Gov. and Cabinet vote to permit exhumations at Dozier
Agreement in effect immediately, for one year
Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the state’s Cabinet voted Tuesday morning to issue permits allowing researchers at
the University of South Florida to begin exhuming human remains from unmarked graves at the now-closed Arthur
G. Dozier School in Marianna.
The governor and Cabinet make up the Florida Board of Trustees, and as such were authorized to grant the land
use agreement which allows the team to proceed.
The agreement went immediately into effect and will be in place one year.
The USF team submitted a report in seeking the permission which indicates the exhumation could be completed
before the end of December and that the identifiable remains would be turned over to families and that the
unidentifiable would be re-interred at Dozier. That phase of the project is tentatively scheduled to commence in
January of next year.
The exhumations would be a collaborative effort between the USF Forensic Anthropology Laboratory and the
Medical Examiner’s Office. The medical examiner would take custody of the remains, and then transfer them to
USF for anthropological autopsy and identification. DNA samples would be retained by the medical examiner and
submitted to labs for analysis.
Once USF completes its work, the remains would be returned to the medical examiner for final deposition.
The remains of the unknown would be preserved, buried in caskets in marked graves. Currently, USF says, in
some cases “those graves have become lost and trees and woods are growing through them.”
The use agreement approved Tuesday prohibits the cutting or removal of trees without specific written permission
to do so. Brush and refuse can be cut and removed if necessary, however, but no areas can be indiscriminately
clear-cut. The agreement also includes a provision requiring that the researchers give the state prior notice if it
plans to tear down, or excavate under, any building or other permanent improvement, and requires the team to
restore, at its own expense, any building or other such asset so disturbed.
Terms of the agreement allow the state to terminate the arrangement if the researchers “fail to allow public access
to all documents, papers, letters or other material made or received in conjunction with (the) use agreement.”
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi released a statement on the decision. “From the beginning, I have supported
efforts at the Dozier School for Boys in order to provide family members who lost loved ones with closure," she
stated in the release. "I was proud to vote in favor of the land use agreement that authorizes the University of
South Florida to continue their work to return the human remains to the families and provide them with proper
The USF research team, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, is expected to begin the exhumations later this month,
according to Nelson's release. The researchers will try to match DNA samples taken from the living relatives of
boys buried on the grounds of the old reform school.
"This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation," Nelson stated in the release.
"Nothing can bring these boys back, but I’m hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve."