55 Bodies Exhumed From Notorious Reform School

And final number could be higher, say researchers

By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 29, 2014 6:37 AM CST

(Newser) – The remains of 55 bodies have been retrieved from unmarked graves at a notorious Florida reform school—almost twice the number that a 2009 inquiry determined were buried there, and five more than researchers were expecting, the Wall Street Journal reports. The now-shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, in the Panhandle town of Marianna, has been accused of rapes, beatings, and forced labor, and both relatives and survivors have long thought some residents' deaths were suspicious. Forensic anthropologists with the University of South Florida last year began exhuming graves in an effort to identify the boys, figure out how they died, and return their remains to their families for proper burials. All of the bodies, exhumed between September and December, appear to be those of children, CBS News reports; they were buried between the 1920s and 1950s, the AP adds.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement believed just 31 boys were buried in a cemetery on the grounds. But researchers could end up finding even more: Burial locations weren't always recorded, and the bodies found so far were all on the African-American side of the segregated school, which operated from 1900 to 2011. Researchers think there may be more boys buried on the white side, and they'll start excavating there next week. So far, 12 families have come forward offering DNA samples to compare to the remains, but researchers are still looking for relatives of more than 40 other boys.

A Dec. 20, 2013 photo, provided by the University of South Florida, shows where researchers found some of the remains of 55 people in a graveyard at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.
A Dec. 20, 2013 photo, provided by the University of South Florida, shows where researchers found some of the remains of 55 people in a graveyard at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.   (AP Photo/Ho, University of South Florida Anthropology Team)
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