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Erin Kimmerle

While USF researchers, along with former occupants of the Dozier School for Boys, continue to try to find out what lies under the ground of the closed facility, some Marianna residents are voicing their opposition. A number say that their town is being unfairly demonized by the investigation, others wonder who is going to pick up the cost.

Katy Hennig / USF News

While researchers from USF continue to wait for permission from a judge to begin exhumations at the closed Dozier School for Boys -- as well as wait for word on how that work will be funded -- the University has released a trio of videos from this past Wednesday's tour of the grounds by a contingent that included U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.

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.

Sen. Nelson's staff photo

As USF researchers and government officials, including U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, get ready to tour the grounds of what was once the the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, the major obstacle of funding the researchers' work may soon be resolved.

A team led by USF Assistant Professor of Anthropology Erin Kimmerle is awaiting approval -- which may come any day -- to begin exhumations of graves found around the school, which was closed after decades of alleged abuse and the mysterious deaths of boys who lived there.

Mark Schreiner / WUSF

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.

Katy Hennig / USF News

Even as researchers unearth more information about what may lie under the ground of the Dozier School for Boys, the allegations of brutality that marked the reform school's history continue to also live on.

For months, a team of USF anthropologists and archeologists have been studying the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna - particularly the school’s Boot Hill Cemetery and surrounding woods. Now, with the release of its interim findings, Professor Erin Kimmerle says the question remains: just how many young men are buried on the reform school grounds.

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.

Katy Hennig / USF News

During its 111 years in operation, at least 80 young men died at the Dozier School for Boys in the Panhandle city of Marianna. Some died in fires, some from health problems, and some from violence.

Last year, citing budget cuts, the state closed the reform school.

However, decades of allegations of torture and abuse mar the school's legacy--as does the fact that some of the boys who died there found their final resting place in the unmarked graves of the campus’ Boot Hill Cemetery.

“Today there are 31 metal crosses in rows to commemorate the 31 boys that are believed to be buried there," USF forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle tells USF News. "But what’s sort of unknown is whether those crosses really correspond to actual graves.”

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