A member of the University of South Florida
research team works at the old cemetery
A team from the University of South
Florida is expected to be in Marianna...
Professor, students hunt graves on Dozier campus

By: DEBORAH BUCKHALTER | Jackson County Floridan

An anthropology professor, other researchers and students from the University of South
Florida in Tampa will likely spend most of July and August in Marianna, searching to
determine whether there are unmarked graves on the old Dozier School Boys campus as
their preliminary findings suggest. That information comes from Robert Straley, an alumni of
Dozier who helped USF assistant professor and forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle get
oriented to the campus after she obtained permits to investigate the site.

Her team used ground-penetrating radar and dug trenches to analyze soil displacements,
and have identified a number of irregularities that indicate potential grave sites, according to
an article the USF team posted on the university website.

The group found what could be burial cavities in an area of the campus near the official Boot
Hill Cementer where 31 are known to be buried. There may be 50 or more previously
undiscovered graves, the team suspects, as school records indicate that 84 boy died at the
institution between 1911 and 1973.

Kimmerle obtained permission from the Department of Environmental Protection to enter the
property, and a permit for archeological research on the site from the state Division of
Historical Resources.

The research project is the latest in a series of investigations surrounding the site, that work
spurred by ongoing reports that boys were sometimes severely beaten there over the course
of at least two decades-the 1950s and 1960s mentioned in particular-during the 111-year
history of the campus. Rumors persist that perhaps some of them were beaten to death. A
state Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation related to the matter was
completed a few years ago, with no determination that there were graves other than the 31
know, and with no findings of wrongdoing associated with the known deaths. The known
graves were not opened during that investigation, and Straley called the FDLE’s report a
whitewash,” and said he has more faith in the university team that started its work several
days ago. He thinks they may be using more sophisticated and in-depth tools and that they
can bring new light to bear on the Dozier controversy and help answer lingering questions for
the families of boys who never returned home after being sent to Dozier.

In 2008, the state Department of Juvenile Justice held a ceremony and erected a marker near
the so called “White House” on campus where most of the alleged beatings are said to have
taken place. The monument reads: “In memory of the children who passed through these
doors, we acknowledge their tribulations and offer our hope that they found some measure of
peace. May this building stand as a reminder of the need to remain vigilant in protecting our
children as we help them seek a brighter future.” The state said these actions were not to be
construed as an apology or an admission that any wrongdoing had taken place.

Straley was one of the key men who pushed for an official state review of the grounds a few
years back, and is also one of the parties involved in a lawsuit related to Dozier.

For video and more photos from the USF project, visit :