Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Bodies At Boys' School Cemetery To Be Dug Up

50 Years Of Mysterious Deaths Claimed

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office today filed a petition on behalf of Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Hunter to allow him to exhume human remains on the site of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. for up to one year. 

The petition seeks a court order to exhume bodies from “Boot Hill Cemetery” and surrounding areas, where it is believed there may be unmarked graves and unaccounted for bodies of boys who died between 1900 and 1952 at the school.

Known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys in 1900 and the North Florida Youth Development Center when it closed in 2011, the "reform school" facility for delinquent boys in Northwest Florida was a residential school run by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.

The school has been the subject of a series of scandals over the treatment of boys confined there including allegations of beatings by leather straps and torture at the "White House," a small building on the grounds of the school, as well as allegations of a "rape room."

As far back as a hundred years ago controversial treatment of the boys was being reported. In 1903, an inspection reported that children at the school were commonly kept in leg irons.

In a report published by the U.S. Department of Justice in 2010, 11.3% of boys surveyed at the school reported that they been subject to sexual misconduct by staff using force in the last twelve months, and 10.3% reported that they had been subject to it without the use of force.

“The deaths that occurred at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna are cloaked in mystery, and the surviving family members deserve a thorough examination of the site,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I am committed to doing everything within my power to support investigative efforts to help resolve unanswered questions and bring closure to the families who lost loved ones.”

The exhumation would be conducted in order to locate unidentified graves and human remains and to conduct complete autopsies and medical investigations to determine the cause of death of the boys.

Dr. Michael Hunter is the appointed Medical Examiner for the Fourteenth District of Florida.

In addition to filing the petition on behalf of the Medical Examiner to exhume bodies, Attorney General Bondi has also supported investigative efforts by working with the Department of Environmental Protection to support a 150-day extension of an injunction barring the sale of the state-owned land

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