Exhumations approved at infamous Dozier Boy's School in Florida panhandle
By: Carson Chambers
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - "We must do what is right," said Florida’s Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Nothing can bring them back-- the boys who are buried in a Panhandle cemetery. Some of them died decades ago.
"The families of the victims who want closure, who want answers, deserve those things," said Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Now their families have the chance to bring them home.
"We're not exactly sure what happened there but we know it wasn't good and it's something that we as Floridians cannot ignore,” said Bondi.
She says the state can no longer ignore nearly one hundred graves, many unmarked, at the now defunct Dozier School for Boys.
University of South Florida scientists have dedicated an enormous amount of time uncovering shallow burial shafts with ground penetrating radar. They believe there
are two cemeteries on the property where segregation once followed you even to your grave.
Tuesday the State Cabinet and Governor Rick Scott gave USF anthropologists the ok to exhume bodies so their loved ones can bury them properly.
But the fight hasn't been easy.
Both a judge and a state committee denied two permits to move forward. All that is changing and USF's work exhuming bodies could start in just days.
The legislature has allocated nearly $200 thousand in funding but Florida's CFO Jeff Atwater indicated they will no doubt need more.
"In a state as old as Florida is, we're going to have chapters in our history that we're more proud of than others but there is no shame in searching for the truth," said
Dozier was shut down in 2011 amid allegations of sexual and physical abuse and boys who mysteriously disappeared. There's also a strong network of boys, now
gentlemen, who suffered abuse but survived.
"All just, all the sudden, by chance, God is making a way for us to get some justice within ourselves,” said John Bonner who was a Dozier student from 1967 to 1969.
Bonner is one of those former students who has prayed for answers for those buried at Boot Hill Cemetery in Marianna and for peace for their families.
"They beat us. They beat us like animals. We were little kids. They beat us like animals. They keep us from doing anything. I'll go to my grave with that," he said.
Some of them already did.