The remains of 55 children have been found on the grounds of the former Dozier School For Boys in Marianna, Florida, and the families of the victims are seeking answers.
Last year, researchers from the University of South Florida began an excavation on the site due to several stories in the area of suspicious deaths and disappearances which went unexplained over the years. What they found was horrifying: 31 grave sites, many unmarked, that opened up more questions about the school and what went on there. As the search continued, investigators said they expected to find more remains, but the number has climbed to 55 and there is still more ground to cover.
“Locating 55 burials is a significant finding, which opens up a whole new set of questions for our team,” said USF professor Erin Kimmerle. “All of the analyses needed to answer these important questions are yet to be done, but it is our intention to answer as many of these questions as possible.”
The school changed names a few times during its time–it opened in 1900 and was shut down in 2011–but the horror stories remained the same. Tales of boys being strung up as punishment, locked in irons, beaten, and raped. More than 500 men have come forward with their own stories from the school and its under-trained staff over the years.
Former student Roger Kiser, now 67 years old, wrote a book about his time there. “The White House Boys — An American Tragedy” tells the haunting tales of savagery that took place on campus; the title comes from a building on the site where much of the abuse–and, many say, rapes–took place, which the students called the White House. Kiser has been lobbying for the past 25 years for an investigation into the deaths of the children who were sent there.
Members of law enforcement in the area have been working closely with the university during the excavation and say they have contacted eleven families after examining DNA from some of the remains; they hope to bring some sort of closure to the rest of the families, but it will take time. The search continues in the wooded area surrounding the school.
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