Team ends Phase 1 of exhumation project


Dr. Erin Kimmerle and roughly 24 others finished up the first phase of exhumations at the
old Dozier School for Boys on Tuesday after removing the last of the human remains
found in two burial sites there. She expects to be back in October or November to
continue the cemetery exhumation, which should be completed sometime next spring.
Kimmerle believes roughly 50 bodies are buried at Dozier, almost 20 more than some of
the conflicting Dozier records indicate.

The project began last Saturday, with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office providing
security for the team at the cemetery site. Kimmerle was assisted in the work by some of
her graduate students in the University of South Florida anthropology department, the
District Five Medical Examiner’s Office and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
The group spent most of Tuesday removing their equipment and break station, and putting the cemetery soils they’d disturbed back in place.

The remains recovered will now go to the USF lab, where they will be cataloged and examined. DNA samples will be mined for comparison with material from about 10
living individuals who provided DNA to determine if they match as family to any of the remains.

Kimmerle said several families, black and white, who live in and outside Jackson County, have given samples and that many people in the community have expressed
their support of the effort she is making to definitively identify who is buried at Dozier and exactly where their remains lie.

The two sets of remains found over the past few days were located outside the area of the cemetery that had been marked with crosses several years ago by a Boy
Scout troop. The remains were discovered in wooded area that had to be cleared of brush before the recovery could begin. Tree roots had established or grown since
the burials compromised some of the remains, she said. Kimmerle said one set of remains appear to be those of a 10- to 12-year-old boy and that more work would be
needed to glean further information about it and the second set of remains.

The Dozier project is being funded in part by a federal grant of almost a half-million dollars. Kimmerle believes the work can be done on that budget, adding that it’s
possible because of the support of agencies like the Department of Transportation, which has provided heavy equipment for us in the removal of brush and trees at the

The work so far has been challenging to an extent because of a high water table, continued rainy weather and extreme heat. Kimmerle hopes that water levels will be
down and the air will be cooler when she returns with a crew later this fall.