On Sept. 3, 2013, Tampa’s Bay News 9 reported that the University of South Florida (USF) had concluded the first phase of it's dig after exhuming bones from the property where the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys stood. The school opened in the 1900s and was the subject of abuse, torture, rape and murder allegations over the years. The property sprawled over an astounding 1400 acres of lush, pristine land, but those who lived in the school during the 50s and 60s tell a tale one could hardly describe as easy-going. USF won approval from Florida Gov. Rick Scott to unearth the graves located on the property’s Boot Hill Cemetery. Survivors believe that more children died in the 111 years the school was operational than reported by school staff.
The exhumation and forensic analysis of the bones is currently conducted by USF under the leadership of Associate Professor Erin Kimmerle. Kimmerle showed numerous inconsistencies filed by Dozier with the state of Florida regarding children’s and teen’s death certificates. For example, several students who died at the school were killed by gunshot wounds, yet the official cause of death was not listed as homicide; as is customary according to Florida law.
Kimmerle’s team will look for evidence of blunt force trauma on the bones recovered as well as perform DNA testing to hopefully reunite the deceased with their loved ones.
Many of the 31 graves at Boot Hill Cemetery are identified solely by a white cross. The team discovered additional, unmarked graves buried at the cemetery.
Survivors of the school have offered accounts believing that other children were buried on the property in other areas beside the cemetery as well as thrown into swamps.
As the first phase has concluded and bones have been retrieved, excavation of the location is set to resume at a later date. While survivors believe that many children died as a direct result of staff abuse, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement failed to find staff members responsible in a previous investigation.
Kimmerle stated, “In these historic cases, it's really about having an accurate record and finding out what happened and knowing the truth about what happened.”
You may see a video report with photos from the excavation site above, as well as a photo slideshow that depicts life at the Dozier School for Boys over the years.