© 2022 All Rights reserved WUSF
News, Jazz, NPR
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Courts / Law

Attorney General's Office Moves to Exhume Dozier Bodies

Mark Schreiner

The answers to the mystery of what lies below the site of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. -- as well as what happened to many of the young men who may have died and been buried there between 1900 and 1952 -- may be closer than ever before.

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi has filed a petition on behalf of Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Hunter to allow him to exhume human remains from the school's "Boot Hill Cemetery" and surrounding areas.

Research by a team of University of South Florida anthropologists and archeologists has turned up a minimum of 50 "graveshafts"--not necessarily bodies, but underground irregularities.

As WUSF has previously reported, the "at least 50" number raises the first red flag: Only 31 crosses in the cemetery mark supposed graves, in line with an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Records also show 81 deaths were reported at the school; USF researchers found 98 deaths occurred between 1914 and 1973.

“The deaths that occurred at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna are cloaked in mystery, and the surviving family members deserve a thorough examination of the site,” Bondi stated in a press release. “I am committed to doing everything within my power to support investigative efforts to help resolve unanswered questions and bring closure to the families who lost loved ones.”

According to the press release, Hunter, the appointed medical examiner for the Fourteenth District of Florida, would be allowed to locate unidentified graves, exhume the human remains, and conduct complete autopsies and medical investigations to determine the cause of death of the boys.

WUSF 89.7 depends on donors for the funding it takes to provide you the most trusted source of news and information here in town, across our state, and around the world. Support WUSF now by giving monthly, or make a one-time donation online.