Anthropologists who have been working to locate and identify the remains of the boys who died at a notorious Florida reform school traveled to Philadelphia this week, hoping to get answers in the death of yet another student. But when they exhumed Thomas Curry's casket Tuesday, they found that instead of a body, it held only planks of wood, CNN reports. Curry escaped 29 days after arriving at Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in 1925. The school's ledger describes him as being killed on a railroad bridge; a death certificate found in 2008 revealed the teen's skull was "crushed from an unknown cause." His body was supposedly returned to his family, and they buried what they thought was Thomas in the same Philadelphia plot where his great-grandparents lay.
Thomas, believed to be either 15 or 17, was one of the 100 boys who died at the Marianna school between 1900 and 1952; about half were buried on the grounds, but the rest were—at least supposedly—returned to their families. "Something was shipped up from Florida, and it was buried, and someone believed it was Thomas Curry," the Pennsylvania State Police officer who helped get the casket exhumed tells the Philadelphia Inquirer, adding that he "absolutely" sees the casket as another of the school's "efforts to deceive, coverups." Says the lead anthropologist on the case, "What we have is more questions than answers." A cousin provided DNA to help identify Thomas, so the team will now attempt to match it to one of the bodies dug up on the former campus—whose former occupants told stories of sexual abuse, being locked in sweat boxes or hog-tied, and, writes the Inquirer, "hunted down when they ran." (Read more Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys stories.)