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55 Bodies Exhumed From Closed Reform School

January 29, 2014 at 5:22 am by  

Dozier Reform SchoolMARIANNA, FL – Researchers and forensic anthropologists have uncovered the remains of 55 people on the now closed school grounds of the notorious Arthur G. Dozier Reform School for Boys in northwest Florida.

For decades, families of the missing boys have sought answers to long asked questions regarding the mysterious disappearances amid reports of beatings, torture, and sexual assault that occurred at the reform school which operated from 1900 to 2011.

During the nearly two-year project, there have been 55 bodies uncovered; “five more than previous field work had indicated and 24 more than listed in school records.” The aim is to verify the identities and ages as well as the timing and circumstances surrounding their deaths.

Researchers led excavations at or around Boot Hill, which is an unmarked cemetery located on school grounds. Using tools such as ground-penetrating radar, DNA samples, and search dogs, the team investigated the area for unmarked graves that may have belonged to the growing list of boys reported missing over the many years of the school’s operation.

Luckily, the team was able to recover bones, teeth, and other artifacts which can be submitted for DNA testing and dental records. Researchers are also adamant about collecting DNA information from the surviving kin of the boys. So far, 11 surviving family members have cooperated with the DNA submission. At least 42 more family members are needed to keep up with the total amount of bodies recovered.

The graves at Boot Hill are unmarked, however, thirty-one white crosses were erected in the 1990s to commemorate the unnamed boys that were buried there as per the school’s records. Survivors of the Dozier reform school have relayed stories of beatings, torture, rapes, as well as the disappearances of many of their classmates after being taken away for punishments.

Former Dozier student Roger Dean Kiser, now 67 and living in Brunswick, Ga. wrote a harrowing book entitled “The White House Boys,” named for a house on school premises where he said many of the beatings occurred.

Kiser said he was beaten at least twice with “a leather whip reinforced by a slab of sheet metal.” He also mentioned that boys were beaten so severe that their underwear was “pounded into their bare skin”. He witnessed many cases of sodomy and boys forced to perform oral sex on staff members. During the ritual beatings (which were given for infractions such as spitting, cursing, or back talking), staff members would place bets on who could draw first blood.

“The bodies of some boys were burned in the school incinerator,” Kiser continued. Among other atrocities, Kiser mentions an incident involving another boy by the name of Johnny Gaddy, who told him he had seen a severed human hand in the “hog bath” which was used to feed leftovers to pigs.

“They’re going to find a lot of bodies out there, and there are a lot more bodies they’ll never find,’’ Kiser predicted.

Dozier records have listed some students as having died from such diseases as influenza, pneumonia and tuberculosis as well as others having died from knife wounds or in a fire that devastated the campus in 1914. Historical (and possibly more truthful) documents have suggested that 100 or more boys have died on the school’s grounds.

The U.S. Department of Justice documented some of the abuse which did lead to the closure of the school. However, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement decided not to pursue criminal charges against the school due to lack of evidence. Apparently the dozens of unmarked graves gave no merit to the case.

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