MIAMI — Florida officials said yesterday they would seek federal money for a forensic investigation into unmarked graves on the grounds of a shuttered state reform school for boys that has been the target of numerous allegations of abuse and mysterious deaths of children.
Dozens of unmarked graves have been uncovered at the Dozier School in the Florida Panhandle city of Marianna and investigators are trying to determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths, which experts say probably occurred between 1914 and 1952.
“We really don’t know exactly how many, or who they are,” said Erin Kimmerle, a forensic anthropologist at the University of South Florida with a scroll-like map of spots where her ground-piercing radar spotted signs of human remains.
The Dozier School was legend among adolescents for about 100 years in Florida, as the state’s major reform school, until it was closed in 2011.
Several years ago, former students told horror stories of sexual abuse and frequent beatings in a mausoleum-like building dubbed the “White House” where nine barren cubicles held boys accused of rules infractions.
Some died under unknown circumstances, according to relatives.
In December, researchers from the University of South Florida in Tampa said they found evidence of at least 50 graves on the school’s property and more grave shafts in and around an area called “Boot Hill” across a major highway from the high, razor-wire-topped fences of the closed school.
Kimmerle’s work also indicates there could be at least 50 bodies buried on the property. (Reuters)