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Anthropologists start body exhumation at Dozier School for Boys
FLORIDA -- Anthropologists have taken the first step in identifying remains buried at a former Florida reform school.
They started exhuming the bodies at the Dozier School for Boys yesterday. Former students -- and some of the families of those who died at the school -- hope this process will bring them closure.
These researchers are looking for buried secrets exhuming bodies, perhaps as many as 50 in all, from this hidden cemetery in the Florida panhandle.
And the question is will the dead help unlock the sinister secrets of what happened on these grounds decades ago?
The bones will tell the truth. They'll be able to study whether there was a fracture or a bone broke or whatever and that will help bring out the truth and some closure to the whole situation."
The Dozier Reform School for Boys closed in 2011 but its painful legacy still haunts this place.
Over the last few years, dozens of former students have come forward and told stories of how teachers and administrators dealt ruthless beatings, sexual abuse and even murder more than 50 years ago.
For decades, state officials insisted 31 boys were buried here on the grounds. But the bodies were never properly accounted for.
And then last year, Dr. Erin Kimmerle and a team of anthropologists from the University of South Florida made a stunning discovery.
Using high-tech equipment, the researchers said they found evidence of at least 19 more bodies buried in this area.
Their research of school records also showed the bodies of another 22 boys who died at the school were never accounted for.
"We approach this with the goal to identify everyone, that's our objective. We know that realistically, that won't happen."
Before Dr. Kimmerle's discovery in the cemetery, a Florida state investigation in 2009 determined there was no evidence of criminal activity connected with any of the deaths or abusive treatment at the facility.
One former school administrator has denied the accusations but admits spankings did take place. Many former students have called that investigation a cover-up and an attempt to "whitewash" the school's brutal past.
"It will take several months for researchers to begin identifying the remains that are found here. But mostly what many former students really want is some sort of clear evidence that will prove to the rest of the world and skeptics that what they say happened here really did happen. That this was a brutal and violent place for many, many boys.