Human bones found in dig at notorious Dozier
reform school in Florida
By Bill Cotterell, Reuters
MARIANNA, Fla. - Teams of searchers recovered human bones from the sands of Florida
Panhandle woodlands on Saturday in a "boot hill" graveyard where juveniles who
disappeared from a notorious reform school more than a half-century ago are believed to
have been secretly buried.
"We have found evidence of burial hardware - hinges on coffins," said Dr. Christian Wells,
an anthropologist from the University of South Florida, in a briefing about a mile from the
closed excavation site near the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.
"There appear to be a few pieces associated with burial shrouds, and there are pins
consistent with the 1920s and 1930s, - based on the style of the pins - and they appear to
be brass," he said.
Some "large-bone fragments" were found on the first day of digging, Wells said. They
were human bones, he added, but it was impossible to know if they came from any of the
teenaged boys who were housed at Dozier during its infamous 111-year existence. The
school was closed in mid-2011.
The bones will be examined in laboratories at the University of South Florida and the
University of North Texas, as part of a program funded by the U.S. Department of Justice
and state of Florida.
After forensic investigators, using ground-piercing radar and old public records, detected
31 spots showing possible human remains, researchers planted crude white crosses on a
nearby hillside to commemorate the unaccounted-for boys.
Some former residents of Dozier, now in their 60s and 70s, have told of brutal beatings
and boys - mostly black juveniles - disappearing without explanation more than 50 years
ago. Blood relatives of some of the boys have given DNA samples, to be matched against
evidence taken from the skeletal remains.
Earlier on Saturday, Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist from USF, met with some
family members and survivors.
"We're approaching it much like you would an archeological excavation," Kimmerle said.
"It's all done carefully and by hand."
'Never had a chance'
Tananarive Due, who came to the dig with some family members, said her great-uncle,
Robert Stephens, died at the school in 1937.
"The story was ... he tried to run away at one point," she said. "The official cause of death
was a stabbing by another inmate, that's what it was listed as. But with so many of these
boys, who knows how they died? Their families never had a chance to say 'good-bye' to
their loved ones."
Johnny Lee Gaddy, 67, said he was locked up from 1957 to 1961 for truancy. He said he
was severely beaten, but in his teens became a good farm worker, hoping to get released.
Gaddy said he had heard of teens disappearing without explanation.
"I know some they said went home, but they hadn't been here long enough to go home,"
Gaddy said. "They said some others ran away or were transferred to other places. We
never saw any bodies or funerals."
John Due, father of Tananarive, said descendants and civil-rights activists who pressed
the state for disclosure of what happened to the young men ran into rigid resistance from
authorities for decades.
"People didn't want to talk about it, and we found that particularly among black families,"
he said. "That's what racism does. It beats you down and you think you don't matter, so
you won't speak up."
The forensic teams will work through Tuesday. Remains that can be identified will be
re-interred at family plots and any unidentified remains will be numbered and buried - with
records kept for later return to families, if any come forward.
From left, Steven Barnes, 61, of Smyrna, Ga., his son Jason Due-Barnes,
9, wife Tananarive Due, 47, and her father John Due, 78, of Atlanta,
embrace during a memorial ceremony Saturday at the cemetery of the
former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. John Due's wife's
uncle died at the school in 1937 after he was stabbed by another student.
Edmund D. Fountain / Pool / Tampa Bay Times via AP
A team of anthropologists from the University of South
Florida begin exhuming suspected graves on Saturday at
the now closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in