Jason Byrd, left, helps University of South Florida assistant professor Erin
Kimmerle and assistant professor Christian Wells, right, remove remains from a
grave at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. POOL PHOTO
Pat Brewer, Jason Byrd, and Larry Bedore, of the Florida Emergency Mortuary
Operations Response System, wheel the first remains to be removed from the
Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys to a van. POOL PHOTO
Remains from a grave at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys await removal by
a team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida. POOL PHOTO
Forensic testing next step for USF team
By Jerome R. Stockfisch | Tribune Staff
Published: September 3, 2013
The Tampa Tribune
TAMPA — Researchers from the University of South Florida wrapped up their first
mission to unearth bodies from a cemetery at a Panhandle boys school, returning to
Tampa today with remains from two graves.
USF anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle, who is heading up the project at the
former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, said the four-day effort yielded dental
and skeletal remains that could provide a biological profile of the two subjects as well
as a cause of death.
“We had hoped that this weekend would be an opportunity to work through the
process,” Kimmerle said.
A group of about 20 researchers, graduate students and law enforcement officials
began the work Saturday. Hampered by rain and soggy ground, the group will return
later this fall and then periodically as it excavates what is known as the Boot Hill
Kimmerle and her team began examining the site in 2012 after stories of horrific
beatings and disappearances circulated from men who served time there as boys.
The school was open from 1900 to 2011, when it was closed for budgetary reasons.
Using ground-penetrating radar, the USF team found what appeared to be 50 graves
at a site said to hold just 31.
The researchers received permission from the state Cabinet to expand their
investigation and carry out the excavations and forensic testing.
Anthropologists will try to identify the bodies and perhaps determine a cause of
death. DNA samples will be sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human
Identification for analysis and comparison with its national database.
Kimmerle said the two bodies unearthed this weekend were both in coffins, which
were of different styles. One was ornate, yielding hardware that could help
researchers date the grave, and the second was much smaller and simpler.
“Maybe that is indicative of a different time period,” Kimmerle said.
Family members of boys believed to have died at the school have contacted
researchers with an interest in identifying remains of a loved one and possibly
reburying them at family grave sites.
A group of men calling themselves the White House Boys has been lobbying for the
investigation. They took the name from a cottage on the school grounds where they
said they were savagely beaten with a reinforced leather strap.
Robert Straley, a spokesman for the group, said he was pleased with the USF group’
“Anybody that was there and got one of those whippings is never going to have
peace of mind,” he said Tuesday. “What it does, though, is partially vindicates what
we’ve been saying, that there are more bodies. … It does make me feel better to
know what happened there will be found out.”