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Remains Of Dozier Victims Could Go To Tallahassee

Aug 22, 2016
Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

The remains of dozens of boys who were victims of beatings and abuse at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys should be reinterred in Tallahassee, the city where lawmakers and governors were responsible for the now-closed reform school, a state task force decided Friday.

Dozier Task Force Holds Contentious First Meeting

Aug 3, 2016
Pool/Edmund D. Fountain/Tampa Bay Times

The Dozier Task Force held an organizational meeting in the Panhandle town of Marianna Wednesday.

Lawmakers created the task force to work on issues related to the Dozier School for Boys, a shuttered reform school that has been at the center of allegations about abuse and deaths of youths.

The task force is charged with coming up with a plan to create a long-term memorial to those who died at the school, as well as deciding what to do with the unclaimed remains of some children.

Lawmakers Hope Dozier Bill Will Help Healing

Mar 8, 2016
Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

A measure intended to help heal a community and people who suffered at a former reform school where the remains of 51 boys have been unearthed is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.

USF Department of Anthropology

The Dozier School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle town of Marianna closed in 2011, after allegations by former inmates of decades of torture and abuse.

University of South Florida researchers have been working for years to identify dozens of remains found in unmarked graves on the site, and they've just released their final report.

Scott, Cabinet Start Talks on Dozier Site Future

Sep 29, 2015
Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet began discussions Tuesday on the future of the shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a former state-run reform school where children are alleged to have been abused and died.

However, no decisions were made as the state officials agreed to await a final report expected in January from University of South Florida researchers, who excavated the 1,400-acre site about 70 miles west of Tallahassee and continue to try identify remains.

Katy Hennig / USF News

UPDATE 3/18/15 10:45 a.m.
Updated headline to indicate the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will conduct "an inquiry" and not "an investigation" into USF's findings.

In an email sent to WUSF 89.7 News Wednesday morning, FDLE Communications Director Gretl Plessinger said, "We are conducting a preliminary inquiry to assess any new information from the January USF report.  If there is criminal predicate, we will open an investigation."

ORIGINAL POST 3/17/15 5 p.m.
With a single sentence, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement indicated it will look into what investigators from the University of South Florida have turned up at the Dozier School for Boys in the Panhandle town of Marianna.

Katy Hennig / USF News

Florida Senator Bill Nelson has asked the Department of Justice - and not Florida law enforcement officials - to open an investigation into the Dozier School for Boys.

In 2009, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded there was no criminal wrongdoing at the now closed Marianna reform school, despite decades of allegations of abuse of students by school officials.

State of Florida

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam is asking the head of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to evaluate new findings in the history of students at the former Arthur G. Dozier school for boys.

In a letter dated Wednesday, Putnam — who is one of three members of the Florida Cabinet — cited a recent report by researchers at the University of South Florida.

Wetherbee family, courtesy USF Dept. of Anthropology

On November 18, 1914, a fire in a dormitory at what was then the Florida Industrial School for Boys is believed to have killed eight students and two staff members.

It turns out that those were among the first of an untold number of deaths at what became the Dozier School for Boys.

The reform school in the Panhandle town of Marianna was finally closed in 2011 after decades of alleged abuse and violence perpetrated against students.

University of South Florida researchers have been trying to identify a number of students buried in unmarked graves on the site.

And now, USF will host a conference Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the fire, which was one of the earliest signs of trouble at Dozier.

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.

USF Dept. of Anthropology

University of South Florida researchers will announce Thursday afternoon that they've determined the identities of two more sets of remains buried on the grounds of the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

The Ledger and a release from Senator Bill Nelson's office say that one is Thomas Varnadoe, 13, who died in 1934, a month after arriving at Dozier.

USF Dept. of Anthropology

As is fitting for a case that dates back to the early 1900's, progress is slow in coming for researchers looking at the mysteries found on the grounds of the Dozier School for Boys - but it is being made.

Credit Michael Spooneybarger / Reuters/Landov

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, is asking the governor of Pennsylvania to have state police there work with a team of Florida researchers investigating the circumstances surrounding a young boy’s death at a now-shuttered reform school.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF 89.7 News

A shirt button, a plaque saying “at rest” and a stone marble found in what’s believed to have been the coffin of a 6-year-old boy are just some of the almost ten thousand artifacts USF researchers have removed from 55 graves at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

Those items - along with hundreds of coffin nails also recovered there - might help investigators identify the bodies buried in the school’s mysterious Boot Hill cemetery and elsewhere on the site.

Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

Researchers at the University of South Florida say they have discovered the remains of 55 people buried at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. That's five more bodies than they expected - and 24 more burials than official records indicate should be there.

Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

University of South Florida researchers unearthed the remains of two children buried at a former Panhandle reform school that had a history of extreme abuse, and the bones will be analyzed in hopes of identifying the children and determining how they died, the anthropologist leading the excavation said Tuesday.

Based on the size of the remains, the children probably were between the ages of 10 and 13 when they died, said Erin Kimmerle, the USF professor who is heading the project to exhume an estimated 50 graves.

Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

Researchers have begun exhuming remains from unmarked graves at a now-closed Florida reform school. Former residents of the school say brutal beatings were routine, and they believe many boys died as a result. At least 50 grave sites have been identified, and it is believed that there may be many more. Several families of boys who died there are demanding answers. From Mariana, Florida, NPR's Greg Allen reports that researchers hope to determine how many boys are buried there in unmarked graves and how they died.

USF anthropology assistant professor Erin Kimmerle talked to reporters as exhumations began at the Boot Hill cemetery at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL Saturday. USF researchers are exhuming dozens of graves at the former Panhandle reform school in hopes of identifying the boys buried there and learning how they died.

Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

On the second day of an excavation project, University of South Florida researchers worked Sunday on two graves at a former reform school in the Florida Panhandle where students say they were abused decades ago.

The researchers continued the slow, painstaking process of unearthing remains in the hopes of identifying those buried at the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School in the Panhandle. The digging and work will go on through Tuesday.

Pool/Edmund D. Fountain / Tampa Bay Times

University of South Florida researchers began work to exhume dozens of graves Saturday at a former Panhandle reform school in hopes of identifying the boys buried there and learning how they died.

USF spokeswoman Lara Wade said in a message Saturday that the work had begun, with researcher measuring and marking the site. Researchers then will remove dirt with trowels and by hand to find the remains, which are believed to be 19 inches to 3-plus feet under the surface.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF

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

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

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

Credit Michael Spooneybarger / Reuters/Landov

University of South Florida researchers are expected to start digging for human remains buried on the grounds of the Dozier School for Boys at the end of the week.

Several families have been waiting for years to get closure about their loved ones believed to have died from abuse at the now-closed reform school.

It could take awhile before the USF researchers find the remains of the boys on the grounds of the Marianna school, but they’re expected to start the exhumations during a four-day period this upcoming weekend.

The Cabinet agreed today to allow USF researchers to continue with the next step in a project they started two years ago: to account for all the burials by unearthing the boys' skeletal remains and, hopefully, identifying each of them. The researchers, using ground-penetrating radar, have already tallied some 50 burials in and around a clandestine graveyard surrounded by thick pines, 19 more than state investigators found in an earlier investigation ordered by former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist.

Jessica Palombo / Florida Public Radio

Several more men are telling stories of abuse they say they suffered at the infamous state-run Dozier Reform School in the Panhandle town of Marianna.  A  group calling themselves the Black Boys at Dozier gathered at the campus Saturday calling for Gov. Rick Scott to allow researchers to exhume bodies in unmarked graves on the property.

The men who shared their stories lived on the part of the campus where researchers are trying to exhume at least 100 bodies in unmarked graves. A road separates the area from the rest of the campus.

Researchers at the University of South Florida are fighting with the state over access to the grounds of a now-closed reform school.

For decades, the Dozier School for Boys was notorious for the harsh treatment boys received there. Now, a forensic anthropologist and her team want permission to exhume dozens of bodies they found in unmarked graves, but are meeting resistance from state officials.

White House Boys

Katy Hennig / USF News

The state has turned down a request by USF researchers to allow them to exhume bodies at the Boot Hill Cemetery at the former Arthur G. Dozier School in Marianna.

In a letter (see slideshow above) sent to anthropologists Erin Kimmerle and Christian Wells today, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that by requesting permission to conduct exhumations, the "inquiry diverged from its original objectives."

He added that the state's Bureau of Archeological Research doesn't have the authority to allow the exhumation of human remains, "absent a danger to the grave site that actually threatened the loss or damage of those remains."

The Tampa Bay Times tells how former Florida State University quarterback Vic Prinzi helped some of the troubled young men he coached at the Florida School for Boys in Marianna. Some of those boys were known as the "White House Boys," victims of alleged abuse by staff of the since closed reform school.

While state officials push for funds to allow a team led by University of South Florida researchers to exhume human remains at the shuttered Dozier School for Boys, a circuit judge must still decide whether or not to allow digging to begin. At the same time, Jackson County commissioners and a critic of the disinterment are reportedly teaming up in opposition to the investigative effort.

University of South Florida researchers announced earlier this week that they’ve found evidence of around 90 deaths and 50 gravesites at the defunct Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.  Now, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking the Justice Department join the school’s anthropologists in broadening a search to look for more graves -  as well as forensic evidence of possible crimes.

Over the past decade, hundreds of men have come forward to tell gruesome stories of abuse and terrible beatings they suffered at Florida's Dozier School for Boys, a notorious, state-run institution that closed last year after more than a century.

Known as the "White House Boys," these 300-some men were sent as boys to the reform school in the small panhandle town of Mariana in the 1950s and 1960s. They have joined together over the years to tell their stories of the violence administered in a small building on the school's grounds they knew as the White House.

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