"Sometimes persistence pays off,” said USF’s Dr. Erin Kimmerle.
Persistence measured by 24 months of waiting for DNA from a Texas laboratory to come back and take Stephens' name off the list of the unidentified Dozier wards.
The long list helped shut down the state run reform school in 2011 amidst allegations of severe physical and sexual abuse.
"I learned that from the outside when kids first came in, it looked real nice, got kids playing basketball, you know, doing different outdoor activities but once night fell, it was a whole different story-- beatings, starvation,” said Stephens.
His uncle's body showed signs of malnutrition but scientists say we'll never truly know how he died.
"Somebody should be held accountable, I believe,” he said.
Robert's uncle was a stranger to him for decades-- only in death is he now truly family.
"It's bringing us closer together because I'm talking to people I've never talked to before,” said Stephens.
USF’s Dr. Kimmerle says her team is still working on identifying other remains. In particular, USF is interested in finding family members of three boys including George Grissam who died in 1918, James or Joseph Hammond who died in 1936 and Richard Nelson who died in 1935.
School records show Grissam’s mother was named Peg Grissam, Hammond’s mother was named Blanche Isham from Palm Beach County and Nelson’s parents are not known but was from Lake County.
"The three that are highlighted, one is George Grissam. He was our youngest individual. He went in and died when he was six years old so we believe we know who he is based on the remains because of age but we have been unable to find any family at this time. They were actually from Caryville which is right near Marianna,” said Stephens.
If you have any information, please call Hillsborough County Detective Greg Thomas at 813.247.8678 or email him at email@example.com.
USF says it’s working with Florida’s NAACP, the Interfaith Commission for Florida’s Children and Youth, the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and the families to raise money to bury remains identified and unidentified.