important for the record and for Florida's legacy to fully air this deplorable history and make every effort to hold those involved accountable for any crimes.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam asked the FDLE last week to consider reopening the case, noting that researchers at the University of South Florida had discovered 20 more human remains on the property than the 31 the FDLE reported after an earlier investigation.

Hundreds of men have come forward with stories in recent years of being raped and beaten at Dozier, which operated for 111 years before being closed in 2011. A cursory investigation by FDLE in 2009 turned up a lot of maybes and what-ifs, and it fell to USF researchers afterward to take a more serious look.

USF has performed an invaluable public service with its methodical and dignified approach to documenting the horrors at Dozier. But now it's time for the state's chief law enforcement agency to come in. In its latest update to the Florida Cabinet in January, USF urged authorities to step in, saying an investigation into abuse and rape was beyond USF's expertise and might involve criminal or civil implications.

USF has uncovered a handful of suspicious and violent deaths and, in one set of remains, metal consistent with buckshot. While researchers will work at the site west of Tallahassee until August, the number of missing victims, the discovery of more skeletons than the number of names on file and the deteriorated condition of the remains all point to the need for involving FDLE, which can bring more resources to the investigation.

Putnam and Attorney General Pam Bondi were instrumental in pushing the investigation this far. They moved the governor to remove his earlier roadblocks so USF could proceed. As Putnam said early on, in 2013: "There is no shame in searching for the truth." This is also a chance for Rick Swearingen, the newly appointed FDLE commissioner, to establish himself and restore his agency's public image after Scott's ham-handed maneuver to install him in the job.

The state has moved quickly in the past two years to come to terms with one of its darkest secrets. It shouldn't stop now. The earlier FDLE inquiry has been discredited as insufficient, and it's time to make it right by having that agency take a second and more serious look at what transpired at Dozier. The governor and other Cabinet members should add their voices to Putnam's request.
--------------------------------------
Tampa Bay Times

Putnam asks FDLE to consider reopening Dozier investigation
Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 18, 2015 9:52pm

The discovery of 20 unaccounted for dead boys at Florida's oldest reform school has Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the new findings. In a letter to new FDLE chief Rick Swearingen, Putnam says the discovery by University of South Florida researchers of 20 more remains than FDLE found in 2009 needs new evaluation. " … I am requesting that FDLE evaluate the new findings reported by USF to determine whether or not there is new evidence that would otherwise warrant additional investigation," he wrote. FDLE found records of 31 burials at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna in 2009, but USF later unearthed 51 remains.
THE TAMPA TRIBUNE

CRIME & COURTS
    
USF team urges Dozier school probe amid ‘rape room’ claims



 USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle and Hillsborough County sheriff’s Detective Greg Thomas discuss the new finders Thursday. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle and Hillsborough County sheriff’s Detective Greg Thomas discuss the new finders Thursday. UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA

By Jerome R. Stockfisch | Tribune Staff Jerome R.
Published: February 5, 2015   |   Updated: February 6, 2015 at 06:58 AM
TAMPA — A new report on the investigation at the Dozier School for Boys says that suspicious circumstances surrounding several deaths there reveal “a compelling need for further investigation in some cases,” and that law enforcement intervention is called for over allegations of abuse, sexual assault and rape involving a possible “rape room” or “rape dungeon.”


Researchers from the University of South Florida have identified two more bodies found buried at the former Panhandle reform school, and discovered that an unidentified body had among its remains a small lead ball “consistent with a projectile.”


That brings the total number of positively identified bodies at the school to five. The USF team has found 55 graves at the site.


Stories of severe beatings, sexual assault and even killings at the school in Marianna have been circulating for decades, and former wards and their family members are seeking evidence of atrocities.


The report says the remains of one of the bodies, which has not been identified, were associated with the lead ball “near the left lower abdomen/upper thigh region of the body.” It was sent to ballistics experts with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for testing.


FDLE concluded that the object “cannot be definitively determined to be an ammunition component due to damage and corrosion; however, it is consistent with 000 Buck size shot pellets for various muzzle loading balls based on weight, size and physical appearance.”


Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at USF, said the object was associated with the remains, not simply nearby in the soil. However, “The remains themselves were not well preserved, so we’re not able to say anything about health or trauma or cause of death,” she said.


Greg Thomas, a detective with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, said the object might have been in the boy’s pocket, for example. The boy’s clothing had disintegrated.


Kimmerle and Thomas met with reporters after providing an update to members of the staff of the Florida Cabinet, which met in Tampa on Thursday. The report was required by the Cabinet as part of its decision to allow the USF team to conduct research on the school grounds. The sheriff’s office is assisting Kimmerle’s group.


The USF researchers have been at the site since 2012 after men who had attended the school shared publicly the stories of what they endured. The school had reported that there were 31 graves at the site; through ground-penetrating radar and other techniques, the researchers found the additional 24.


The report indicated the researchers have found 51 individuals among the 55 graves. The discrepancy is due to the commingling of remains from victims of a 1914 dormitory fire.


The people whose identities were released Thursday are Bennett Evans, a school employee who is believed to have died in the fire, and Sam Morgan, who entered the school in 1915 at age 18 then was paroled and brought back to the school. A ledger indicated that Morgan was “indentured” and the researchers believe he died in the custody of the business or farm that had acquired him for labor.


Many of the men who attended Dozier told of systematic whippings in a small white cottage on the campus. An advocacy group is known as the White House Boys. But Thursday’s report provides a first glimpse into the extent of sexual assault that may have taken place at the school.


The USF researchers said interviews with former staff and men who were sent to the school as boys revealed that the basement of a gymnasium was referred to as the “rape room” or “rape dungeon” by several men. Some of them were under 12 at he time. They named specific perpetrators.


The report says that “since the investigation of abuse, sexual assault, and rape is beyond our expertise and may have criminal or other civil consequences, particularly because several of the men were under the age of 12 years at the time of the incident, and at least one of the named perpetrators is still living (to our knowledge), we recommend sworn statements be taken by qualified law enforcement.”


On Thursday, Kimmerle said, “We hope that it’s not just glossed over and pushed aside. A lot of these men were helping us to find burials and give us other information about the school, and this comes up, and they are very distraught.”


The report also addresses a number of suspicious deaths. One was a youngster who ran away from the school and was found shot to death in bed with his father’s shotgun across his legs. Another reportedly had his skull crushed but his remains were not found in a marked grave unearthed in Philadelphia. The deaths of two boys were blamed on illnesses but they were believed to be healthy. One was found at the bottom of the school’s swimming pool.


The report also addresses discrepancies between school records and witnesses who say they observed burials.


“A review of the facts surrounding certain students’ deaths reveals a compelling need for further investigation in some cases,” the report says.


Such an investigation might present jurisdictional issues. The FDLE has already investigated Dozier, concluding in 2009 that there had been no foul play. Officials in Jackson County, where the school is located, have not expressed interest. And while it is assisting a USF team based in Tampa, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office has no jurisdiction.


Kimmerle said any investigation would most likely have to be ordered by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet.


Dozier, which for a time was known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys, opened in 1900 and was closed for financial reasons in 2011.


jstockfisch@tampatrib.com


(813) 259-7834
JEZEBEL
Jan, 2015

'They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School
Anna Merlan

The Florida authorities called the Dozier School for Boys a reformatory, a home for orphans or wayward boys who needed a little guidance. But the boys sent to the school called it Hell.

The Dozier School was located in the tiny town of Marianna, West of Tallahassee and thirty minutes or so from the Georgia line. It opened in 1900 as the Florida State Reform School, and despite years of reports of serious abuse and mistreatment, it remained open for over 100 years. At least 98 people died there over the years, two staff members and 96 boys aged six to 18. Men who were once Dozier residents recounted brutal beatings they received in the White House, a small outbuilding on the school grounds whose walls remain spattered with what looks like blood. More than one survivor has called the building "a torture chamber."



A group of men who were sent to the school in the 1950s and '60s have banded together to tell their stories: they call themselves the White House Boys. The Tampa Bay Times has done the best coverage of the Dozier School, including an investigation in 2009 that uncovered squalid conditions, staff neglect and mistreatment from 1900 to the present day, depicting the school, as they put it, as "a place of abuse and neglect, of falsified records, bloody noses and broken bones." (Meanwhile, some Marianna residents have called all the stories on the school "one-sided" and complained that the coverage has made the town look bad.)

In 2009, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the abuse claims and said they were unable to substantiate them. But three years after Dozier finally closed its doors, an anthropological team has been working to uncover the schools' dead and its many secrets. What they've found since beginning work in January 2012 with federal funding casts significant doubt on the state's claims.

Dr. Erin Kimmerle is a forensic anthropologist, an associate professor at the University of South Florida and a leader of the team excavating Dozier. (Before coming to USF, she worked as the Chief Anthropologist at the Hague, analyzing mass graves in Bosnia and Croatia.) Along with two colleagues (Antoinette Jackson and Christian Wells) and a crew of graduate students, Kimmerle has been excavating Boot Hill, the burial ground at Dozier, as well as the surrounding area and trying, through DNA testing, to return the boys' remains to their families for a proper burial.

In January of 2014, the team exhumed 55 bodies—five more than they expected to find, 24 more than official records said were buried there. There are still many questions: how many boys lie buried under the Dozier grounds, their bodies slowly entwining with the roots of the mulberry trees around them? How did they die? And who do we hold accountable for the 100 years of suffering the Dozier school inflicted?

Last week I spoke on the phone with Dr. Kimmerle about her work at Dozier. The state says she and her team have until August 5 of this year to continue searching the school grounds.

When did you start searching the Dozier school grounds? What were you looking for?

The proposals started in 2011, and the field work began in January of 2012. There were marked crosses [in a graveyard on the school grounds]. We started there, and initially our goal wasn't to excavate, it was just to document this burial ground. We didn't think the crosses would match up to graves, because the staff said they put them in later to commemorate it. But we wanted to see how many burials we could find, the outline, was it the right place. Who were these kids who died there? What were their stories?

How many people are involved in the project?

There are five graduate students pretty consistently involved. I have two colleagues, Christian Wells and Antoinette Jackson. But over the course of the excavation, we brought in volunteers from the agencies that we partner with. We've had 55 different people volunteer with the excavation. A tremendous asset to this whole endeavor has been the Hillsborough County Sheriff's office, here in Tampa. Marianna isn't their jurisdiction. But the sheriff, David Gee, has given us a lot of support, and detectives and crime scene people have been working on-site with us and helping to locate the families.

'They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School
Some of the excavation team at work on Boot Hill.
You had to work pretty hard to get the state to give you access to anything other than Boot Hill, the cemetery, right? Even though it became clear that some of the boys who died in a 1914 fire on the school grounds, for example, were probably buried elsewhere. Why was the state resistant to letting you excavate elsewhere?

There had been a lot of different reports from men who'd been sent there as boys, former employees, and families who over the years have visited the school, tried to get information, been told different things and shown different things. There were all these reports of burials away from that area [where the white crosses were]. We tried to follow up on those. The property at the time was 1400 acres. It was split in half by a road. That road served for segregation. Until 1968, it was really two schools that mirrored each other.

So, the different pieces of property are managed by different state entities. The one where we were working was under the property of the Department of Environmental Protection. The other half was and is controlled by the Department of Juvenile Justice. When we went to them to say, can we have access to the property, they were preparing to sell it and said no. That was initially what limited the scope of what we were trying to do. But at that point we were just trying to locate burials, not excavate them. And when the families pushed for repatriation and we found so many more burials than what we expected, the Florida cabinet collectively stepped in and said, OK, you can have access and excavate all the burials.

This time last year you found 55 bodies in unmarked graves. What was that day or days like? Was your team shocked, surprised, sad?

All the burials were unmarked. None of them were marked; even where there were crosses, they didn't quite line up. If you look at a picture, there are 31 white crosses, yet there are only 13 individuals buried there. Everyone else was nearby, but they were extended into the woods and under the roadway. We had to clear a lot of wooded land.

I think what struck us was that these were really, truly lost. Nobody would've ever known that they were here. It's not just a matter of did the markers line up. They were really, truly gone. There was a huge mulberry tree next to the white crosses. It was right on top of two of the graves and ultimately we had to remove the tree to get to the burials there.

You said at the time that 55 bodies was many more than you'd expected and opened up "a whole new set of questions," including the timing and circumstances around these boys' deaths. In how many cases have you been able to determine the cause of death? What are the barriers to doing so?

The whole process of skeletal and dental analysis is ongoing. We're not done by any means and we haven't even really started to analyze the data. There is a question about preservation. While the preservation has proven good for DNA, it isn't good for cause of death. That's a much higher standard. You basically need all the bones perfectly intact. You're already sort of hampered by not having soft tissue. Anything affecting bone—trauma or disease—will leave signature marks on bone.

But the outer surface of the bone in this case is poorly preserved, so we really don't have that. I think in the end we won't be able to answer as much about the true causes of death as we'd hoped.

The school grounds were segregated. Have you been able to determine if the grave sites were too?

That's something we looked for, trying to find patterns. We looked for that right away. It spoke to the question of whether there was more than one burial ground. It looks like it was not segregated. The individuals we've identified so far who were white, at the end of the row was Earl Wilson, who was black. It doesn't appear to have been segregated.

We haven't spent much time on this ourselves, because the main thrust is finding the burials, but until 1913 the school actually had girls there as well.

Really?

It did. Black and white girls and boys. Far fewer girls, but they were sent there as well. In 1913 there'd been a report by the state that outlined pretty poor conditions and a lot of abuse, particularly among these female students, who were left in the hands of these men—it wasn't the right sort of reform, if you will. They created a separate girls's school. But for the first 13 years, there's a whole other story of what was going on with these young girls and young women.

'They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School
The excavated graves of Boot Hill.
How old were the boys at the school, on average?

Collectively, there were children as young as five and as old as 21. It seems like the majority of those who died—because those are the ones who have ended up on our radar—the majority are 10 to 13 year old range. Some of the early legislative reports talk about five year olds.

We know there was one six-year-old boy who was—they hired him out for labor. Five or six year olds, they were hired out for house boys. Everybody found a place.

For those who end up dead, there are two six years olds: a little white boy and little black boy. The little white boy, in the records it said he was an orphan. But the little black boy, George Grissom, it said "delinquent." He was charged with delinquency, as was his eight-year-old brother.

They were hired out as houseboys. George was brought back to the school unconscious and died. We don't know what happened to him. We don't know why. And then we've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what happened to his brother Ernest, who had been eight. I hoped if he grew up there might have been descendants. But he just disappears from the record in 1919. That's the last ledger entry for him. It doesn't say if he was paroled or sent home. It just doesn't say. We're working on the genealogy, but we haven't found any record of him or their mother. I'm not sure what happened to them.

You've said that the bodies are extensively decomposed and many of the coffins contain just fragments. What aren't there full skeletons?

It's a couple of different factors. In part it's because they're children, 10-, 11-, 12-year-old children. And so what happens when you're that age and growing, your bones start to mineralize and become hard bone. So any time you're dealing with juvenile remains, the mineral content isn't the same. You're starting out with less hard inorganic material and it doesn't preserve as well. Add to it a very wet environment where the water table is very high, and that is what I think has caused a lot of damage. Probably the most difficult thing for preservation has been the tree roots. They're growing literally through the remains.

I'm really happy we were able to get the DNA results that we have, though. That's due to the level of testing available today.

What are the DNA results you've been able to get from things like teeth? What do you do with them?

Identifying who it is. At the same time we're tracking down relatives of these people and collecting what's called a family reference sample, a buccal swab, and then matching to the families.

In at least one case, a casket in Philadelphia believed to contain the body of a Dozier boy was opened but no body was found—nor was any evidence that he'd ever been there. Do you have any theories on why that might be?

We did collect DNA reference samples from families. The boy's name was Thomas Curry. Right now that is under analysis and being compared to everyone that we did excavate from Boot Hill, in the event that he was buried at Boot Hill. I don't know what happened to him. One possible theory is that he was just buried at the school. It was pretty standard practice for them to bury them the same day or the next day. Curry's parents were deceased. It's conceivable the school thought he was orphan buried, him, then the grandmother made a claim. But I don't know that.


'They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School
Dick Colon, a member of the White House Boys, walks through the graves in October 2008.

Another basic mystery at Dozier is why the record-keeping is so poor: we don't even know in many cases who is buried in a grave. Do you have any theories about why that might be?

It's a great question. I really don't know the answer, to be truthful. I don't know why it happened the way it did. One thing I tell my students [is that] the only analogy I can find is the convict lease system. At the end of the 1800s and the beginning of the 1900s, they really didn't have prisons. All the convicts were leased out to labor bosses, who would come to the court and take custody of them. The conditions were deplorable. Some were outright murdered, raped, and abused, then typically buried at the ends of the fields or the ends of the road in unmarked graves. That burial practice is the most analogous I can find.

At the same time as the school, before 1960, there was a state hospital that kept records. A lot of the staff worked back and forth. In fact, the state hospital in the 1920s, Florida State Hospital, had such a large number of deaths they had their own casket factory. They do to this day.


We tried to look for comparisons, different types of cemeteries, burial practices, just to put in that historical context. That's where we're at, but we have more work to do.

Have you encountered any resistance to what you're doing from the townsfolk in Marianna, some of whom openly doubt the abuses at the Dozier school happened?

I think overall the reaction there has been very mixed. We've had tremendous support and help which has been invaluable. People who live there, they know the land, some of them worked there. We need that inside perspective. There's been a lot of people who've truly been very helpful. They don't necessarily want their names shared. They're fearful of what others might think of them or their participation. The people who've opposed this have been very vocal but I think they're in the minority. They've used the press or political positions, things like that. It comes off that they speak for the community and I really don't think that's true.

'They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School
You've been able to call several families and tell them that the bodies of their loved ones have been recovered. What are those conversations like?

We've tried to do them in person as much as possible. We've come to know some of these families really well and have just a great relationship with them. It felt very personal to be able to go there and share that with them. Even what they hope for and what they want, I think they're in shock. I'm thinking of Ovell Krell [ at left, with a photo of her brother], who went with her parents to try to claim her brother's remains in 1941. She's one of Florida's first female police officers. She dedicated her life to trying to solve mysteries and find the truth. [When we told her we'd identified her brother's remains], I think she was in shock.

It was thrilling and rewarding to be able to do that for her. That's what we tried to impress upon people. Just because people didn't have that capacity in 1940, why let people get left on the wayside? If they're asking for help we should do everything we can for them.

Do you hear from adult former Dozier boys telling you where to dig or what to look for?

We've interviewed a lot. One of the components of this is sitting down and doing interviews [with] men who were there as boys, as well as former staff. My colleague Antoinette Jackson is doing that. She's a cultural anthropologist. They've given a lot of testimonies about things they heard or saw or experienced. What life was like, day-to-day routines, what was it like at different points in time. Ultimately the goal of that is to create a resource and archive. It'll ultimately be available through the USF library as a digital ethnographic archive for people to do research. Part of what we're trying to do here is document the history.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the abuse claims in 2010 and said they didn't find proof they were true. What do you make of that?

I can't really answer that yet, in part because we're not done. I do think that their purpose in their investigation was very different than ours. They were looking at it as law enforcement: is there a criminal case we can prosecute? That's the perspective of law enforcement. As a scientist I'm not somebody who could ever say a crime was committed. I can say what physical evidence we find, but it's up to the legal system to interpret that.

One thing that's really important is to change the dialogue and the way people think about justice when it comes to historic or long-term cases. If we do this work very day in the area of long-term missing person and cold cases, any law enforcement agency will tell you that in a lot of these older cases, justice doesn't just come from criminal prosecution. Sometimes it comes from exposing abuse or giving families peace by knowing what happened or returning remains to them. There are a lot of different forms of what justice means. We've argued that it's important for the families and all of us to have the facts established and have a lot of transparency and acknowledgment of what happened.

Does that mean justice is served? I don't know. I can't answer that. But that's within our capacity to do and what happens then is up to other people.

In some places with painful histories—Gettysburg, for example—people sometimes say you can feel that history in the air. Is that true of the Dozier School?

There's truth in that. I think that given the history of that part of Florida as well, this is one critical piece of a bigger picture. That bigger picture is the history of the region. To understand that you have to look at a lot of things that happened with racial disparities, lynchings, segregation, and slavery. There's a legacy there that is still very present. It's not something that's just from "back then." It's something people experienced and those people live with it every day.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Top photo: Dr. Kimmerle and other workers remove remains from the graves on Boot Hill, 2013. Photo via AP. Photos of Dozier excavation courtesy of Dr. Erin Kimmerle and the University of South Florida; photos of Dick Colon and Ovell Krell via the AP.
USF: Possible buckshot found in Dozier victim
Jim Peppard, WTSP 11:54 a.m. EST February 6, 2015


Tampa, Florida – USF researchers investigating the deaths of students at the long-closed Dozier school say they found possible buckshot in remains exhumed at the site.


The burial "contained the skeletal and dental remains of 14-17 year old child, most likely of African American ancestry. He was buried in a casket with clothing, evidenced by buttons and a metal belt buckle," according to a report issued Thursday to update the Florida Cabinet.

The researchers could not say when the person was buried, nor cause of death because of root damage and erosion of the tissues.

"Also, within the grave, along with the remains (near the left lower abdomen/upper thigh region of the body) was a small lead ball consistent with a projectile," the report stated. The ball was sent to the FDLE crime laboratory in Tampa for analysis.

The FDLE could not definitively determine the ball to be an ammunition component, due to damage and corrosion, but said, based on weight, size and physical appearance, it is consistent with 000 Buck size shot pellets for various muzzle loading balls.

READ THE REPORT:Read the update on USF's work at the Dozier site

The researchers also said that among the 55 burials recovered, seven burials similar in style and placed in a row contained commingled human remains with extreme fire damage. They may have been victims of a dormitory fire in 1914, but the remains were incomplete, fragmented and commingled with building debris.

MORE:Second, third remains identified

"We found that throughout its history, the School consistently underreported the number of deaths that occurred in their bi-annual reports to the State," the report stated, adding references to deaths may appear in state investigative reports or newspaper accounts but differ from the school's own records.

"For example, references to the deaths of at least 14 different 'colored' boys were made, but no names or specific information about the deaths were provided, including burial locations," the report stated. "The lack of documentation and conflicting information in the records makes the identification process more challenging."

The report was submitted to the Governor and Cabinet from the Dozier project researchers, Erin H. Kimmerle, Ph.D.; Christian Wells, Ph.D.; and Antoinette Jackson, Ph.D., of the Department of Anthropology, University of South Florida.


House Of Horrors

Story by Al Pefley/CBS12 NEWS

Hundreds of men are living tonight with nightmares from their time in Florida's juvenile justice system. 

The state is working to identify nearly 50 remains.

The bodies were dug up at the site of a state run reform school in the 1950's in the Panhandle known as the Dozier School for Boys.

Now men from a second Florida reform school in our area are telling a similar story.

They all did time at the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee.

 Pastor Johnny Marx, 69,  of Sarasota and three other men spoke to us about what they say were brutal beatings.   The pain they described was incredible.  

One time Marx says he was hit more than 80 times with a  leather strap 4 inches wide.

"To me it felt like someone had a blow torch and they were just holding it to my bottom," Marx said.

The boys were sent to the state run reform school for bad behavior. 
 
Some for skipping school or running away.   Others for crime ranging from shoplifting to stealing a car.  All of them with similar stories of pain. 

"They would handcuff me and shackle me to an iron folding cot. I was beat with a wooden paddle," said Roger Puntervold, who now lives in Georgia and spent time at the school in Okeechobee.

  "Some of the boys they got beat 'til they did bleed,"  said Gary Rice, who now lives in South Carolina and says he  suffered  multiple beatings by guards.   “I can only describe it as going into shock. It was just a pain that was so unbearable.   I felt the men that beat us, that beat me were not sane people,” Rice explained. 

   "They hit you so many times so hard that you just cease to breathe," said Julian Sapp, another man who was sent to the Florida School for Boys at Okeechobee.

   Why would they endure this kind of extreme pain and not tell someone?
"I tried to tell people, look they beat me, they tortured me and they all were the same. They all said the same thing. No way would these fine gentlemen ever think of torturing a child," Rice said.

Today, the state has a private contractor running a youth correctional center on the site.

 
After years of investigation in Marianna led to the discovery of bodies, a group of the so-called Okeechobee Boys found the strength to speak out.
  
They took 50 years of haunting memories to the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office.  The sheriff's office has  confirmed to CBS12 there is an active investigation but they are not releasing any details.
    
"I believe with all my heart there's some boys that died there," said Julian Sapp, a Ft. Pierce resident who is one of the Okeechobee Boys. 
  
 "I'm pretty sure that some of the boys are buried  back there," Puntervold said, fighting back tears.

Read Also:  Puzzle Pieces from the Tampa Bay Times which is a comprehensive overview of the White House Boys story.
Bay News 9 8-3-16

Florida's Dozier School for Boys task force divided



The task force charged with recommending the final resting places of young men believed to have been fatally beaten at the state-run Dozier School for Boys found itself divided Wednesday, with some members arguing against burying the remains anywhere but on the boarding school's grounds. (Bay News 9)

By Troy Kinsey, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, August 03, 2016, 6:50 PM
TALLAHASSE -- 
The task force charged with recommending the final resting places of young men believed to have been fatally beaten at the state-run Dozier School for Boys found itself racked by division Wednesday. Some members of the group argued vehemently against burying the remains anywhere but on the boarding school's grounds.

Florida's Dozier School for Boys task force divided on burial plans
Final recommendations due by Oct. 1
The panel was created by the Florida Legislature following the discovery of dozens of unmarked graves at Dozier. A team of University of South Florida anthropologists has identified some of the remains as those of former students at the school.

Bone fragments show signs of blunt force trauma, confirming accounts of brutal beatings of students at the hands of Dozier staff in the 1950s and '60s.

While many of the remains have been repatriated with the students' families, some have gone unclaimed. Re-interring them at the now-shuttered school, critics say, would add insult to injury.

"Why would we want, as White House boys, to have these kids re-interred on that property when they weren't taken care of in the first place?" asked Jerry Cooper, a task force member who represents men who claim to have been beaten during their time at Dozier.

For others on the panel, however, the remains are akin to historical artifacts that help tell the Dozier story - a story of state-sanctioned inhumanity that unfolded on the Panhandle school's campus.

"When your ancestors performed some of the most diabolical, masochistic acts known to man here, you want to move it out of Jackson County? What are you afraid of?" task force member Stephen Britt asked Cooper during a particularly tense exchange.

If the remains are to be re-interred elsewhere, the task force will also have to wrestle with where that should be. A publicly accessible site in a high-traffic area could lend itself to educational programs about Dozier's checkered history, but logistical challenges remain.

"Knock, knock, Mister Mickey Mouse, can we put a mausoleum right here in the front gateway to Disney World? Knock, knock, Mister Busch Gardens, can we put a mausoleum right here on the way to the biggest ride in Florida?" the Rev. Russell Meyer, another task force member, asked half-jokingly. 

Whatever the splintered panel decides, it'll have to act quickly. Final recommendations on the issue are due by Oct. 1.
TAMPA TRIBUNE
EDITORIAL

State should acknowlege Dozier reform school abuses 

Published: August 14, 2014
George Owen Smith was 14 when he disappeared from a reform school for boys in 1940. His family’s initial attempts to determine what happened were dismissed by the warden, who suggested he must have run away from the school.

Last week, University of South Florida researchers said Smith’s body was the first to be identified after discovering 55 shallow graves on the grounds of the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. A sibling’s DNA confirmed it was Smith, whose body was wrapped in a shroud and buried in a grave only a couple of feet deep. Too much time has passed to determine from the remains how he died.

Now that researchers have begun identifying the remains, Gov. Rick Scott and state legislative leaders should publicly acknowledge that horrible abuses did occur at the school and apologize to the surviving victims and to the families of the boys who never returned home. And state lawmakers should consider whether a claims bill is appropriate for those deserving of compensation.

The Panhandle school opened in 1900. Enrollment peaked at about 500 in the 1960s before the school closed in 2011 for budgetary reasons.

Former attendees came forward six years ago with claims they were brutally beaten and sexually abused at the school in the 1950s and 1960s. Some of the boys sent there, many for the minor crimes of truancy or running away from home, died attempting to escape, while others died within months of arriving.

Though their brutality claims are consistent and credible, the former Dozier attendees have had no luck getting relief from the state. This is an outrageous miscarriage of justice.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said it couldn’t substantiate the claims, and a state attorney found insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges. A lawsuit by the attendees against the state was dismissed by a judge for, among other reasons, the statute of limitations on assault and battery. Legislative efforts in 2010 and 2011 to compensate the attendees stalled.

And the state seemed to put roadblocks in the way of USF researchers trying to piece together where the bodies were buried, how many there were and the identities of those in the graves.

State records showed 31 graves at the school, and Secretary of State Ken Detzner foolishly fought efforts by USF researchers for a more comprehensive analysis of the site. Thankfully, he lost that battle, and the researchers found 24 more graves than the state records showed and are now attempting to identify as many of the remains as possible.

Smith’s relatives said family members drove from their Polk County home to the Panhandle in 1941 to get answers to his whereabouts and were directed to a fresh grave on the school’s grounds. They were told he had run away months earlier and that his decomposed body was found under a house. No cause of death was given. The family never believed the story, and rightfully so.

At least now they can bring Smith’s remains home to be buried with a proper marker alongside other family members.

The fact the abuse occurred many decades ago doesn’t make the state any less responsible for what happened while running the school. The survivors, and the families of those who didn’t survive, are, at the very least, deserving of an apology for this sad chapter in Florida history.

There’s simply too much evidence for the state to continue to look the other way.
BREAKING NEWS ABOUT OKEECHOBEE!


WPBF
ABC News 25

Cadaver dogs to search for bodies at Okeechobee School for Boys
Former students allege boys were killed, buried at sister campus

By John Dzenitis
UPDATED 10:20 AM EST Feb 25, 2015

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. —As researchers exhume unmarked graves at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, detectives are searching for possible bodies at the sister campus in Okeechobee.

Click HERE to Watch Special Report:

http://www.wpbf.com/news/exclusive-cadaver-dogs-to-search-okeechobee-school-for-boys/31458746

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office told WPBF 25 News they plan on bringing cadaver dogs to the campus in April.

When the notorious state-run reform school in Marianna became overcrowded, they opened a second Florida School for Boys campus in Okeechobee in the late 1950s. Several of the same staff members accused of brutal beatings in Marianna were transferred to the Okeechobee campus.

The school was meant to straighten out troublemakers, but former students at the Okeechobee campus in the 1960s tell WPBF 25 News they were subjected to bloody beatings. There were suspicions among the students that boys were being beaten to death and buried behind the school’s dairy barn.

“Some of the boys they would just beat, beat, beat, beat until they passed out,” former student Joseph Johnson told WPBF 25 News. “It was known among us that they would kill you. They would literally beat you to death.

Johnson remembers one evening in particular, when a boy was brought to a small office called the Adjustment Center. Johnson and another student claim there was a cot inside where boys were forced to lie face down and hold on while they were beaten repeatedly with a leather paddle.

“They had him in there for a long time, seemed like forever,” Johnson said. “He didn’t come walking out. They carried him out, they opened the back of the [school’s] station wagon, and they put him in.”

Johnson claims the station wagon drove behind the dairy barn, and when it returned the boy was no longer inside. A few days later, Johnson said he saw freshly dug mounds behind the barn. Staff members told him they had to bury one of the cows.

Marvin Mike, another student who was on the segregated black side of the school, remembers a number of his friends abruptly disappearing, and staff members telling him the boys had run away.

“If they ran away, why hasn’t anyone heard from them again?” Mike said. "They didn't run away. They was carried away."

Mike said his friend, Cherry Black, went missing for two weeks. Black’s body was found in a septic tank on campus. According to Mike and a newspaper article from the time, the staff claimed the boy had tried to run away, hid in the tank, and accidentally drowned in sewage.

Mike has never believed that story.

“They killed him and put him in there,” Mike said.

Over the decades, the school has switched hands, property was sold, and buildings were torn down. The exact location of the school’s dairy barn was lost, so WPBF 25 News reporter John Dzenitis set out to find it.

The land was sold and the dairy barn was torn down in the 1990s, and it’s now the front yard of a private home along Cemetery Road. The concrete foundation of the old barn is still visible.

The homeowner told Dzenitis he has not been approached by anyone before, but he would like to know if there’s anyone buried on his property. It’s unclear if the Sheriff’s Office is aware of where the dairy barn was, and if cadaver dogs will be searching in the right place.

The Sheriff’s Office detective organizing the search declined to be interviewed for this story.

MORE (related stories):

STAFF ACCUSED OF BRUTAL BEATINGS

 Staff accused of brutal beatings.  Several of the same staff members accused of brutal beatings in Marianna were transferred to the Okeechobee campus.

BOY BURIED 74 YEARS AGO AT FLORIDA SCHOOL FOR BOYS...
By Angela Rozier, August 08,2014
Boy buried in unmarked grave identified
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. —A teenage boy who was buried 74 years ago in an unmarked grave in the Florida Panhandle has been identified.

George Owen Smith was 14 years old when he disappeared from the Dozier School for Boys in 1940. The school has since closed.

Smith's sister talked Thursday about her strong push to get answers.

"I was searching for him not only out of my love, but for a vow I made to my mother and father on their deathbed that I would find my brother if it was in my power," Ovell Krell said.

While researchers said they could not determine how Smith died, they said they were able to use his DNA to identify his remains.

The researchers spent four months in 2013 excavating the school's graveyard. Official records indicated 31 burials, but researchers found the remains of 55 people.

Dr. Erin Kimmerle, from the University of South Florida, is heading up the project and said she hopes to make more reunions.

"So far, we've (only) gotten results back that show there is a profile. In other words, it's working. There was a lot of concern early on that the remains would be too old and not preserved well enough to get a DNA profile, so the fact that we are getting profiles and it's working is encouraging," Kimmerle said. "That's the biggest thing."

Some former students from the 1950s and 1960s have accused employees and guards at the school of physical and sexual abuse.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded after an investigation it couldn't substantiate or dispute the claims.

Click HERE for video:  http://www.wpbf.com/news/boy-buried-in-unmarked-grave-identified/27365130

A discussion was also held Thursday about what to do with the 1,400-acre Dozier School site.

State officials said they would like to sell it to developers at some point, but families of the boys who died said they would like to see a memorial of some type erected.
SUN SENTINAL

Tuesday, Feb 17, 2015
Horrors at reform school demand criminal inquiry
Florida Cabinet should order criminal investigation of torture, rapes, deaths at old Dozier reform school.

Prison scandals are flaring up across  Florida. With at least 320 inmate deaths last year, the situation is so 
bad that the U.S. Department of Justice is looking into the matter.

There are credible allegations of excessive force by prison guards and appallingly inadequate health care. While Gov. Rick Scott, the Legislature and new Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones 
have taken some notice, state officials mostly have been burying their heads in the sand or taking only insufficiently incremental steps toward reform.

Scott has made things worse by firing, under suspiciously political circumstances, Gerald Bailey, head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Bailey had requested extra manpower and money to 
investigate suspicious deaths.

Next came Jones' order that seemed to ban DOC inspectors from answering lawmakers' questions about the department's scandals. If this was innocent, as the department claims, it nevertheless was incredibly ill-timed.

Presented with such serious current  scandals, it might seem the state could reasonably take a pass on  addressing  prison scandals from the past. But that emphatically is not the case considering new revelations about the now-infamous  state-run Arthur G. Dozier "School" for Boys in Marianna, once the nation's largest juvenile reform school.

Researchers from the University of South Florida, led by anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, prodded the state into a thorough examination of the treatment — indeed, torture and murder — of young inmates sent to the reform school, which closed in 2011. The team of investigators  released their most recent report at the end of January.

They have highlighted true horrors,  including questions about the number of boys who died in a 1914 dormitory fire because they were unable to escape from locked cells. The researchers, by sifting through the remains scattered across graves, also have determined that  many  more boys died while in state custody than had been reported by Dozier officials. While 31 crosses had been erected at the site, the  team believes it has identified 55 graves.

The research team reports that "there are 43 names in our missing person pool." Of those, "9 were white and 34 were documented as 'colored' or African-American."

The report continues, "The youngest boy was a 6 year old (George Grissam) who had been paroled for labor as a house boy and had been brought back to the school  unconscious in 1918."

There are more recent cases that demand attention. For example, the case of Robert Hewett, who entered the school in March 1960, and less than a month later was dead, according to the official report, "from gunshot wounds to the chest from a person or persons unknown."

As part of their investigation, the team interviewed survivors. Among the most explosive allegations is that the school housed "a rape dungeon," which was reported "by several men who reported to us that they were raped or molested while incarcerated at the school. Some of the men were under the age of 12 at the time of their abuse, others name specific perpetrators."

The researchers note that there is evidence, including sworn statements, to back up allegations of sexual abuse at the school. They further note that investigating sexual abuse is beyond their scope and recommend that the state launch a further investigation.

Clearly that should be done, as should further investigation to try to determine whether any perpetrators of violence, murder or sexual abuse are living and could be prosecuted. 

Some more recent documents are not public records and have been unavailable to the USF team.

This is not unlike the moral mandate to bring to justice any surviving perpetrators of the Holocaust. Even if prosecutions are not possible, it is imperative to reveal the truth to the extent possible.

There reportedly has been a general  reluctance by FDLE and Jackson County officials to investigate further. But they do not have the last word. The team's report is addressed to Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Agriculture Commissioner  Adam Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott. 

They can signal that they will not stand for prison abuses, past or present, by authorizing — no, demanding — a full account of what the state of Florida allowed to happen at Dozier.
USF researchers find what may be projectile in body from Dozier School for Boys
Ben Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
Thursday, February 5, 2015 9:31am

TAMPA — University of South Florida researchers announced Thursday morning that they've found what may be a projectile near the lower abdomen or upper thigh area of a badly decomposed boy exhumed from a burial ground at Florida's oldest reform school, the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.


Hillsborough County Sheriff's Detective Greg Thomas sent the small metal object to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis. FDLE ballistics experts found that the "lead ball cannot be definitively determined to be an ammunition component due to damage and corrosion; however, it is consistent with 000 Buck size shot pellets for various muzzle loading balls based on weight, size, and physical appearance."




Stories have swirled for decades about foul play at the brutal school, open from 1900 to 2011. In 2012, USF began investigating a small burial ground surrounded by pine trees on a forgotten corner of campus, where pipe crosses marked what was said to be the final resting place for 31 boys who died at the school. Using ground penetrating radar and excavation techniques, USF anthropologists found 55 graves, many in the woods outside the marked cemetery. Remains were found buried under trees and brush and under an old road.

USF's new 15-page report, an update for the Florida Cabinet, says researchers also found buried among the remains a cache of syringes and drug bottles dated 1985, a modern water cooler containing the remains of a dog and "various kinds of garbage."

The possible projectile was found among the remains of a 14- to 17-year-old boy, most likely of African American ancestry. They know he was buried clothed and in a casket, but can't determine when he was put into the ground. The burial location suggests he died during the later part of the period the Boot Hill cemetery was in use. The last known death at the school was 1973.


USF has also identified two more sets of remains: Sam Morgan, using DNA, and Bennett Evans, presumptively identified based on age, burial location and context. That brings the number of individuals identified to five. Evans was an employee of the school while the others were inmates.


Although researchers found 55 graves, they believe they've unearthed the remains of 51 individuals. That's because three sets of charred remains were found mixed up in seven different graves. They believe these remains belonged to victims of a 1914 dormitory fire that killed seven to 10 people, most of them boys who had been locked in "dark cells" on the third floor and were unable to escape when the building ignited.

They don't know where the other fire victims were buried, but think their remains could be with the debris of the burned dormitory, which was dozed under.

Excluding the fire victims, USF has found the remains of 48 children. But they have the names of only 43 boys from school records. Among those 43, nine were white and 34 — nearly 80 percent — were documented as "colored." The youngest burial was 6-year-old George Grissam who had been paroled for labor and was brought back to the school in 1918, unconscious.

The research team, led by Erin Kimmerle, updated Cabinet aids recently and will continue field work at the shuttered school until August. They plan to excavate the burned dormitory structure to try to locate the missing remains. They also intend to open a discussion about what to do with the remains they've found and how to properly rebury and memorialize them

Contact Ben Montgomery at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650.

READ AN UPDATED VERSION OF THIS STORY BELOW:

University of South Florida researchers disclosed the find to aides of the Florida Cabinet earlier this week in an update of their excavations at the cemetery at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. The pellet-shaped artifact was found near what would have been the boy's stomach.

Hillsborough County sheriff's Detective Greg Thomas sent the small metal object to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for analysis. FDLE ballistics experts found that the "lead ball cannot be definitively determined to be an ammunition component due to damage and corrosion; however, it is consistent with 000 Buck size shot pellets for various muzzle loading balls based on weight, size, and physical appearance."

Stories have swirled for decades about foul play at the brutal school, open from 1900 to 2011. In 2012, USF anthropologists began investigating a small burial ground surrounded by pine trees on a forgotten corner of campus, where pipe crosses marked what was said to be the final resting place for 31 boys who died at the school. Using ground penetrating radar and excavation techniques, they found 55 graves, many in the woods outside the marked cemetery. Remains were found buried under trees and brush and under an old road.

USF's new 15-page report, an update for the Florida Cabinet, says researchers also found buried among the remains a cache of syringes and drug bottles dated 1985, a modern water cooler containing the remains of a dog and "various kinds of garbage."

The possible projectile was found among the remains of a 14- to 17-year-old boy, most likely of African-American ancestry. They know he was buried clothed and in a casket, but can't determine when he was put into the ground. The burial location suggests he died during the later part of the period that the Boot Hill cemetery was in use. The last recorded burial at the school was 1952.

At a news conference Thursday, forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, who is leading the research, said the remains were so deteriorated that she couldn't tell what killed the boy. But Thomas said it was possible a projectile the size of the lead ball they found could cause a fatal injury.

USF has also identified two more sets of remains: Sam Morgan, using DNA, and Bennett Evans, presumptively identified based on age, burial location and context. That brings the number of individuals identified to five. Evans was an employee of the school while the others were inmates.

Although researchers found 55 graves, they believe they've unearthed the remains of 51 individuals. That's because three sets of charred remains were found mixed up in seven different graves. They believe these remains belonged to victims of a 1914 dormitory fire that killed seven to 10 people, most of them boys who had been locked in "dark cells" on the third floor and were unable to escape when the building ignited.

They don't know where the other fire victims were buried, but think their remains could be with the debris of the burned dormitory, which was dozed under.

Excluding the fire victims, USF has found the remains of 48 children. But they have the names of only 43 boys from school records. Among those 43, nine were white and 34 — nearly 80 percent — were documented as "colored." The youngest burial was 6-year-old George Grissam who had been paroled for labor and was brought back to the school in 1918, unconscious.

The report also says researchers talked to former wards from the early 1960s who claim to have been sexually abused by guards and can name their perpetrators, who may still be alive. If the victims were younger than 12, there's no statute of limitations on rape. Researchers encouraged police to get involved and said they "found the testimonies used in our research to be honest and credible."

"We hope that it's not just glossed over or pushed aside," Kimmerle said.

The research team will continue field work at the shuttered school until August. They plan to excavate the burned dormitory structure to try to locate the missing remains. They also intend to open a discussion about what to do with the remains they've found and how to properly rebury and memorialize them.

Contact Ben Montgomery at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650.

The Guardian
Florida
'Rape dungeon' allegations emerge in abuse report on Dozier School for Boys
Two more boys identified as three-year dig and investigaton of the abuse inflicted on mostly black students at the now-closed Florida school nears final stages
Suspected graves near Dozier
 
Friday 6 February 2015 15.02 EST

Forensic researchers sifting the grounds of a notorious Florida reform school at the centre of a decades-long abuse scandal have identified the remains of two more bodies from 51 recovered so far from unmarked graves.

The investigative team has also revealed horrific new allegations about the extent of physical and sexual abuse inflicted on the mostly African American students at the now-closed Arthur G Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, including details of a secret “rape dungeon” where victims younger than 12 were taken to be molested.

The revelations come in an interim report submitted to Florida’s senior politicians by Tampa-based anthropologists from the University of South Florida as they prepare for the final stages of their three-year dig at the school.

The team’s leader, Erin Kimmerle, said that while charges against the perpetrators were unlikely, due to the deaths of many former staff members and the statute of limitations on crimes that took place up to a century ago, their work was important to the survivors and victims’ families.

Identification of Florida boy's remains marks end of 'long journey' for family

“After three years our focus is more than ever on the present, educating the living about what happened in the past, mourning with families of those who died at Dozier and supporting them as they seek justice,” she said in the report.

“Even in cases where law enforcement and prosecutors are unable to file criminal charges, transparency and acknowledgement of the abuses are important components for reconciling conflict.”

The researchers found that officials “consistently under-reported” the number of deaths that occurred at the school between its opening in 1900 and 1960, the latest date for which records are currently publicly available, and that numerous bodies were buried with slack or missing documentation outside the marked cemetery known as Boot Hill.

One set of remains was found with what appeared to be a shotgun pellet, Kimmerle said, while others showed signs of blunt force trauma and “substantial evidence” of malnutrition, infections and a near-total absence of dental care.

Among the allegations of a group of survivors known as the White House Boys, nicknamed for the building in which they say they suffered the worst abuse, are accounts of youths being beaten unconscious while chained to walls or beds, raped by staff and other students in a basement or simply disappearing after excessive punishments for minor infractions such as smoking or truancy.

The USF report contains details of a six-year-old boy who died after being sent out to work as a houseboy, and a teenager who was found shot to death and covered by a blanket after running away from the school.

“It’s been exciting to get a picture of these children, and their lives, from the science,” Kimmerle said. “[But] it’s sad the way people treated each other. It’s a window on a period of a lot of change from the early [20th] century to the 1960s.”

The university team has now positively identified five bodies from those recovered, either through DNA or contextual evidence. The latest two are 18-year-old Sam Morgan, who spent at least two spells at the school following his first arrival in September 1915, and Bennett Evans, an adult school employee believed to have died in a dormitory fire in 1914.

Last August, Ovell Krell, the sister of the first victim to be identified, George Owen Smith, who disappeared from the school in 1940 at the age of 14, told the Guardian of her relief at the solving of a 74-year mystery.

“It’s been an emotional journey and now I can finally get some closure, some peace of mind,” she said.

State lawmakers approved grants of almost half a million dollars to fund the USF investigation shortly after the school was closed, for financial reasons, in 2011. A year earlier a report by the Florida department of law enforcement, which recorded only 32 graves, concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove or refute the allegations of physical and sexual abuse.

Kimmerle said that the researchers were working with the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office to find surviving family members of boys who attended the school who could provide DNA samples to match with unidentified remains.

“There is a lot of work left to do, in the field, in the lab and filling in the gaps in the records and archives we have,” she said.
Arthur G. Dozier School's Horrors Detailed In Report
 AP |  By BRENDAN FARRINGTON
Posted: 02/05/2015 8:55 pm EST

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — As the bodies exhumed from dozens of old graves at a shuttered Florida reform school continue to yield grudging answers to stubborn mysteries, researchers investigating the cases this week released a report on what they know so far.


There was the 6-year-old boy who ended up dead after being sent to work as a house boy. And another boy who escaped but was later found shot to death with a blanket pulled over his body and a shotgun across his legs. Then there was the "rape dungeon" where boys were taken and abused.

What the researchers have learned about decades of horrific acts carried out at the now closed Arthur G. Dozier School in Marianna is outlined in a report released by the University of South Florida as researchers continue grappling with the mystery of the graves and deaths there.


University anthropologists have found the remains of 51 people buried at the school during a dig that also uncovered garbage, syringes, drug bottles and a dog encased in an old water cooler buried in the cemetery.

They are not only trying to identify who was buried there, but the stories behind how they and others died at the school.

Beyond studying remains, researchers are looking through the school and state records, newspaper archives and interviewing boys' families, former inmates and former school employees to provide a history of the dead.

"Maybe I've been doing this too long, but I'm not surprised at what horrible things people do to one another," said USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, the team leader who has researched other mass graves. "It's just really sad the way people treat one another, which may be in part what's captured the public's attention on this — just the sense that it's not right."


The report, prepared for the Florida Cabinet, identifies two more people buried in graves, in addition to three who were identified previously. One was Bennett Evans, an employee who died in a 1914 dorm fire. While there wasn't a DNA match, remains found are consistent with his age and cause of death. The other was Sam Morgan, who was brought to the school in 1915 at age 18 and later wound up dead in a case that still has unanswered questions. Morgan was identified through a DNA match with his relatives.

To date, the remains of four people have been identified through DNA matches.

It's not an easy project. The school underreported deaths; didn't provide death certificates, names or details in many cases, particularly involving black boys; and simply reported some boys who disappeared as no longer at the school. And many in the Panhandle community don't want to talk about the school's dark past.

Several of the boys were killed after escape attempts, including Robert Hewitt, whose family lived a few miles from the school. He was hiding in his family's house and men from the school came looking for him several times after the 1960 escape, according to relatives. The family came home one day to find his covered body lying in a bed. He had a shotgun wound and his father's shotgun was lying across his legs.

There's also the story of 6-year-old George Grissam, who the school sent out to work as a house boy in 1918. He was delivered back to the school unconscious and later died. George's 8-year-old brother Ernest also disappeared from school records, which simply described him as "not here."

Other boys died after severe beatings, being smashed in the head or other injuries. Former inmates and employees interviewed also told researchers about a "rape dungeon" where boys, some younger than 12, were sexually assaulted.

While many of the cases are nearly a century old, some of the dead have surviving brothers, sisters and other relatives still seeking answers.

"To some of this is history, but for many of the people who are involved it's actually their reality every day," Kimmerle said. "They're really committed and moved by this because it's their direct family."
____
Follow Brendan Farrington on Twitter: http://twitter.com/bsfarrington

Two More Bodies Identified at Dozier School For Boys

By STEVE NEWBORN
Listen Listening...1:42 Click here to listen to the story


Two more sets of remains were identified today from the Dozier School for Boys.

Researchers from the University of South Florida investigating the Dozier School say one of the two people identified was found with a lead ball lodged in the remains of his hip.

"What it looks like is a small, round metal object. It's lead, it looks very much like what you'd see as pellets in a shotgun," says USF researcher Erin Kimmerle.

But Kimmerle says there's no way to determine if the projectile was a factor in the boy's death. He's identified as Sam Morgan, who entered the reform school in 1915, at the age of 18. He was later used as an "indentured servant" at local farms and businesses. But he was never listed by the school as deceased.

His family in the South Florida town of LaBelle has been notified, but there's no plans to rebury Morgan, since his remains were intertwined with those of other boys at the school.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's Detective Greg Thomas is helping with the investigation. He says too much time has passed to tell if Morgan was killed or hurt by that pellet.

"It could have been in a pocket - the clothing is completely eroded away. All it was was just skeletal remains," he said. "We wouldn't be able to tell if that particular child had placed that in a pocket, finding it, collecting it, whatever, or if it was an injury or would that he incurred from a projectile."

The other person was identified at Bennett Evans, an employee at the school who died in a fire in the dormitory in 1914. Kimmerle says so far, her team has found the remains of 51 children spread through 55 graves.

Her team is searching for surviving family members to collect their DNA and match it with the children recovered from the site. Here's their list:




True Horror Story
The Roanoke Times
'White House Boys' song draws attention to abuse


Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Times
In July 2009, former Florida School for Boys juvenile inmate Jerry Cooper is consoled by his wife Babbs Cooper, as he weeps after passing a polygraph test that he voluntarily took to try to prove that he, and by proxy the other White House Boys, are telling the truth about the horrors they endured when sentenced to the school in the 1950s and ’60s. “He’s on so many meds for his lungs and his heart that he thought it would affect the test,” she said. “I knew he was gonna be okay.”


Posted: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 12:00 am
By Tad Dickens tad.dickens@roanoke.com 777-6474

By practically any measure, Jerry Cooper is a successful man.

He retired at age 41, after selling his half of a Maryland-based heavy machinery business to his partner. About the same time, he had a short run in Nashville, Tennessee, recording a popular country song called “Code of Honor,” before opting out of the business in favor of life on the Florida coast.

He accomplished all of that despite suffering brutal beatings as a youth housed in Florida’s Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a state-run reform school near the Georgia state line. According to Cooper and many others held there as children, the school was little more than a torture chamber.

Media accounts, most notably by the Tampa Bay Times, have detailed the decades of abuse of children at the hands of Dozier employees, as well as the recent discovery of dozens of unmarked graves. Severe beatings in an outbuilding called “The White House” are burned into the victims’ minds.
“Death could be at any given moment, at any given time, when I was there,” Cooper said in a recent interview. “They had no regard for our safety, health or anything involving what they should be dealing with. They should never have been dealing with beating these kids. They should have been dealing with reform, which is why the institution was built — to reform, not to mutilate, and not to beat.”

In recent years, Cooper has worked to shine a spotlight on what happened to him and other children at the reform school. As part of that effort, he turned to a Roanoke friend, Billy Joe Burnette, to help him create a song about what happened. The Nashville, Tennessee-based Burnette, best known for the 1970s country crossover hit “Teddy Bear,” last year combined with singer-songwriter Bobby Lewis and country music promoter Jan Woods to write “The White House Boys” for Cooper, who recorded it in Nashville.

Friends reunite
The Dozier School has not been widely reported beyond Florida, but that is beginning to change. A new show on the cable television channel Investigation Discovery, “Vanity Fair Confidential,” will air in the near future, and both Cooper and Burnette said movie producers are showing interest in telling the story of the White House Boys.

Burnette and Cooper met in Nashville late last year to record “The White House Boys” song. Burnette produced it, even using his own voice to replicate the baying of hounds that Cooper said chased boys who were trying to run away.

“He has so many talents, and Billy Joe is one of the finest producers,” Cooper said.
It wasn’t their first time working together. Burnette was the man behind Cooper’s rise to near stardom all those years ago. On “The White House Boys,” Cooper sang and did spoken word recitation, in the style of “Teddy Bear.


Photo courtesy Tampa Bay Times
In July 2009, former Florida School for Boys juvenile inmate Jerry Cooper voluntarily took a polygraph test to try to prove that he, and by proxy the other White House Boys, are telling the truth about the horrors they endured when sentenced to the school in the 1950s and 60s. The test, administered by Mike Alaiwat, was taken to try to prove that Troy Tidwell, a former FSB employee accused of abusing children, is lying in proclaiming his innocence”

Burnette said recently that he thought Cooper would become a country music star in the 1980s. He figured that the song “Code of Honor” would put him on the path.
“Billy manages to do a lot for people that he cares about,” Cooper said. “He even managed to swing a full major record deal for me. I ended up declining for a lot of reasons, and left Nashville.”

They didn’t speak for years after that.
“I got angry with him because he walked away from an Atlantic contract that I worked feverishly for a year” to get for him, Burnette said.

They reconnected over the past year, before Cooper called Burnette to help him with the song. It was the first that Burnette has heard of that chapter in Cooper’s life.
“It’s a big deal, and I think it’s going to be even bigger,” Burnette said of Dozier’s history and the attention it has received. The investigation “is ongoing, and it’s a monstrous thing.”

Cooper had no yin to return to the music business, but felt that such a song could help raise awareness and answer some open questions.



“I had no inclination to be promoted on this. I’m too old to be promoted. You don’t see too many 70-year-old country singers,” said Cooper, who will turn 70 in February. “I did it strictly for the White House Boys.”

‘A horrid place’
Cooper, an Arlington native whose mother, born Gladys Kidwell, grew up in Roanoke, remembers well the abuse he suffered at the hands of Dozier employees. He was a 15-year-old runaway hitchhiker riding with an AWOL Marine in a stolen car when police arrested him. A judge sent him to Dozier, where he says a one-armed staff member whipped him on suspicion of having information about a runaway, he has said.
“There ain’t no such thing as a spanking in that place,” Cooper said. “They were beatings, pure and simple. And a strap was used, with a handle on it.

“I myself received over a hundred lashes at two o’clock in the morning, so I can tell you this was a horrid place to be. I even had to rip my own clothing off of my body after I was carried back to my cottage that night. Made to wrap towels around my rear end and legs, and a sheet, because the cottage father said, ‘You’re not getting that blood on one of our beds, boy.’ ”

Children were placed there for offenses as minor as running away from home, smoking or skipping school, or as major as rape or murder, according to the Tampa Bay newspaper. But regardless of crime, any child held there was liable to be whipped or even killed, Cooper said. An archaeological team from the University of South Florida has revealed that 55 children were buried there in unmarked graves — 24 more than the state said were there. Most of the bodies are yet unidentified, the university’s Erin Kimmerly, a forensic anthropologist, told Jezebel.com.
But there were plenty of survivors, including Cooper, who have told their stories about Dozier, which the state finally shut down in 2011 under pressure from the U.S. Department of Justice. The facility, opened in 1900, was dogged by reports of abuse throughout its history, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Dozens more are believed dead but have not been found, and loved ones still hope for closure, Cooper said. The state of Florida investigated but filed no charges, according to reports.

One of the reform school’s staff members, Troy Tidwell — whom Cooper and others called the “one-armed man” — has admitted in a deposition to spanking boys, eight to 10 times with a leather strap, but denied accusations of abuse, according to the Tampa paper.

Cooper believes there is more to be exposed, particularly given the discrepancy between the number of bodies the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said were buried on the grounds and the remains found to date in the University of South Florida excavation.

“I am one of the lucky ones still living who was taken to that dirty, stinking White House,” Cooper says in the song. “There are some still living White House boys, friends of mine, who want the truth to come out.”
Surviving family members of boys whom the school said ran away may find that they in fact died at the school, but so far DNA testing has been slow to reveal all the truth, Cooper said.

He feels a sense of urgency to get justice.
“We stick together, because it was such a horrific way to have to live for a number of years,” Cooper said. “A lot of us are dying. I think I’ve lost 60-some men in the last six years.”

The song that Burnette co-wrote and produced has helped.
“I wish him all the luck in the world, and I admire him,” Cooper said. “I’d do anything in the world that he needed done, if I could do it.”

Scars, memories of beatings follow Dozier victims into their twilight years

Dozier School for Boys victims

Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel

James Griffin, 69, of Apopka stands in his families backyard garden December 29, 2014. Griffin was at the Dozier School for Boys 1961-1962. The White House Boys consider themselves survivors of the Dozier School for Boys, where Florida once sent its "incorrigible" youths. The school, in the...



Dozier School for Boys victims
Jim DeNyke of Oviedo talks about his time at a state-run school for boys where he was beaten as a teenager.


Dozier School for Boys victims
Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel
Cleveland Whitfield, 68, of Apopka talks Monday, December 29, 2014 about being at Dozier School for Boys. Whitfield was at the Dozier School for Boys 1961-1962.The White House Boys consider themselves survivors of the Dozier School for Boys, where Florida once sent its "incorrigible" youths....


Dozier School for Boys victims
Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel
Richard Huntly, 68, of Orlando talks Monday, December 29, 2014 about being at Florida Industrial School for Boys from 1957-59. It was later names Dozier School for Boys. Huntly is with a group called Black Boy's at Dozier Reform School.


Dozier School for Boys victims
Red Huber, Orlando Sentinel
James Griffin, 69, at his Apopka home

 December 29, 2014. Griffin was at the Dozier School for Boys 1961-1962.The White House Boys consider themselves survivors of the Dozier School for Boys, where Florida once sent its "incorrigible" youths.

Scars, memories of beatings follow Dozier victims into their twilight years
Before arriving at Florida's reform school for boys, James Griffin had never been whipped by a white man.

Griffin was 16 years old and a truant in 1961 when an Orange County juvenile judge decided the black Apopka teenager's lack of interest in high school could be cured by 18 months at the state-run institution, which had earned a reputation for child cruelty one lick at a time.

"I never should have been there. I hadn't done nothing but not go to school," said Griffin, who pointed out that kids in Florida at that time were not required to attend school after 16.

The retired truck driver, now 69, is still seething about the four beatings he took during his stay at the reformatory.

Sitting outside his home in Apopka, Griffin wore a white T-shirt identifying him as a member of "The White House Boys," a group of 500 men seeking an apology and reparations from the state for abuse they endured there.

 The Lost Bones: Dozier School for Boys
No one really knew how many boys were buried at the notorious Dozier School for Boys -- or how they died -- until a young anthropology professor decided it was time to find some answers. (December 16, 2014) EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times

They took the name from the bone-white cinder-block building where boys of all races and ages — some young as preschoolers — were forced facedown on a cot and flogged with a leather strap for offenses as minor as cussing or stepping on the lawn. Some were whacked so ferociously their underwear was driven into their buttocks.

Griffin designed the T-shirt, which features the words "Torture Chamber" over a picture of the white house.

The publicly funded reform school, which operated for 111 years under various names, including the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, closed for good in 2011, a few months before the U.S. Department of Justice blasted the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice's negligent supervision of the reformatory.

The federal report, lending credence to a century of complaints, said the state's neglect had put orphans and other vulnerable children in danger.

Allegations, never proved, persist that some boys who mysteriously disappeared were killed by staff, who dubbed them runaways.

Digging deeper

During the past three years, the fenced-off campus in the Panhandle town of Marianna, about an hour's drive west of Tallahassee, has been the site of a forensic investigation by University of South Florida researchers who have used ground-penetrating radar to search for bodies of children buried in the red dirt.

So far, the research team has found 55 grave shafts, 24 more than official school records say they should have found.

Led by anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle, who has worked on genocide cases and helped identify remains in mass graves in Nigeria and Peru, the USF research team has put names to the bones. DNA identified three boys who had been lost to their families for more than half a century.

In November, the remains of one boy, 13-year-old Thomas Varnadoe, were sent home to his family in Hernando County — 80 years after they were buried in an unmarked hole on campus. He had arrived in Marianna in 1934 with an older brother, Hubert, both accused of stealing a typewriter.

Thomas died a month later "under suspicious circumstances," according to a paid obituary that relatives published late last year in the Tampa Bay Times. The school, which had claimed Thomas died of pneumonia, never gave his parents an opportunity to claim the body.

Researchers cannot say for certain how some of the boys in the ground died. Eight perished in a dormitory fire in 1914. Flu epidemics killed others.

Griffin and others from Central Florida who spent miserable parts of their youth at the school are closely watching the dig in the "City of Southern Charm," Marianna's nickname. They hope Kimmerle will find more evidence to prove what the white house boys believe in their hearts:

They are owed compensation for the abuse they suffered as children.

"Whatever they did to you, you had to take," Griffin said. "You couldn't even write home and tell your people about it."

Once, after a thrashing in the white house, Griffin wrote home, begging his mother to come and get him. The reformatory staff intercepted his letter.

"They whipped me for that," he said.

'We have scars'

Ben Elder, now 73, once hawked the Orlando Evening Star on downtown street corners for a nickel a paper. He was only 5.

Nine years later, still working odd jobs to help feed his two younger brothers, 14-year-old Elder was sent to the reformatory because he had been skipping school to push an ice-cream cart.

Though he is president of a multimillion-dollar company today, Elder has never forgotten the abuse he endured from "the sadists at Dozier."

"I was dragged down to the white house on more than one occasion. Never for anything serious," he said, listing minor infractions such as stepping off the sidewalk or having a "wandering eye," which meant staring too long at a female guest or staff. "I was beaten so severely that myunderwear became part of the scab on my butt."

When it first opened Jan. 1, 1900, the institution, known then as the Florida State Reform School, was supposedly designed for education, not detention. But many of its first wards were orphans forced to toil in its fields, slaughterhouse and industries, making bricks and printing materials.

For much of its existence, it also was as segregated as the rest of the Deep South. One part of campus was for "whites," another for "colored."

The former wards, both blacks and whites, share contempt for the staff who beat them. They rattle off names of former superintendents, guards and cottage fathers as if reading an FBI most-wanted list. Most are dead now.

The boys, now graying men in their late 60s and older, say they weren't straightened out at Marianna.

"Trust me, I was not a good person when I came out of there," said Jim DeNyke of Oviedo.


DeNyke, now 66, was sent to Marianna in November 1964 for "incorrigibility," according to his juvenile-court record.

"I skipped school, ran away from home, smoked cigarettes," he said. "Those were my crimes."

At Marianna, he earned a trip to the white house for "running my mouth."

Inside the musty building, he waited in an empty room with a small knot of other nervous boys until his name was called.

A one-armed man holding a weighted leather strap directed him to a metal-frame Army cot. Another man stood by as witness. DeNyke remembered blood smears on the wall and dark stains on the thin mattress and a feather-tick pillow. The witness suggested he bury his face in the pillow or look at the wall.

"If you look, you'll get more," he was warned.

He gripped the head rail as the first whack burrowed into his backside.

"I got it 18 times," DeNyke said. "Tore my ass up."

But he swore he got off easy.

DeNyke said other boys were taken to the infirmary, bleeding.

"These were not spankings," he said. "These were beatings."

DeNyke said his two years at Marianna turned him into a "professional alcoholic." His release from state custody was short-lived. He went back home to Orlando in 1966 but soon felt lost and thumbed back north to the reform school, where he stole a white Plymouth convertible.

The car belonged to his former cottage father, one of the supervisors of the dormitories on the white side of the campus.

At reunions, he has met other former wards who couldn't stay sober or keep a marriage together. Some went to prison.

DeNyke serves as "sergeant-at-arms" for a survivors group known as "The Official White House Boys Organization," carrying the group's flag to reunions and funerals of members. He has little use for townsfolk in Marianna who doubt children were abused on a campus that once employed 200 of their kin.

"We have scars," he said.

DeNyke also recites a litany of anecdotes from as long ago as the early 1900s, when state inspectors found children chained to walls. He also quoted former Florida Gov. Claude Kirk, who visited the school in 1968 and decried the conditions he found: "If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances, you'd be up there with rifles."

Paying reparations will take courage for legislators, said Richard Huntly, 68, of Orlando, who was just 11 when he was sent to Marianna.

His butt absorbed four beatings during a two-year stay, including 40 whacks he was given for drinking water without permission.

"By compensating us, which I hope they will do someday, the state of Florida would be admitting guilt after all these years," said Huntly, who has formed his own survivors' group. "They would be admitting that they were complicit in the abuse — and possibly the murder of children. It's something the state has refused to do for more than a century. What makes you think they'll do it now?"

shudak@orlandosentinel.com or 407-650-6361

2015, Orlando Sentinel
TELEMUNDO (Spanish-speaking TV station broadcast in many countries) 
VICTIMS OF HORROR

WFSU - Researchers To Continue Search For Dozier Boy's Remains, After Finding Empty Coffin


By SASCHA CORDNER
 
Lead USF researcher Erin Kimmerle is inspecting Thomas Curry's coffin. She and her team found an empty coffin Tuesday, Oct. 7, 2014.



Katy Hennig University of South Florida

Listen Listening...1:34 Listen to the story!


University of South Florida researchers say they’re going to continue searching for the remains of a boy believed to have died at the now-closed Dozier School for Boys, after an attempt to exhume his remains in another state proved unsuccessful.

About two weeks ago, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson said he had every confidence researchers would exhume the remains of Thomas Curry. Nelson spoke during a press conference last month, after lead researcher Erin Kimmerle announced the remains of two other boys had finally been identified decades later.

“One of the next mysteries to be told perchance will come later this Fall, as she [Kimmerle] has  now gotten the government of Pennsylvania for an exhumation order for a 15-year-old of the early part of the last century who was buried at his hometown in Pennsylvania,” said Nelson at the time.

Curry was supposedly buried at a Catholic cemetery in Philadelphia, after dying near the Dozier grounds. But, when researchers dug up the decades-old grave Tuesday, they found an empty coffin.

According to a Tampa Bay Times report, no one can say whether officials at the reform school shipped a box filled with wood to a grieving family in Philadelphia, or whether someone removed Curry's body when it arrived and held a funeral for a box with no body inside.

According to his death certificate, Curry died in 1925. His skull was crushed after running way from the Marianna reform school—surrounded with a history of alleged abuse.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Archaeology
A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

Search for School’s Victims Moves from Florida to Pennsylvania
Thursday, October 09, 2014

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA—The search for the remains of boys who died at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, 

has moved to Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia. In 1925, Thomas Curry, aged either 15 or 17, was reportedly found dead from a crushed skull on a railroad bridge after he ran away from the notorious school. He may have been hit by a train. A casket was shipped from Florida to Philadelphia for a funeral and burial in his great-grandparents’ graves. Forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle of the University of South Florida has found 55 graves in the woods at the school and is working to identify the remains through DNA analysis. She and her 
assistant went to Pennsylvania to look for Curry. They unearthed the casket, which had thumbscrews that resembled those from the Florida graves. When they opened it however, they found only wood—no evidence that it had ever contained a body. “It is sad and disappointing. 

Rather to be able to shed light, it just raises so many more questions,” she told The Philadelphia Enquirer. 
MYFOX TAMPABAY
October 8, 2014

Decades-old coffin from Dozier school had no body inside

Posted: Oct 08, 2014 3:03 PM EDT

Two more sets of remains from reform school ID'd
ST. PETERSBURG (AP) -
Anthropologists investigating the deaths of dozens of boys at a closed Florida reform school dug up a decades-old grave in Philadelphia looking for the body of one of the boys only to find a casket filled with wood.

The Tampa Bay Times reported (http://bit.ly/1vNbSVp ) that University of South Florida forensic researchers, with permission from officials in Pennsylvania, exhumed the grave on Tuesday. They were expecting to find the body of Thomas Curry, who died in 1925 from what a coroner said was a crushed skull after running away from the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

They dug down 6 feet to Curry's casket and found a partially intact wooden box. They found thumbscrews used to clamp shut the casket that 
were identical to those found in burials on the Florida reform school campus. A small cross, like a rosary necklace, was atop the casket.

But inside, there was no body, no human remains. Where the boy should've been, they found wood.

The discovery shocked the researchers, Philadelphia archdiocese officials, the Pennsylvania state police troopers helping, and the local assistant district attorney, who expressed his exasperation with quiet expletives as he paced around the burial shaft, the newspaper reported.

"Where is he?" asked Pennsylvania state police Cpl. Thomas McAndrew.

"I just can't believe it," said USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, who is leading the research. "It defies logic."

No one can say whether officials at the reform school shipped a box filled with wood to a grieving family in Philadelphia, or whether someone removed Curry's body when it arrived and held a funeral for a box with no body inside.

Curry met his death by some railroad tracks near Chattahoochee in 1925, trying to run away after serving just 29 days for delinquency at the hellish reform school some 20 miles away. The coroner who examined his body couldn't tell what killed him. "(C)ame to his death from a wound to the forehead, skull crushed from unknown cause," wrote Chattahoochee coroner L.H. Sanders on the boy's death certificate.

His body was shipped by train to his grandmother in Philadelphia, where services were held at a Catholic church, and a box was buried at the Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia, on top of a casket that held his great grandmother.

Burial records at the archdiocese show the exact spot where Curry was buried and name the church that hosted the funeral. The records go even further, saying he was "killed by train," which seems to contradict the coroner's verdict.

It was common at the reform school, known most recently as the Dozier School for Boys until it closed in 2011, for armed guards to search for runaways. One long-time guard told the Times in 2009 that school officials referred to it as "boy hunting." Sometimes trustees from a nearby prison, known as "dog boys," were called in to help search. Former wards have told the Times that they were brutally beaten after being caught while trying to escape.

Researchers hoped to perform a skeletal autopsy on Curry to determine how he was killed. Now, they say, they'll continue to search for his remains.

So far, they've unearthed 55 burials from a cemetery on the Marianna school campus, far more than the state determined were buried there. 

Using DNA, they've identified three boys and handed over their remains to family members who long wondered where their loved ones were buried.


CHRIS O'MEARA/APCHRIS O'MEARA/AP
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (c.), along with University of South Florida Associate Professor Erin Kimmerle (l.), and Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee speak to the media about the on-going research at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.
READ THE NEWS!  THE LATEST TAMPA BAY TIMES ARTICLE and MANY MORE!  
USF researchers find what may be projectile in body from Dozier School for Boys -CLICK HERE for complete article by Ben Montgomery and many other newspaper and TV stories.

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

READ AN EXTENSIVE INTERVIEW WITH DR. ERIN KIMMERLE OF USF 'They Were Truly Gone': Solving the Mysteries of the Dozier School BY Anna Merlan -- CLICK HERE
TAMPABAY TIMES
New Dozier mystery: Investigators find dead boy's grave empty (w/video)
Ben MontgomeryBen Montgomery, Times Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 8, 2014 11:02am

PHILADELPHIA


Thomas Curry met his death by some railroad tracks near Chattahoochee in 1925, trying to run away from the Florida School for Boys. He'd served just 29 days for delinquency at the hellish reform school some 20 miles away in Marianna. The coroner who examined his body couldn't tell what killed him.

"(C)ame to his death from a wound to the forehead, skull crushed from unknown cause," wrote Chattahoochee coroner L.H. Sanders on the boy's death certificate.

His body was shipped by train to his grandmother in Philadelphia, where services were held at a Catholic church, and a box was buried at the Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia, on top of a casket that held his great-grandmother.

But researchers trying to determine how Curry was killed unearthed a mystery Tuesday.

With permission from officials in Pennsylvania, University of South Florida forensic anthropologists dug down 6 feet to Curry's casket and found a partially intact wooden box. The thumbscrews used to clamp shut the casket were identical to those found in burials on the Florida reform school campus. Atop the casket, they found a small cross, like a rosary necklace.

But inside, there was no body, no human remains. Where the boy should've been, they found wood.

The discovery shocked the researchers, Philadelphia archdiocese officials, the Pennsylvania State Police troopers helping and the local assistant district attorney, who expressed his exasperation with quiet expletives as he paced around the burial shaft.

"Where is he?" asked state police Cpl. Thomas McAndrew.

"I just can't believe it," said USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, who is leading the research. "It defies logic."

Burial records at the archdiocese show the exact spot where Curry was buried and name the church where the funeral service was held. The records go even further, saying he was "killed by train," which seems to contradict the coroner's verdict.


No one can say yet whether officials at the reform school shipped a box filled with wood to a grieving family in Philadelphia, or whether someone removed Curry's body when it arrived and held a funeral for a box with no body inside.

It was common at the reform school, known in modern times as the Dozier School for Boys, for armed guards to search for runaways. One 


longtime guard told the Tampa Bay Times in 2009 that school officials referred to it as "boy hunting." Sometimes trustees from a nearby prison, known as "dog boys," were called in to help search. Former wards have told the Times that they were brutally beaten after being caught while trying to escape.


Researchers had hoped to perform a skeletal autopsy on Curry, who they believe was about 17, to determine how he was killed. Now, they say, they'll continue to search for his remains. Curry has distant cousins in the Philadelphia area who will provide DNA samples to 
researchers.

The school was closed in 2011, after 111 years in operation and dozens of scandals. Kimmerle's ongoing investigation aims to answer 

questions for families of boys who died in state custody or while running from the school.

According to a preliminary report, USF has found seven cases in which boys died while trying to escape from the school.

Among them were: Lee Gaalsby, 13, who ran away in 1918 and died the same day from an unknown cause; Oscar Elvis Murphy, 15, who died after being hit by a car in 1932; Robert Jerald Hewett, 16, who was found dead from a gunshot wound in 1960 after he escaped, but whose manner of death was listed as "unknown" on his death certificate; and Billey Jackson, 13, who died shortly after being beaten by guards in 1952 for trying to escape.
Contact Ben Montgomery at bmontgomery@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8650. Follow @gangrey.


The Story So Far


University of South Florida researchers unearthed 55 burials from a cemetery on the campus of the former reform school, far more than the 


number of bodies the state determined were buried there. Using DNA, they have identified three boys and given their remains to relatives 


for reburial near their families. But because of the poor condition of the remains, it has been difficult to determine cause of death.

CBS NEWS
August 7, 2014
BOYS REMAINS IDENTIFIED FROM SHUTTERED FLORIDA REFORM SCHOOL
TAMPA, Fla. -- A boy buried in an unmarked grave at a reform school with a history of unsanitary and decrepit conditions was the first of 55 sets of remains found there to be positively identified, researchers said Thursday.

Researchers from the University of South Florida said they used DNA and other tests to identify the remains of George Owen Smith, who was 14 when he disappeared in 1940 from the now-closed school. They couldn't say how he died.

Official records indicated 31 burials at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, but researchers found the remains of 55 people during a four-month excavation last year. All 55 bodies uncovered appeared to be children, a USF spokeswoman told CBS News' Crimesider at the time.

Researchers said Owen's body was found in a hastily-buried grave wrapped only in a burial shroud. His DNA matched a sample taken from his sister.

"We may never know the full circumstances of what happened to Owen or why his case was handled the way it was," Erin Kimmerle, the lead researcher and an associate anthropology professor, said in a news release. "But we do know that he now will be buried under his own 


name and beside family members who longed for answers."


AP7893845252.jpg
Jason Byrd, left, and Larry Bedores,center, both with the Florida Emergency Mortuary Operations Response System, help University of South 


Florida assistant professor Dr. Erin Kimmerle, right, load remains exhumed from a grave at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys on September 2, 2013 in Marianna.

University officials said Owen's mother wrote the school's superintendent, Millard Davidson, in December 1940 asking about her son. She got a letter back saying no one knew where he was.

In January 1941, his family was told he was found dead after escaping from the school, the university said. The family traveled to Marianna to claim his body, but they were led to an unmarked grave.

His sister Ovell Krell said her mother never accepted that her son was dead and spent the last decades of her life waiting for him to return home. Krell told CBS News correspondent Vicente Arenas that her brother was sent to Dozier after he wrecked a stolen car - and he disappeared soon after.

"Well, he had only been there a few weeks when um, my mom had heard from him. He'd sent us a letter and said he was there," Krell said. 

"She never heard from him again, and she wrote up to the superintendent and he wrote and said he was missing, he had run away."

She added: "After 73 years, I was about to give up. And it was like a miracle. It is a miracle really."

A press conference was held Thursday to give further details.
 
Play VIDEO



Researchers to exhume bodies at Fla. reform school
According to state records, 96 boys died while incarcerated at the school. Opened at the turn of the 20th century in Marianna, west of Tallahassee, the juvenile detention center became notorious for allegations of abuse and brutality against the boys who were housed there and has been the subject of repeated state and federal investigations.

Some former students from the 1950s and 1960s have accused employees and guards at the Panhandle school of physical and sexual abuse, but the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded after an investigation that it couldn't substantiate or dispute the claims. Many former Dozier inmates from that era call themselves "The White House Boys" after the white building where they say the worst abuse took place.


Researchers began last September excavating the graveyard at the school, which closed in 2011 for budgetary reasons. The dig finished in December.

The school opened in 1900 and housed over 500 boys at its peak in the 1960s, most of them for minor offenses such as truancy or running away from home.


In 1968, when corporal punishment was outlawed at state-run institutions, then-Gov. Claude Kirk visited and found the institution in disrepair with leaky ceilings, holes in walls, cramped sleeping quarters, no heating for the winters and buckets used as toilets.

"If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances," he said then, "you'd be up there with rifles."

All the bodies found were interred in coffins either made at the school or bought from manufacturers, university officials have said. Some were found under roads or overgrown trees, well away from the white, metal crosses marking the 31 officially recorded graves.


Officials have said that it's unclear if there are other graves elsewhere on the school site. The team excavated about five acres of the property's 1,400 acres.




WKRG - Richmond, VA
Empty Coffin of Escaped Boy Adds to Mysteries
Posted: Oct 14, 2014 9:48 AM EDT
Updated: Oct 14, 2014 9:48 AM EDT
By CBS NEWS
 
MARIANNA, Fla - Wood planks, straw grass and part of what could be a funeral wreath -- that's all that was found inside a grave that should have contained the remains of Thomas Curry. Curry died in 1925, after escaping from an infamous reform school in Florida's panhandle. His empty coffin marks the latest development in a deepening mystery about what happened to boys who attended the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

"I can't say he was absolutely never there, but I can say that it's likely," University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle said of Curry's missing remains.

For the past three years, Kimmerle has led a team in trying to determine the fates of 96 boys who died in state custody. In 2013, she began excavating the remains of boys buried on school property. The state said there were 31. She found more than 50 sets of remains, but all were badly decomposed. Most bone fragments were smaller than the marble found in one of the boy's pockets.

Thomas Curry hadn't been buried on school property in Marianna, Florida. His body had been sealed inside a coffin and sent to a cemetery near his grandmother's house in Philadelphia. Cemetery records said Curry had been hit by a train, but according to the death certificate signed in Florida, Curry's skull was crushed from an unknown source. He had been at the school for less than a month.

Was it accidental? Was it inflicted trauma? These were questions Kimmerle wanted to answer by doing a skeletal analysis of Curry's remains, which she hoped were better preserved than those buried at the school. But when, with the permission of the state of Pennsylvania and the archdiocese, Kimmerle exhumed Curry's grave last week, there was nothing inside but wood.

"It was really disbelief. I just thought that it was very unusual," she said.

What made it unusual was that there were none of the usual tell-tale signs that a body had ever been inside. There was no hair, bits of clothing or teeth, not even tooth enamel which was present among the much poorer preserved remains she'd excavated in Marianna.

"Here you have all this wood that's really well preserved ... why is the wood so preserved but there's no enamel?" she asked.

Kimmerle's quest for answers only led to more questions. Was the body removed before burial in Philadelphia? Had the body ever been in the coffin to begin with? She may never know. Having exhausted the research available on Curry, Kimmerle will now try matching DNA samples from the family with the remains she excavated on Boot Hill, an unmarked, makeshift cemetery that had been set up on the grounds of the Dozier School for Boys.

"We do have more bodies at Boot Hill than names of who they should be," Kimmerle said.

Over the years, former students of the Dozier School for Boys have come forward with allegations of physical abuse, even murder.

Curry was one of at least seven boys who suspiciously died while trying to escape from the school. George Owen Smith was another. Smith was just 14 years old when he was found dead under a house after escaping from the school in 1940. The school buried Smith before his family could claim the body.

Smith's younger sister, Ovell Smith Krell, spent more than seven decades searching for his body. In August, Kimmerle identified a set of remains from Boot Hill as George Owen Smith.

"After 73 years I was about to give up. And it was like a miracle. It is a miracle really," Smith Krell told CBS News.

Two more identifications followed, including the remains of Thomas Varnadoe.

Meanwhile, Kimmerle's effort continues to identify all the remains her team excavated at the school.

After more than a century in operation, the Dozier School for Boys was closed in 2011.

The Tampa Tribune

BOB MARTINEZ TAKES UP FIGHT TO GET REPARATIONS FOR DOZIER VICTIMS

By Jerome R. Stockfisch | Tribune Staff Jerome R.  
Published: February 15, 2014   

TAMPA — For the state to recognize, acknowledge, and perhaps even compensate victims of abuse at a notorious Panhandle boys’ home, advocates say they’ll have to frame the campaign as another Rosewood — the town burned to the ground in a fatal 1923 racist melee.

They've picked up some added muscle to get it done — former Gov. Bob Martinez, now a policy analyst with the Holland & Knight law firm. 

Martinez has taken up the cause and will advocate in Tallahassee for the former boys home residents known as the “White House Boys.”

“I'm familiar with the issues. I knew it was a troubled site historically,” Martinez said Friday.

In fact, the former governor once took action against administrators at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, also known as the Florida School for Boys in Marianna, dismissing some of the center's administrators during his tenure as governor from 1987-1991.

One of his predecessors, Gov. Claude Kirk, who served from 1967-1971, paid a visit to the school and concluded that if parents knew the circumstances their children were in they would “be up there with rifles.”

Martinez will help lawyers from the Masterson Law Group navigate the state Capitol, where their best hopes lie to win formal recognition of atrocities described by former wards of the school.

Tom Masterson says he is representing some 500 men who were ordered to the school as boys, many to suffer cruel abuse and beatings in a cottage known as the White House.

The White House Boys tried and failed in the courts, with a civil suit in 2009 dismissed because of statutes of limitations. They've tried the Legislature through its claims bill process but were rebuffed because such actions typically require a court judgment and award.

Masterson said Friday the best strategy might be to mimic the path taken by advocates for victims of the Rosewood massacre.

In that case, 70 years after a white mob killed four black men and burned the black hamlet near Cedar Key to the ground, lawmakers submitted legislation to compensate victims. Then-speaker Bolly “Bo” Johnson, a Democrat from Milton, convened an academic research team made up of professors from the state's major universities to investigate Rosewood and report its findings to the Legislature.

A special master reviewed the evidence and concluded that it was “clear that government officials were responsible for some of the damages sustained by the claimants,” and recommended a bill favorably to the Legislature.

In their next session, in 1994, lawmakers approved $2.1 million in reparations for those displaced and survivors.

Following the Rosewood road map “to me, would be the logical thing to do at this stage,” Martinez said.

In order to accomplish that, the White House Boys will have to have some champions in Tallahassee. That's where Martinez and his years of influence come in.

In addition to his role as former governor, he was Tampa's mayor from 1979 to 1986. He held a Cabinet-level office as the nation's second drug czar under President George H.W. Bush.

The White House Boys welcomed the news that Martinez was on board.

“This is a good thing. He's a man with a lot of power. I'm very glad that he has taken up our cause,” said Robert Staley of Clearwater, a Dozier ward from 1963 to 1964. “Everybody who walked through that door should get something. I think they should get something that shows them the state of Florida cares enough to make them feel better, and give them an apology, and maybe help them out of a financial 
situation that they're in. A lot of people are in a bad way.”

Masterson said many of those who spent time at Dozier have physical disabilities relating to their treatment and show signs of post-traumatic stress, anger, and depression. Many have been unable to maintain friendships and relationships.

The lawyer isn't talking about financial terms yet. A class of 500 plaintiffs dwarfs the 10 or so that survived the Rosewood massacre and split the reparations, not counting families who were run out of town and those who received college scholarships.

“If nothing happens financially, if they just acknowledge it — and I'd like to see them do something to memorialize it — it would be a step in 
the right direction,” Masterson said.

Meanwhile, researchers from the University of South Florida continue to examine the site.

Anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle and a team of USF professors and graduate students turned their attention to Dozier after the allegations of the White House Boys caught the ear of then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2008. Crist ordered the Florida Department of Law 
Enforcement to investigate the complaints of abuse and the status of a cemetery on the school grounds.

FDLE concluded there was no evidence of foul play and 31 graves on the premises were legitimate and documented.

Kimmerle's group, conducting much more advanced research, has since found 55 graves at the site.
 jstockfisch@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7834
CBS NEWS 48 CRIMESIDER - August 9, 2014
by Megan Towey


THE SEARCH FOR THE DEAD:  FORMER INMATES AT SHUTTERED DOZIER JUVENILE DETENTION FACILITY DETAIL ALLEGED ABUSE


Editor's note: This story is the second in a four-part Web series about the former Dozier School for Boys, a shuttered Florida juvenile detention facility that garnered a lasting reputation for brutality. 96 boys died while incarcerated there, and at least 45 are believed to be buried at the site. As reported by the CBS Evening News, Florida officials voted this week to begin exhumations there. This is the story of the search for the dead. 

A TAINTED HISTORY

(CBS) MARIANNA, Fla. -- Nearly from the date of its opening in January 1900 to its eventual close in 2011, the boys' school was plagued by scandal. Investigators discovered boys in shackles at the facility in 1903. In 1914, six boys died trapped inside a burning dormitory while school administrators were in town on a "pleasure bent." And in the 1920s boys from the reform school were being rented out by the school to work with state convicts.
 
Play VIDEO


Researchers to exhume bodies at Fla. reform school
One thing state investigators who came calling in Marianna always seemed to find was evidence of physical abuse against the students. 

Reports of beatings with a leather strap attached to a wooden handle were legendary at the school. So was a little building off to the side of the dining hall where all the beatings allegedly took place -- a small stucco building that would come to be known as the White House.

Multiple accounts describe the White House as a 20 by 10 foot building with two rooms: one for weigh in and the other for the beatings. The latter contained only a cot. Boys were told to lie face down on the mattress and grab the head rail to keep from moving. Other boys waited outside in line for their beatings.


Donald Stratton was 13 years old when he was sent to Marianna in 1958. He described that cot in a sworn affidavit in 2010. "I was made to lie on a cot with my face in a pillow. The pillow was covered with vomit, blood and bits of tongue." 

William A. Haynes, 14, arrived the same year as Stratton. Years later, he described the effects of the 45 licks with a leather strap he received on his first trip to the White House. "As I left, my buttocks had become numb, but I could feel blood running down my legs. I was taken back to the cottage and allowed to shower. My back side was black and bloody and pieces of my undershorts were embedded in my skin." 


Haynes, who would later be employed by the Alabama Department of Corrections for thirty years, received 100 licks the next time he wound up in the White House.


Some staff members became concerned about the abuse. On March 4, 1958, a psychologist named Dr. Eugene Byrd who worked at the Florida School for Boys for a year gave testimony during a U.S. Congressional hearing. 

Byrd had received so many complaints about what was happening in the White House, he asked permission to witness one of the beatings.

"The blows are very severe," he said in recorded testimony. "They are dealt with a great deal of force with a full arm swing over his head and down, with a strap, a leather strap approximately a half inch thick and about 10 inches long with a wooden formed handle. Each boy received a minimum of 15." 


He later added, "In my personal opinion it is brutality."


Marvin Floyd worked as a cottage father, overseeing the living quarters of 60 boys at the school from 1961 to 1963. He told CBS News, "It was standard everyday. Everyday, someone was going to the White House."

Floyd never witnessed one of the punishments -- cottage fathers were not allowed. But he does remember more than one boy coming back from a visit to the White House needing to have his pajama bottoms removed from the flesh of his backside.


Andrew Gavin attended the school for two and half years starting in 1961. He was 9 years old when he was admitted. He made five trips to the White House during his stay at the reform school. In a sworn affidavit in 2010, Gavin recalled one time when his abuser curiously stopped beating him. "I turned around and saw that his pants were around his ankles and he was masturbating," he wrote.


In 1968, corporal punishment was outlawed in state-run institutions. That same year, then Florida Governor Claude Kirk visited the school, now renamed the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. 


Upon touring the school, Kirk said, "If one of your kids were kept in such circumstances, you'd be up here with rifles."

But the Dozier School remained open and the allegations of abuse continued.

In 2007, the father of Justin Caldwell wrote to the FBI about the abuse his son suffered at the reform school. 

 "My son has been "choked out, " which means choked from behind until he loses consciousness so many times he does not remember," he wrote in a letter. "He has witnessed the abuse of other juveniles as well, and approx three weeks ago he had his head banged repeatedly on a concrete floor on two different occasions, the second of which he had to go to Jackson County Hospital for a CAT scan because he lost consciousness." 

Some of his alleged abuse was caught on camera, and later put on YouTube. 

The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division decided to investigate the school. In December 2011, they released their findings. The official report states, "The youth confined at Dozier and at JJOC were subjected to conditions that placed them at serious risk of avoidable harm in violation of their rights protected by the Constitution of the United States. During our investigation, we received credible reports of 
misconduct by staff members to youth within their custody. The allegations revealed systemic, egregious, and dangerous practices exacerbated by a lack of accountability and controls." 


The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was shuttered on June 30, 2011, shortly before that report was released. State officials cited budgetary reasons for the closure of the $14.3-million-a-year program, but those involved think heat on the school had grown a little too intense thanks to an unlikely band of former inmates known as the White House Boys.

The next installment in the series, which details the White House Boys and their push for justice decades after leaving the school, will be published on Crimesider on Monday, Aug. 12.
usf

New Dozier mystery: Investigators find dead boy's grave empty (w/video) 10/08/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, October 8, 2014 10:15pm]


In 1934, 13-year-old Thomas Varnadoe and his brother, Hubert, were sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys for allegedly stealing a 
typewriter.

In 1944, 12-year-old Earl Wilson went to the reform school in the panhandle town of Marianna, Florida, for allegedly riding in a car a friend stole.

Neither Thomas nor Earl ever returned home -- until now. Science and perseverance are finally giving their families some peace.

"Just a huge relief, that's about all I can tell you - the most rewarding relief I've ever had in my life," says Glen Varnadoe, who has long tried 


to find out what happened to his uncle Thomas, even filing a lawsuit to prevent the state from selling 220 acres of Dozier property two years 
ago.


His family never believed school officials' claims that Thomas died from pneumonia barely a month after arriving there, debating their 
contentions that he was in poor health even before he arrived at Dozier.


"I was only five, six years old when he went away, and he was just healthy as could be, as far as I could see," said Thomas' brother, Richard.


The Varnadoe family also wondered why they weren't notified of his death until a few days later, but most importantly, they could never get a precise location of where Thomas was buried, as his final resting place was an unmarked grave somewhere on campus grounds.


The family is now elated that Thomas has been removed from what Glen called Dozier's "atrocity-laden soils."


"It gives me great pleasure and spiritual relief that Thomas will not spend eternity in the humanly demeaning surroundings, but will rest in peace in eternity with his brothers and family members who have never forgotten him," Varnadoe said at a news conference held at the 
University of South Florida Thursday.


USF researchers, led by anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, announced they had identified the remains of Thomas Varnadoe and Earl Wilson, the first African-American student identified.


"Once we finally put Thomas to rest and put him in a place with his family, this is one thing I can put behind me and go ahead and live my life now, and that's what I'm looking forward to," Varnadoe added.


Kimmerle’s team used ground penetrating radar and other methods to map the school's graveyard, finding more grave shafts than school records and previous investigations had said there were. The researchers exhumed remains from 55 shafts last year, and began trying to match DNA from the remains with that of relatives of boys who had died at the School, many under suspicious circumstances.


These latest matches bring the total to three boys identified.


The "sweat box" building on the Dozier School campus where court records say Earl Wilson, 12, was beaten to death by four classmates in 


1945.
Credit Lucielle Salomon / WUSF 89.7 News


Cherry Wilson, now 76, says her family heard a number of stories about how her 12-year-old brother Earl died in 1944: a jury convicted four 


classmates of beating him to death in a small confinement cottage on the campus known as a sweat box, while a friend of Earl's said he died 


from punishment Dozier officials gave him for smoking.


Like Varnadoe, they weren't told of Earl's death until days later, and no one could tell them where he was buried.


"My mother couldn't find anything out, my daddy tried, he did before he died, then my sister, she was trying, both of them was trying to find, they couldn't get nothing before they died," she said.


Cherry was one of those who submitted a DNA sample, and Wednesday, results came back - it matched a set of remains.


"I thought it was a joke, when my son called me yesterday evening and told me, I thought he was playing with me,” she said. “I didn't 
believe it really until I came here today, and that's when I really believed that it was true."


"It feel good, because I have closure to it now, see?" Wilson added. "I don't have to wonder, will they ever find any parts of him or what 
now."

USF Professor of Anthropology Erin Kimmerle (left) talks with John Varnadoe Thursday.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

In Thomas Varnadoes' case, it was 86-year-old Richard, his only surviving sibling, who provided the matching DNA.

"I didn't think I would live to see the end of this, but I did,” he said with a laugh. “Apparently somebody had some use for me somewhere!"

Kimmerle said these two matches, and that of the first boy identified, 14-year-old George Owen Smith, came through siblings.


"It's a close genetic match, as opposed to when you move down generations or move out into cousins, nieces, nephews, it can be a little bit more difficult," she said.


The researchers plan to return to Dozier this fall for more investigation. Kimmerle says they've also received permission from Pennsylvania 
officials to exhume the body of Thomas Curry from a Philadelphia cemetery.


The 15-year-old reportedly died under violent circumstances a month after he was admitted to Dozier in 1925.


"We're looking to do DNA identification as well to confirm who it is, and then to look at the cause of death and see if we can get information about that and better understand the circumstances surrounding his death," she said.

On Thursday, hints of that violence overshadowed the joy of the families who have their loved ones back. Glen Varnadoe says that when Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials and USF researchers told his family the news, it ended up taking his uncle Richard back 80 years to when his brothers were arrested.


"He immediately flashed back to the day they picked his brothers up,” Glen Varndoe said. “He actually commented, 'I can hear them screaming and hollering as the car drove off.'"


Still, he wants families of other Dozier students still waiting for closure to have their day.


"My message for those folks would be not to give and just keep the faith, continue to look for their loved ones, and don't take no for an 


answer,” he said. “That's what I did, I didn't take no for an answer."
Fred Grimm:
If you’re gonna torture Florida inmates, at least hire some decent docs 
Fred Grimmfgrimm@MiamiHerald.com
10/31/2014 7:22 PM 

 Really, Florida, you can’t do both.
You can’t allow state prison guards to go about willy-nilly gassing and Tasering and scalding prisoners. Or allow them to ignore sick and injured inmates. Not while, at the same time, contracting with a chintzy and notoriously negligent prison healthcare provider.
You’ve just got to choose. Otherwise the combination of torture and cut-rate medical treatment creates an unseemly mess for the Florida Department of Corrections, what with the dead and injured and sick prisoners and the lawsuits and embarrassing newspaper exposés.
Come on, Florida. It’s public relations 101. If the FDOC insists on maintaining that proud 19th century tradition of sadistic mistreatment of inmates, state prisons need crack medical teams to keep the damn victims alive. Otherwise, inmates’ relatives and civil rights lawyers and newspaper reporters are gonna cause an unholy fuss.Related Galleries 
Related Stories 
Related Blogs 
Related Links Florida, of course, has a long history of torturing and killing inmates. At the turn of the last century, the awful, frequently deadly mistreatment of prisoners forced into peonage labor on behalf of North Florida’s turpentine industry was a national scandal. Life expectancy was only slightly better on the chain gangs used through much of the 20th century. And over the last two years, anthropologists from the University of South Florida have been excavating unmarked graves at the notorious Dozier School for Boys in North Florida, giving validation to former inmate allegations that during its 111 years of operation, Dozier guards abused and even murdered boys confined in the now-closed juvenile lock-up. 
Apparently, FDOC guards regard those as the good old days. Prompted by a Miami Herald investigation, some 80 inmates’ deaths are now under investigation.
Over the last few months, the Miami Herald’s Julie Brown has written about the brutal deaths of prisoners in the state system, including that of Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old inmate who died after guards locked him in a scalding shower at Dade Correctional Institution in 2012 and Randall Jordan-Aparo, 27, who died after he was doused in aerosol chemicals at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010.
Rainey, mentally ill and in a deteriorating psychological state, had been acting just as might be expected as a mentally ill person decompensates — crazy and in obvious need of medical intervention. What he got, instead, was a possibly fatal dose of sadism.
Jordan-Aparo, serving time for check forgery, had been feverish for days, suffering from the effects of a genetic blood disorder, pleading incessantly for medical help. After he cursed an unsympathetic nurse, guards blasted him with so much tear gas that his skin and clothes were stained orange. They didn’t notice until hours later that he had died.And then there was sad case of Michelle Tierney, a 48-year-old inmate who died last month after she was transported from the Lowell Correctional Institution to Ocala Regional Medical Center without regard to her dangerously deteriorating health. A prison nurse told Julie Brown that she blamed Corizon Health, the nation’s largest private prison healthcare provider with a $1.2 billion, five-year contract to run the health services in 44 Florida prisons. 
“You have to be on a deathbed before you can be sent to the emergency room because Corizon Health doesn't want to pay for it,” the nurse told Brown. She said prison medical services are mostly staffed with LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurses) “making life-and-death decisions.”
The giant Corizon Health contract came out of Gov. Rick Scott’s insistence that he could save the state gobs of money by privatizing prison medical services. But it was as if the state officials who negotiated the billion-dollar-plus medical privatization deal had not thought to Google “Corizon.” The company, and its predecessors (Corizon was born out of 2011 merger of Prison Health Services and Correctional Medical Services) has been dogged by a daunting string of lawsuits and investigations.
The Palm Beach Post reported last week that the company and its predecessors had generated a massive amount of criticism and legal problems by making critical cuts in prison medical services in states like Maine, Vermont, Arizona, Minnesota, Kentucky and New York.
In 2012, a court-appointed monitor’s report on medical care provided to an Idaho prison by Corizon was so scathing that state lawyers argued it shouldn’t be allowed to be seen by the public. The monitor had listed harrowing instances in which prison patients with serious medical problems suffered from inadequate and delayed treatment or were outright denied medical attention. The monitor said treatment regimes were postponed, sometimes for months, even when the medical staff were aware of a “potential danger to the safety of patients.”The monitor said financial considerations seemed to trump medical needs.
A federal judge presiding over a class action suit filed by Michigan prisoners against Correctional Medical Services, one of Corizon’s predecessors, wrote that a prisoner “does not deserve a de facto and unauthorized death penalty at the hands of a callous and dysfunctional health care system.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center, suing Corizon on behalf of prisoners in Alabama, cited five inmates who had been persuaded by company employees to sign “Do Not Resuscitate” forms they did not understand, a tactic designed to spare the company from paying for expensive end-of-life care. One of the inmates who signed a form was blind. The SPLC, in an allegation that would be repeated in Florida, noted that Corizon had “failed every major audit of its health care operations in Alabama prison.”
And then there were a number of lawsuits in Florida, alleging the company had employed dangerously deficient — sometime cruel — deviations from standard medical treatment. (The Post cited two instances in which prisoners dying of cancer were given nothing more than acetaminophen or ibuprofen.) In 2012, a federal appeals court affirmed a $1.2 million jury verdict that found that a nurse for Corizon – back when it was operating as Prison Health Services – had followed company policy when she refused to send a Lee County inmate to hospital despite a harrowing episode that left him partially paralyzed, his intestines exposed and his fellow inmates screaming for help.
The common theme running through the allegations of deficient treatment against St. Louis-based Corizon has been a brutal reluctance to undertake the expense of referring sick or injured prisoners to hospital emergency rooms. Since Florida’s prison medical services were privatized, emergency room visits have fallen drastically. The Post reported that so far this year, ER referrals were down 47 percent compared to 2012. 
When the Herald’s Julie Brown requested Corizon's performance review from the Department of Corrections in September, FDOC stalled for nearly a month, before releasing records that showed, much like in Alabama, the company had indeed failed to meet most of its contract standards.
DOC Secretary Mike Crews – as if he was shocked, shocked to discover that there was gambling in Casablanca – has now threatened to withhold payments if Corizon didn't do better. “All too often, we are finding that these corrective action plans are not being carried out and that the level of care continues to fall below the contractually required standard,” Crews stated in a warning letter to the Missouri contractor. “As of this date, many of the most critical expectations including complete and full staffing, responding to DOC concerns and reducing the number of grievances are often not being met.”
Perhaps Crews has finally grasped that FDOC can’t afford to provide lousy medical treatment. Not in a prison system given to torture. If mistreated prisoners die ... well ... it’s just really, really bad PR.


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article3500260.html#storylink=cpy
CBS EVENING NEWS
August 8, 2013 by Manuel Bojorquez


RESEARCHERS GET GREEN LIGHT TO EXHUME BODIES AT FLORIDA REFORM SCHOOL


(CBS News) MARIANNA, Fla. -- The governor of Florida and his cabinet have given the go-ahead for researchers to begin a grim project.


Richard Varnadoe
Richard Varnadoe CBS NEWS
They will be digging up the grounds of a former reform school in the Panhandle, searching for the remains of boys who were sent to the school between 1900 and the 1950s.


DNA samples could solve mysterious Fla. school deaths
Researchers uncover more deaths at shuttered Fla. school


On the grounds of the school are a series of crosses, a modest tribute to the 96 boys who died in state custody at the Arthur G. Dozier Reform School. Troubled boys from across Florida were sent there, but often never came back.


Richard Varnadoe's 13-year-old brother Thomas was sent to Dozier in 1934. He died a month later.


"Devastating, devastating -- the only way I know to explain it," Varnadoe said.
 
Varnadoe said he found out his brother had died via a letter.  "(It said) that he was dead and already buried," he said.


Former students have long claimed beatings were routine at Dozier. Some even suggested murder.


Last year, anthropologist Erin Kimmerle's team from the University of South Florida used radar and soil analysis to discover 50 unmarked graves.
WUSF NEWS
Law & Order
9:06 AM FRI SEPTEMBER 26, 2014
Two More Dozier Families Get Answers

By MARK SCHREINER
Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 5:25 pm
 
Listen Listening...4:39


WUSF's Mark Schreiner reports on the latest developments in University of South Florida researchers' investigation of graves found at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL.

USF Researchers Identify Second Set of Dozier Remains


In 1934, 13-year-old Thomas Varnadoe and his brother, Hubert, were sent to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys for allegedly stealing a typewriter.


In 1944, 12-year-old Earl Wilson went to the reform school in the panhandle town of Marianna, Florida, for allegedly riding in a car a friend stole.


Neither Thomas nor Earl ever returned home -- until now. Science and perseverance are finally giving their families some peace.


"Just a huge relief, that's about all I can tell you - the most rewarding relief I've ever had in my life," says Glen Varnadoe, who has long tried to find out what happened to his uncle Thomas, even filing a lawsuit to prevent the state from selling 220 acres of Dozier property two years ago.




His family never believed school officials' claims that Thomas died from pneumonia barely a month after arriving there, debating their contentions that he was in poor health even before he arrived at Dozier.


"I was only five, six years old when he went away, and he was just healthy as could be, as far as I could see," said Thomas' brother, Richard.


The Varnadoe family also wondered why they weren't notified of his death until a few days later, but most importantly, they could never get a precise location of where Thomas was buried, as his final resting place was an unmarked grave somewhere on campus grounds.


The family is now elated that Thomas has been removed from what Glen called Dozier's "atrocity-laden soils."


"It gives me great pleasure and spiritual relief that Thomas will not spend eternity in the humanly demeaning surroundings, but will rest in peace in eternity with his brothers and family members who have never forgotten him," Varnadoe said at a news conference held at the University of South Florida Thursday.


USF researchers, led by anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, announced they had identified the remains of Thomas Varnadoe and Earl Wilson, the first African-American student identified.


"Once we finally put Thomas to rest and put him in a place with his family, this is one thing I can put behind me and go ahead and live my life now, and that's what I'm looking forward to," Varnadoe added.


Kimmerle’s team used ground penetrating radar and other methods to map the school's graveyard, finding more grave shafts than school records and previous investigations had said there were. The researchers exhumed remains from 55 shafts last year, and began trying to match DNA from the remains with that of relatives of boys who had died at the School, many under suspicious circumstances.


These latest matches bring the total to three boys identified.


The "sweat box" building on the Dozier School campus where court records say Earl Wilson, 12, was beaten to death by four classmates in 1945.
Credit Lucielle Salomon / WUSF 89.7 News


Cherry Wilson, now 76, says her family heard a number of stories about how her 12-year-old brother Earl died in 1944: a jury convicted four classmates of beating him to death in a small confinement cottage on the campus known as a sweat box, while a friend of Earl's said he died from punishment Dozier officials gave him for smoking.


Like Varnadoe, they weren't told of Earl's death until days later, and no one could tell them where he was buried.


"My mother couldn't find anything out, my daddy tried, he did before he died, then my sister, she was trying, both of them was trying to find, they couldn't get nothing before they died," she said.


Cherry was one of those who submitted a DNA sample, and Wednesday, results came back - it matched a set of remains.


"I thought it was a joke, when my son called me yesterday evening and told me, I thought he was playing with me,” she said. “I didn't believe it really until I came here today, and that's when I really believed that it was true."


"It feel good, because I have closure to it now, see?" Wilson added. "I don't have to wonder, will they ever find any parts of him or what now."




USF Professor of Anthropology Erin Kimmerle (left) talks with John Varnadoe Thursday.
Credit Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News


In Thomas Varnadoes' case, it was 86-year-old Richard, his only surviving sibling, who provided the matching DNA.


"I didn't think I would live to see the end of this, but I did,” he said with a laugh. “Apparently somebody had some use for me somewhere!"


Kimmerle said these two matches, and that of the first boy identified, 14-year-old George Owen Smith, came through siblings.


"It's a close genetic match, as opposed to when you move down generations or move out into cousins, nieces, nephews, it can be a little bit more difficult," she said.


The researchers plan to return to Dozier this fall for more investigation. Kimmerle says they've also received permission from Pennsylvania officials to exhume the body of Thomas Curry from a Philadelphia cemetery.


The 15-year-old reportedly died under violent circumstances a month after he was admitted to Dozier in 1925.


"We're looking to do DNA identification as well to confirm who it is, and then to look at the cause of death and see if we can get information about that and better understand the circumstances surrounding his death," she said.


On Thursday, hints of that violence overshadowed the joy of the families who have their loved ones back. Glen Varnadoe says that when Hillsborough County Sheriff’s officials and USF researchers told his family the news, it ended up taking his uncle Richard back 80 years to when his brothers were arrested.


"He immediately flashed back to the day they picked his brothers up,” Glen Varndoe said. “He actually commented, 'I can hear them screaming and hollering as the car drove off.'"


Still, he wants families of other Dozier students still waiting for closure to have their day.


"My message for those folks would be not to give and just keep the faith, continue to look for their loved ones, and don't take no for an answer,” he said. “That's what I did, I didn't take no for an answer."



MIAMI HERALD
Fred Grimm: Two more added to Florida prisons’ sadistic legacy
FRED GRIMMFGRIMM@MIAMIHERALD.COM
10/09/2014 8:00 AM  10/09/2014 12:00 PM

What a ghastly continuum we’ve countenanced in our state penal institutions.


Just this week came news of two more highly suspicious killings in Florida lock-ups – 89 years apart. Two more unsettling deaths to be added to a long and sadistic legacy: a 15-year-old inmate at the Dozier School for Boys whose skull was bashed back in 1925 and a 36-year-old mother, who died with signs of “blunt force trauma” in her cell Oct. 1 at Lowell Correctional Institution.


For more than a century, it has been as if beatings, torture, rape, terror, killings, cover-ups were official state policy, ignored by law enforcement and shrugged off by politicians. For the last few months, the Herald and the Tampa Bay Times have been writing about two disparate outrages along these lines.


But maybe not. Maybe these recurring injustices are all part of the same, long festering scandal.


My colleague Julie Brown has written about the brutal deaths of several prisoners in the state system over the last few years, including that 


of Darren Rainey, a 50-year-old mentally ill inmate who died after he was locked in a scalding shower at Dade Correctional Institution in 


2012 and Randall Jordan-Aparo, 27, who died after he was doused in aerosol chemicals at Franklin Correctional Institution in 2010.


On Wednesday, Julie Brown and the Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas added another name to the role of suspicious inmate deaths. Latandra 


Ellington, serving a 22-month sentence at Lowell Correctional in Ocala scrawled a letter to her aunt on Sept. 21 describing abusive treatment and how a sergeant of the prison guards had told her that he intended to “beat me to death and mess me like a dog.”


Ten days later the mother of four was dead, another killing to be added to the nearly 200 prison deaths under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, now that the news coverage has shaken the agency out of its lethargic indifference to inmate killings.


Meanwhile, a team of forensic anthropologists from the University of South Florida was in Philadelphia on Tuesday to exhume the body of Thomas Curry, who was killed in 1925 after trying to flee the infamous juvenile lock-up (later named the Dozier School for Boys) near Marianna. The boy’s coffin had been shipped to his family in west Philadelphia and buried in the Old Cathedral Cemetery a few weeks after his death.


The USF researchers, using ground penetrating radar, had already located some 55 bodies in a makeshift cemetery where other ex-prisoners had long claimed guards had dumped the bodies of boys who had been taken away for punishment, who never returned to their dorms. The findings validated claims from a group of aging former inmates who called themselves the White House Boys, after the notorious whitewashed outbuilding on the Dozier grounds where the juveniles were brutally beaten.


The anthropologists were in Pennsylvania hoping to examine the remains of Thomas Curry and determine the cause of that boy's death.


The Tampa Bay Times’ Ben Montgomery reported that they found a coffin lid had been clamped shut with thumbscrews identical to those used in burials on the Florida reform school campus. Except when they opened the coffin, “There was no body, no human remains. Where the boy should’ve been, they found wood.”


Jerry Cooper, the 69-year-old president of the White House Boys, was astounded by the implications that the school administrators had shipped an empty coffin to Thomas Curry’s family. It was more proof, he said, of the nefarious, underhanded, cruel and murderous ways at the juvenile prison, which closed in 2011. Though Cooper, who spent 22 months at the lock-up in 1960 and 1961, has proof enough on his back – the scars from 138 lashes administered in the White House.


On Sept. 25, the USF team had announced that they had managed to identify the remains of two young boys among the bodies exhumed from the unmarked graves on the Dozier grounds. Suspicious circumstances had surrounded the deaths of Thomas Varnadoe, 13, who had died in 1934, and Earl Wilson, 12, who died 10 years later. Young Wilson was killed while he was confined to a punishment cell known as a “sweat box.”


These identifications came just four days after Latandra Ellington wrote her letter recounting her threats. Or, to put it another way, just six days before Ellington own suspicious death.


Unrelated events. Years apart. But maybe not so unrelated.


“This has been Florida’s protocol for 100 years,” Jerry Cooper said Wednesday. “This state has never cared about doing right.”


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article2627615.html#storylink=cpy
FOX 29
Authorities exhume boy's casket, find it filled with wood
Updated: Monday, October 13 2014, 02:00 PM CDT

(CNN) -- For almost 90 years, the casket lay beneath the earth, Thomas Curry's family believing the teen who died too young rested in peace there, in an unmarked plot with his great-grandparents.

Curry was a charge of Marianna, Florida's Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a now infamous juvenile detention facility that closed in 2011 for budgetary reasons, capping a chilling, 111-year legacy of brutality.

From 1900 to 1952, according to a court document, 100 boys died there, but only about half were buried on the reform institution's grounds. Others were shipped home to their families.

Curry, 17, became part of that tally in 1925 when he died "under suspicious circumstances while escaping Dozier twenty-nine days after arriving," says the court order permitting his exhumation this week.

The coroner at the time ruled Curry's manner of death was unknown. The ledger entry at the Dozier school said he was "killed on RR Bridge Chattahoochee, Fla." Another document at Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia says he was "killed by train." No one from Dozier ever reported his death to the state.

He was returned in a casket to his family, who, in turn, buried him in Philadelphia. Or so the family thought.

It wasn't until a state investigation beginning in 2008 that Curry's death certificate was found at Dozier. It said he died of a crushed skull from an "unknown cause."

And it wasn't until Tuesday, when University of South Florida anthropologists who have been working to unearth and identify remains on the former campus visited Philadelphia with Pennsylvania authorities, that the family learned Curry wasn't in the casket -- no bones, no clothing, no sign of him at all.

"Wood. Layers of pieces of wood," said anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, explaining what she and her team found in the casket. "It was completely filled with wooden planks."

At first, the team thought they had the wrong grave, but then they found Curry's great-grandparents beneath the wood-filled casket.

Kimmerle was still incredulous Wednesday, as was Cpl. Tom McAndrew of the Pennsylvania State Police, who along with Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley, was instrumental in clearing the path for Kimmerle's team to exhume Curry's remains, she said,

"It was a little bit of a shock. It was certainly anticlimactic," McAndrew said. "Something was shipped up from Florida, and it was buried, and someone believed it was Thomas Curry."

Does he think, as a law enforcement officer, that the finding is indicative of school officials' intent to deceive Curry's family nine decades ago?

"Absolutely," he said, but it's not surprising when you consider that the investigation into the Dozier school has uncovered "decades and decades of efforts to deceive, coverups, and not just by one but by many people."

McAndrew has been in contact with two of Curry's distant cousins, and while they weren't familiar with Curry or his death before Kimmerle's team began investigating, they've done what they could to advance the investigation, the police corporal said.

They've provided names from their family tree and handwritten notes from their mother. One of the cousins, Eileen Witmier, who is 61 and is the granddaughter of Curry's mom's sister, provided DNA to identify Curry -- had he been found.

"Their interest lies in justice being served," McAndrew said of the cousins.

Asked where his own interest lies, McAndrew gave a similar answer, but also noted that Kimmerle has been an invaluable ally to law enforcement.

The ex-chief anthropologist for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Kimmerle has conducted "isotope testing" in her lab to help McAndrew with homicide cases in Pennsylvania.

For one particularly high-profile case -- a pregnant teen found dismembered in suitcases in 1976 -- Kimmerle's team analyzed the woman's hair and teeth. Via isotope testing, Kimmerle was able to determine where the woman lived based on the water she consumed while alive.

Though police have yet to solve the case, they now know she was born in Europe and immigrated to the Southeastern United States at age 12, McAndrew said.


"When she turned to me for assistance, obviously I would've done anything for her," McAndrew said of Kimmerle.


Kimmerle had hoped, of course, that Curry's remains would unravel some of the mystery surrounding his death.


"We went into it trying to answer questions," she said. "What we have is more questions than answers."


But the investigation continues. Now armed with Witmier's DNA, Kimmerle's team can return to Marianna, about 65 miles west of Tallahassee, and attempt to match the sample to one of the dozens of bodies that have already been dug up on the 1,400-acre former campus.


Though many of the boys died so long ago, it's important to find their family members, Kimmerle believes, if only because of the uncertainties surrounding their deaths and the controversy enveloping the supposed school where they died.


That bodies lay there was never a secret -- 31 rusty, white crosses marked the resting places of victims who died from a dormitory fire, influenza, pneumonia and other causes -- but Kimmerle's team has found a total of 55 bodies there so far.


Her team also has found records indicating that 22 boys who died at the school are unaccounted for. Already, Kimmerle and her colleagues have identified three sets of remains. One of those bodies was George Owen Smith, whose sister Ovell Krell, 85, told CNN in August she was elated that the seven-decade mystery surrounding her brother's death was finally solved.


Though ex-students provided detailed accounts of vicious beatings, sexual abuse and disappearances, guards and administrators who are still alive have denied the beatings occurred.

The state investigation in 2008 and 2009 said there was insufficient evidence of abuse at Dozier, but dozens of men, many of them now senior citizens, have come forward with stories. A support group for ex-students, dubbed The White House Boys, takes its moniker from the structure where boys say they were beaten with a leather strap attached to a wooden handle.

They were whipped until their underwear was embedded in their buttocks, The White House Boys say. Some were beaten unconscious. Crying or screaming out would earn you extra lashes, they say.

So while this week's exhumation didn't answer any of the myriad questions surrounding Dozier and its missing and dead boys, it was still an important part of the ongoing investigation, researchers and police said.

"It definitely had to be done," McAndrew said. "We had to at least open the grave if this investigation down in Florida is going to be resolved."
CBS NEWS
by Megan Towey
October 13, 2014  10:53am

DOZIER SCHOOL DEATHS:  EMPTY COFFIN OF ESCAPED BOY ADDS TO MYSTERIES

Wood planks, straw grass and part of what could be a funeral wreath -- that's all that was found inside a grave that should have contained the remains of Thomas Curry. Curry died in 1925, after escaping from an infamous reform school in Florida's panhandle. His empty coffin marks the latest development in a deepening mystery about what happened to boys who attended the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.


"I can't say he was absolutely never there, but I can say that it's likely," University of South Florida forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle said of Curry's missing remains.
 
Play VIDEO

Remains of deceased Dozier School student ID'd 73 years later

For the past three years, Kimmerle has led a team in trying to determine the fates of 96 boys who died in state custody. In 2013, she began 
excavating the remains of boys buried on school property. The state said there were 31. She found more than 50 sets of remains, but all were badly decomposed. Most bone fragments were smaller than the marble found in one of the boy's pockets.

Thomas Curry hadn't been buried on school property in Marianna, Florida. His body had been sealed inside a coffin and sent to a cemetery near his grandmother's house in Philadelphia. Cemetery records said Curry had been hit by a train, but according to the death certificate signed in Florida, Curry's skull was crushed from an unknown source. He had been at the school for less than a month.

Was it accidental? Was it inflicted trauma? These were questions Kimmerle wanted to answer by doing a skeletal analysis of Curry's remains, which she hoped were better preserved than those buried at the school. But when, with the permission of the state of Pennsylvania and the archdiocese, Kimmerle exhumed Curry's grave last week, there was nothing inside but wood.

"It was really disbelief. I just thought that it was very unusual," she said.

What made it unusual was that there were none of the usual tell-tale signs that a body had ever been inside. There was no hair, bits of clothing or teeth, not even tooth enamel which was present among the much poorer preserved remains she'd excavated in Marianna.

"Here you have all this wood that's really well preserved ... why is the wood so preserved but there's no enamel?" she asked.
 
Kimmerle's quest for answers only led to more questions. Was the body removed before burial in Philadelphia? Had the body ever been in the coffin to begin with? She may never know. Having exhausted the research available on Curry, Kimmerle will now try matching DNA samples from the family with the remains she excavated on Boot Hill, an unmarked, makeshift cemetery that had been set up on the 
grounds of the Dozier School for Boys.

"We do have more bodies at Boot Hill than names of who they should be," Kimmerle said.

Over the years, former students of the Dozier School for Boys have come forward with allegations of physical abuse, even murder.

Curry was one of at least seven boys who suspiciously died while trying to escape from the school. George Owen Smith was another. Smith was just 14 years old when he was found dead under a house after escaping from the school in 1940. The school buried Smith before his family could claim the body.

Smith's younger sister, Ovell Smith Krell, spent more than seven decades searching for his body. In August, Kimmerle identified a set of remains from Boot Hill as George Owen Smith.

"After 73 years I was about to give up. And it was like a miracle. It is a miracle really," Smith Krell told CBS News.

Two more identifications followed, including the remains of Thomas Varnadoe.

Meanwhile, Kimmerle's effort continues to identify all the remains her team excavated at the school.

After more than a century in operation, the Dozier School for Boys was closed in 2011.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
CNN


Did Florida boys school officials send family a casket filled with wood?
By Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Thu October 9, 2014




(CNN) -- For almost 90 years, the casket lay beneath the earth, Thomas Curry's family believing the teen who died too young rested in peace there, in an unmarked plot with his great-grandparents.
Curry was a charge of Marianna, Florida's Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a now infamous juvenile detention facility that closed in 2011 for 
budgetary reasons, capping a chilling, 111-year legacy of brutality.

From 1900 to 1952, according to a court document, 100 boys died there, but only about half were buried on the reform institution's grounds. 
Others were shipped home to their families.
Curry, 17, became part of that tally in 1925 when he died "under suspicious circumstances while escaping Dozier twenty-nine days after 
arriving," says the court order permitting his exhumation this week.

The coroner at the time ruled Curry's manner of death was unknown. The ledger entry at the Dozier school said he was "killed on RR Bridge 
Chattahoochee, Fla." Another document at Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia says he was "killed by train." No one from Dozier ever 
reported his death to the state.

He was returned in a casket to his family, who, in turn, buried him in Philadelphia. Or so the family thought. It wasn't until a state investigation beginning in 2008 that Curry's death certificate was found at Dozier. It said he died of a crushed skull 
from an "unknown cause."

And it wasn't until Tuesday, when University of South Florida anthropologists who have been working to unearth and identify remains on the 
former campus visited Philadelphia with Pennsylvania authorities, that the family learned Curry wasn't in the casket -- no bones, no clothing,
no sign of him at all.

"Wood. Layers of pieces of wood," said anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, explaining what she and her team found in the casket. "It was 
completely filled with wooden planks."
At first, the team thought they had the wrong grave, but then they found Curry's great-grandparents beneath the wood-filled casket.

 'Decades of efforts to deceive' 
Kimmerle was still incredulous Wednesday, as was Cpl. Tom McAndrew of the Pennsylvania State Police, who along with Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley, was instrumental in clearing the path for Kimmerle's team to exhume Curry's remains, she said,
"It was a little bit of a shock. It was certainly anticlimactic," McAndrew said. "Something was shipped up from Florida, and it was buried, and 
someone believed it was Thomas Curry."
Does he think, as a law enforcement officer, that the finding is indicative of school officials' intent to deceive Curry's family nine decades ago?
"Absolutely," he said, but it's not surprising when you consider that the investigation into the Dozier school has uncovered "decades and decades of efforts to deceive, coverups, and not just by one but by many people."

McAndrew has been in contact with two of Curry's distant cousins, and while they weren't familiar with Curry or his death before Kimmerle's team began investigating, they've done what they could to advance the investigation, the police corporal said.
They've provided names from their family tree and handwritten notes from their mother. One of the cousins, Eileen Witmier, who is 61 and is the granddaughter of Curry's mom's sister, provided DNA to identify Curry -- had he been found.
"Their interest lies in justice being served," McAndrew said of the cousins.

Asked where his own interest lies, McAndrew gave a similar answer, but also noted that Kimmerle has been an invaluable ally to law enforcement.
Quid pro quo among professionals The ex-chief anthropologist for the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, Kimmerle has conducted "isotope testing" in her lab to help McAndrew with homicide cases in Pennsylvania.  For one particularly high-profile case -- a pregnant teen found dismembered in suitcases in 1976 -- Kimmerle's team analyzed the woman's hair and teeth. Via isotope testing, Kimmerle was able to determine where the woman lived based on the water she consumed while alive.
Though police have yet to solve the case, they now know she was born in Europe and immigrated to the Southeastern United States at age 12, McAndrew said.

"When she turned to me for assistance, obviously I would've done anything for her," McAndrew said of Kimmerle. Kimmerle had hoped, of course, that Curry's remains would unravel some of the mystery surrounding his death.  "We went into it trying to answer questions," she said. "What we have is more questions than answers."

 Florida to exhume bodies at former school Unmarked graves at school to be exhumed Boys' graves might hold answers School graves could 
hide 'evil' past 

But the investigation continues. Now armed with Witmier's DNA, Kimmerle's team can return to Marianna, about 65 miles west of Tallahassee, and attempt to match the sample to one of the dozens of bodies that have already been dug up on the 1,400-acre former campus.
Though many of the boys died so long ago, it's important to find their family members, Kimmerle believes, if only because of the uncertainties surrounding their deaths and the controversy enveloping the supposed school where they died.

 A dubious legacy
That bodies lay there was never a secret -- 31 rusty, white crosses marked the resting places of victims who died from a dormitory fire, influenza, pneumonia and other causes -- but Kimmerle's team has found a total of 55 bodies there so far.
Her team also has found records indicating that 22 boys who died at the school are unaccounted for. Already, Kimmerle and her colleagues have identified three sets of remains. One of those bodies was George Owen Smith, whose sister Ovell Krell, 85, told CNN in August she was elated that the seven-decade mystery surrounding her brother's death was finally solved.

Though ex-students provided detailed accounts of vicious beatings, sexual abuse and disappearances, guards and administrators who are still alive have denied the beatings occurred. The state investigation in 2008 and 2009 said there was insufficient evidence of abuse at Dozier, but dozens of men, many of them now senior citizens, have come forward with stories. A support group for ex-students, dubbed The White House Boys, takes its moniker from the structure where boys say they were beaten with a leather strap attached to a wooden handle.

They were whipped until their underwear was embedded in their buttocks, The White House Boys say. Some were beaten unconscious. Crying or screaming out would earn you extra lashes, they say.

So while this week's exhumation didn't answer any of the myriad questions surrounding Dozier and its missing and dead boys, it was still an important part of the ongoing investigation, researchers and police said.  "It definitely had to be done," McAndrew said. "We had to at least open the grave if this investigation down in Florida is going to be 
resolved."

Remains of 2 more boys identified at shuttered Florida reformatory

CNN's Ed Lavandera contributed to this report.
From Philly dot com / The Enquirer / Daily News

A mystery from 1925 still haunts a Philadelphia graveyard

Tovah Ross-Mitchell of the Mütter Museum (left) and Kimberlee Sue Moran, director of the Center for Forensic Science Research and Education, at Thomas Curry's grave in Old Cathedral Cemetery. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)

By Mike Newall, Inquirer Staff Writer
POSTED: October 10, 2014
Forensic anthropologists and Pennsylvania state police gathered Tuesday on a small rise of land inside the Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia to dig for answers - clues, really.

How did Thomas Curry, teenage ward of the notorious Florida School for Boys, come to meet a violent death on a railroad bridge 88 years earlier?

The day before the orphan from Tacony died, he had escaped from the school, a hellish place where boys were routinely locked in irons, hog-tied in isolation, beaten with leather straps, and locked in sweat boxes as punishment. And hunted down when they ran.

Bodies were often buried, hastily and without explanation, in a makeshift cemetery in a secluded clearing of pines by the school in the Florida panhandle.

In 1925, a Florida coroner ruled, vaguely, that Curry died from a "wound on the forehead: skull crushed from an unknown cause."

Records show that his remains were shipped home by freight and, after a funeral at St. Bridget parish in East Falls, buried without a headstone, stacked upon his great-grandparents' graves.

And there, presumably, his body had lain, undisturbed for generations.

Since the shuttering of the school two years ago, forensic anthropologists and archaeologists from the University of South Florida have been probing and digging up the cemetery by the school, accounting for victims.

Now, the inquiry had taken them to Philadelphia.

Once the nation's largest boys' school, and later known as Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, the institution in Marianna was closed after a 2009 newspaper investigation revealed a century of abuse and failed reform.

The articles in the St. Petersburg Times spurred investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Hundreds of men stepped forward to share their horrors.

They told of beatings, torture, disappearances. A former staff member told of "boy hunts" in which guards chased runaways with guns.

The men told of burials in the makeshift cemetery, which, the newspaper articles noted, was marked only by crooked rows of pipe crosses.

That's when South Florida professor Erin Kimmerle got involved. A renowned forensic anthropologist, Kimmerle led the United Nations effort to exhume mass graves in the former Yugoslavia, and worked with the Smithsonian Institution to return American Indian remains to their tribes.

Using ground-penetrating radar, Kimmerle's team discovered 55 graves in the woods - nearly double the number the state had identified.

As DNA analysis continues to identify remains in Florida, finally allowing proper burials for families, Kimmerle turned her attention to Curry, whose death was not mentioned in Florida's 2009 investigative report.

"He seems to be sort of lost to time," she said.

Boys fled almost daily from the school, Kimmerle said. Curry was one of 10 who were found dead after running away. Some, like Curry, were killed by blunt-force trauma. Others died from exposure to the elements, or were found shot or run down by cars.

No one, she said, was ever brought to justice in any of the deaths.

Locals, she said, sometimes joined in the hunts and were paid with meat from the school's farm or other goods produced at the school. But mostly, her research shows, the bounties were paid in cash.

Records do not detail what drove Curry south. He had lived on Torresdale Avenue with his grandmother after his parents died when he was about 7. According to Inquirer archives, his father, Thomas, shot his mother, Alma, during a quarrel at their home on New Year's Day 1916, then shot himself. Two days later the father died. 

In Florida, the boy was sentenced for delinquency by a Dade County judge, the records show, "until further notice by court."

From surviving records, Curry was either 15 or 17 in December 1925

Kimmerle believes he likely followed the railroad tracks west, leading to the bridge.

Once the backhoe had dug about six feet down, the team used a rod to sense the top of the crate that Curry's coffin had been buried inside.

Kimmerle and her graduate assistant, Liotta Noche-Dowdy, then used hand trowels, and small brushes and spoons - which Kimmerle pulled from an Alice in Wonderland pencil case she brought into the hole.

Slowly, they brushed away the damp clay as if cleaning a dirty canvas, and the top of the crate began to emerge.

Cpl. Thomas McAndrew of the state police Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit looked on. In the months before the dig, McAndrew had sketched out a family tree for Curry, using census records to find relatives of Curry's in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, who offered what they could about the family history but knew little about Thomas.

Together, McAndrew and Cpl. Robert Levan tracked down the location of the boy's grave. A death certificate found at Old Cathedral contradicted the Florida coroner's report. It said Curry had been hit by a train.

Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brendan O'Malley noted that detail in a petition filed in Common Pleas Court this summer, requesting the excavation and a skeletal autopsy.

At first Tuesday, the work seemed promising. The crate was partly collapsed, but was intact. If the bones were well-preserved, Kimmerle might be able to discern a cause of death - whether it was accidental or inflicted, whether there were defensive wounds or signs of past abuse.

On the lid of the casket, Kimmerle discovered thumbscrews similar to ones she found in the Florida graves. She found a small metal cross and a tattered black decorative bow - remnants, she assumed, of a wreath.

They kept digging.

But what they found inside the casket was just more wood.

No bones, no outline of a skeleton in the dirt, no teeth nor hair, no evidence that a body had ever been buried in the coffin.

What they hit next was the nameplate for the next casket. It belonged to Thomas Curry's great-grandmother. And with that, the digging stopped.

The silence became shock as they came to realize what this likely meant: Someone had shipped a coffin to Philadelphia weighted down with wood and not the remains of a possible victim of crime.

Theories were offered by the team gathered at the cemetery.

The school was known to bury boys quickly - so why would they send evidence of a crime? Perhaps Curry's remains were among those found in the school cemetery.

Records show the school shipped other dead boys back to their families. Were those coffins empty too?

"But what about the funeral?" asked O'Malley, the prosecutor.

Maybe, Kimmerle said, holding the thumbscrews, the ribbon and the cross, the casket was never opened at the service.

Although it is unlikely, she said, she cannot be certain that the body was not removed after it arrived in Philadelphia.

Robert Whomsley, the archdiocesan liaison for Catholic cemeteries, had no answers.

"We are all shaking our heads," he said.

In her research of the school, Kimmerle said she had never encountered an empty coffin. Instead of the autopsy, the team visited St. Bridget's Parish in search of more records. They found none.

She's hoping DNA from Curry's relatives help determine if the boy's remains were buried with the others in Florida.

"It is sad and disappointing," she said while standing by the grave, which had been refilled. "Rather to be able to shed light, it just raises so many more questions."

mnewall@phillynews.com

215-854-2759 @MikeNewall
WUSF NEWS - OCTOBER 8, 2014
Law and Order

DOZIER SCHOOL VICTIM'S CASKET OPENED; NO BODY FOUND


By STEVE NEWBORN
 
Both the University of South Florida and the Tampa Bay Times are reporting that USF researchers sent to exhume the body of a boy who was killed at the infamous Dozier School for Boys in Marianna and buried in a Pennsylvania cemetery found nothing when they opened the casket.
 
Nothing, except for a few pieces of wood.

Here's what the Times wrote:

The discovery shocked the researchers, Philadelphia archdiocese officials, the Pennsylvania state police troopers helping, and the local assistant district attorney, who expressed his exasperation with quiet expletives as he paced around the burial shaft.


"Where is he?" asked Pennsylvania state police Cpl. Thomas McAndrew.


"I just can't believe it," said USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, who is leading the research. "It defies logic."


The boy's name was Thomas Curry.

He was found dead in 1925 with his skull crushed from an unknown cause, according to the coroner's report at the time. He was found along railroad tracks near Chattahoochee, after he was trying to run away from the Dozier school. He'd been there less than a month.

USF researchers, led by anthropologist Erin Kimmerle, were at the Old Cathedral Cemetery in West Philadelphia.

Here's a statement from USF:

As part of USF’s continued research into the history, deaths and burials that occurred at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, in Marianna, Fla. our research team was granted permission to excavate Thomas Curry from a Philadelphia, Pa. cemetery. 

In 1925, Curry, 18, reportedly died after escaping from the school, less than a month after he was first admitted.  Several historical records list different injuries at the time of his death, including “wound to forehead” and “crushed skull cause unknown.”  According to cemetery records in Philadelphia, school officials reported to them that he was hit by a train. 

In order to better understand and document the nature of injury and circumstances surrounding his death, on Tuesday members of our research team excavated Curry’s burial for the purpose of a skeletal autopsy. Skeletal trauma analysis is a tool that may help establish facts about the cause of death as well as clarify the official record, in hopes of helping his family find answers and allowing the State of Florida to have a full accounting of the events that occurred at the school. 

Though multiple historical records indicate Curry was buried in Pennsylvania, the casket for Curry was excavated, however no remains were present.  Efforts will continue to locate the remains of Thomas Curry. 

We are grateful for the local, state and national support of our ongoing research.  In particular we’d like to thank Philadelphia Assistant District Attorney Brendan O’Malley, Pennsylvania State Corporal Thomas McAndrew, Philadelphia Chief Medical Examiner Sam Gulino, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (PA) and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (FL) and representatives of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, for making this step in the research possible.”
 
Kimmerle’s team used ground penetrating radar and other methods to map the school's graveyard, finding more grave shafts than school records and previous investigations had said there were. The researchers exhumed remains from 55 shafts last year, and began trying to match DNA from the remains with that of relatives of boys who had died at the School, many under suspicious circumstances.

So far, three boys have been identified. The third was 14-year-old George Owen Smith.
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