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Unmarked graves exhumed at Dozier School for Boys


For more than a century, Florida’s notorious Dozier School for Boys served as a state-run correctional institution, its history plagued with stories of abuse.

Aside from accounts of brutal beatings, a number of boys are known to have died at the Marianna institution, their causes of death listed as “accident” or “unknown.” Laid to rest in makeshift, unmarked graves, the mystery behind their deaths and the location of all their bodies was never solved.

Now, anthropologists are looking for answers.

A forensic anthropology team from the University of South Florida is starting to exhume anonymous grave sites at the school.

Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel, of Lakeland, Fla., has supported the excavation. She said the results may verify stories passed down through families and bring closure to those involved.

“I just think it’s important that we at least do everything we can to make sure we have an accurate story,” Starshel said. “That we know what happened, and that we can help these families be able to just end the speculation.”

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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  • Dad

    your sure to win a pulitzer.. great story love Dad

  • Dick 46

    What is wrong with the brains of southern state officials, especially Florida ?

  • rwstraley1946

    Marianna Tries To Hide The Truth, Once Again

    Their committee should be ashamed of what they are trying to do when all of Florida, and the rest of the world, wants this investigation to go forward, to finally reveal the truth of what happened to those boys, who they were and why were so many buried and hidden from sight without even so much as a marker. The Marianna committee only makes the town look like a third world nation where rape, torture and other atrocities were inflicted on prisoners daily. The boys at Dozier were underage juveniles, some as young as six to eight years old, yet they would like to continue to hide the evil that was done to them at that school. In case the citizens of Marianna haven’t figured it out, the cat is out of the bag and it happens to be a lion that is out for blood.

    As Americans, are we going to let this committee, whose true purpose is the glorification and greed for monetary gain for a few individuals, stop this road to justice? This is a story that needs to be told and yes, it is part of the bloody past of the juvenile justice system. Bear in mind that in the early 1900’s boys as young as fourteen were part of the convict leasing program which ran a chain of labor camps that mined for phosphate, produced turpentine and cut lumber in the swamps of Florida. These camps were brutal beyond imagination. People were trapped in them as slaves, hidden from sight in the deep woods of Florida from 1900-1950. This same mindset of whips and chains walked into the gates of the Florida Reform School the day it opened. The children never had a chance. Here are two examples:



    The Death of Girrard H. Blake & Torture of Oscar Anderson


    Marianna would like to keep their dark secrets and continue as if nothing bad had ever happened, that Dozier was just a boy’s school that thousands visited on Christmas to see their Christmas display and boys singing in a choir. But beneath that beautiful facade, evil men had their way and thousands of young lives were destroyed. One man asked: “What about the boys that went out from there to rape and kill?” I have to ask “If you had made an honest effort to show kindness, leadership and guidance without the use of the bloody whip, how many would not?”

    I have never seen such a collection of selfish, self-righteous people in my life. Those who knew about the flogging of boys for 68 years are as guilty as the men who swung those whips. Shame on all of you. How can you look yourself in the mirror, much less walk through the doors of a church?

  • rwstraley1946

    On Dale Cox’s Intervention in the Dozier Exhumation Request

    From JCFloridan:

    Jackson County Commissioners have appointed local historian Dale Cox to help county attorney Frank Baker as he represents the county’s interests in court as Circuit Judge Bill Wright decides whether to allow the exhumation of human remains on the campus of the old Dozier School for Boys.

    He said he sees the exhumation effort as an expensive and unnecessary exercise in satisfying public curiosity rather than the public interest. End Quote

    Dale Cox also stated that he “feels Marianna and Jackson County have been given a black eye by what he called “wild, sensational and unconfirmed media reports.” “The people here are due an apology from some of the biggest newspapers in the nation,” he went on to say. “False accusations were printed as facts in many newspapers and on many television reports when, in fact, the truth was available all along.”

    I don’t see how Mr. Cox can make such a statement in light of the number of unmarked and hidden bodies found in the woods. This is a little beyond public interest, especially from a school with a historically brutal past that cannot be refuted at this point. When Senator Bill Nelson, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Medical Examiner Michael Hunter all agree that the exhumation is the only way this matter will be settled, why does Cox oppose this endeavor to find out what really happened at Dozier? All agree that atrocities took place and these bodies recently found, will likely lead to more.

    I viewed the many videos from the meeting with Senator Nelson and Professor Kimmerle. I watched as they filed through the open door of the “whitehouse” punishment room. All I saw was some very sad and disgusted faces. I wondered if they knew it was the 10-14 boys that took the most beatings, the average being eleven years old. If walls could talk, those walls would scream.

    Mr. Cox has accused the victims in this case of creating a “cottage industry” for profit and “If they continue, those who are making money off of this industry that they’ve created-if they continue with these allegations and continue naming names of people they say murdered people- I think it’s time for some lawsuits to take place.”

    None of the five victims who funded the original push to get this to national attention and to ask Governor Crist for an investigation has made a dime. Instead close to $25,000.00 in travel, gas, airfare, flying Michael O’McCarthy back and forth from Costa Rica, three trips to Miami, six trips to Marianna, one to Washington DC, hotels, office supplies etc has been spent. After Michael’s untimely death his family was flown back to relocate in the United States.

    Mr. Cox seems to see himself as the voice of Marianna, which endears him to Jackson County. By standing up against all who seek the truth, this self proclaimed historian and self published writer also sells out on his books. It seems to me that he is the only one turning a profit on this sad story. I asked Mr. Cox for his Curriculum Vitae but so far have not been advised of exactly what kind of credentials he does possess, such as Bachelor’s Degree or PH.D or even the name of a university where he studied.

    He said the dig was unfounded and would further hurt the local economy and demean Marianna’s reputation. “This community has been bashed since this story developed last fall. It was a black eye on this community.”

    Marianna’s reputation was tarnished long before we came along. The police said: “This town is sewed up tight, you won’t find out anything here.” I think it is time for the residents speak up, especially the younger citizens under fifty, as they are innocent of what happened. Only the older people know of the savagery that stretched back to 1900. They should embrace this investigation, funded by the State of Florida and possibly the Department of Justice. If they do not and evidence of murder is proven, Marianna will go down as America’s Auschwitz for Children. It was a institution were thousands were brutalized while the town knew about it and surrounded it in secrecy. The farm produced millions of dollars over the years off of the boy’s labor. It was against the law to farm them out yet they were sent to farmer’s fields on a regular basis to pick produce. A brick plant processed 25,000 bricks a day. I wonder if their financial records are lost to time as well?

    It was money and jobs over compassion for the boys. The beatings did no good nor were they necessary. Flogging children for 68 years, My God, what kind of people allow that to happen?

    Robert W. Straley

    How Many Witnesses Does It Take To See The Truth?


    Worst Case Of Institutional Child Abuse In America