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Christian Wells

Katy Hennig / USF News

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

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

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

Katy Hennig / USF News

On Monday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner turned down a request from USF researchers to conduct exhumations on possible graveshafts at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, leading Sen. Bill Nelson to "tweet" his disappointment with Detzner's boss, Gov. Rick Scott.

Nelson spoke out once again today, saying the buck stops with Scott.

"It clearly is, if not a direct attempt to sidestep, it is a lack of leadership," he said on a conference call from Washington, D.C.

"The people of Florida deserve the answers, the families deserve the answers - that's what leadership is all about and the Governor ought to step up and require this. He is the chief executive officer, he certainly can influence the Department of State.

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."

USF Dept. of Anthropology

USF researchers investigating grave sites at the former Dozier School for Boys have submitted more information to the state. They're hoping to look into a long-rumored second unmarked cemetery at the site.

Earlier this year, USF researchers investigating the Boot Hill cemetery on the grounds of the former reform school in Marianna submitted a request to the state to dig up suspected graveshafts to see if any of the young men who died under mysterious circumstances between 1911 and 1973 are buried there.

Last month, the state sent back a request for more information, and Tuesday, the researchers submitted a 15-page reply. Included in that reply was a request for access to a piece of land that could be a second burial site.