MARIANNA, Fla. - Florida's saddest chapter in juvenile justice is closing -- a century cloaked in suspicious deaths, severe abuse and boys who just disappeared at a Panhandle reform school.
"I don't think it takes an act of the legislature to say what needs saying which is, I'm very sorry, for what these men and these generations of boys endured while wards of the state,” said Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam.
USF's Dr. Erin Kimmerle got a standing ovation as she presented her final report on forensic work at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.
"First, I just want to say the hero in all of this is Dr. Erin Kimmerle and the University of South Florida and I just want to applaud her,” said Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
"We feel that our field work is done. We feel that we've exhausted everything that we can do in terms of looking for additional burials,” said Dr. Kimmerle.
USF's report stops short of any criminal finding, but reveals suspicious details surrounding boys' remains. Still the testimony in Tallahassee was marked by sickening eyewitness accounts.
"Thomas Moore worked in the kitchen which was located next to the White House. He states that he saw a young black boy run out of the White House and head towards the woods. A Dozier employee ran after the boy and he pulled out a pistol and shot the boy. The boy fell to the ground and Mr. Moore did not see the boy move after that,” said Andrew Puel, The White House Boys.
Seven children have been positively identified through DNA. USF says it’s made 14 more presumed IDs through artifacts, age and ancestry.
Now, the state must decide how to handle dozens more bodies still at USF with no names.
"It's $7,000 to bury each of these children, and yes, I think they all deserve a proper burial,” said Bondi.
Former inmates who endured abuse at Dozier, who are now grown men, weighed in too.
"No one wants the boys to be sent back to the Dozier cemetery. Perhaps the State will help with that, and a monument is very important,” said Robert Straley, The White House Boys.
"These kids were not taken care of in life and we're afraid that they're not going to be taken care of in death,” said Bill Price, Vice President The White House Boys.
They asked for the remains to be interred somewhere other than Jackson County, in proper burials, and for the state to build a monument at the school to recognize lost lives.
"After decades of silence, these boys’ bodies would not lay quiet nor would their voices stilled. They were brought once more to the light of day. What cannot be accomplished by the hands of many seeking truth and justice,” said Straley.