USF denied permit to exhume unmarked graves at former Dozier School for Boys

New map may shed light on 2nd cemetery


According to Senator Bill Nelson, Florida's secretary of state denied a permit to researchers at USF to exhume human remains in an investigation of unmarked graves at the former Dozier School for Boys.
Florida's secretary of state told USF that it was not going to issue the necessary permits to exhume at the former reform school in Marianna.
The senator has been advocating for the investigation since his office received requests for help from family members last year. 
"At this point, it's starting to look like a classic run-around," said Nelson. "This is state-owned land, it's the state's responsibility and the state of Florida needs to do the right thing and not pass the buck." 

"It hasn't been on the map, and it looks like it's been marked in with a marker," said USF's Dr. Christian Wells.

The little black box is much more than a piece of property printed on a state map.  It represents hope for Tampa Bay area families.

Seven families are fighting to bring home the remains of missing loved ones from the now defunct Dozier School for Boys in Florida's panhandle.

Hundreds of others, like Clearwater resident Robert Straley, are just searching for peace.

"Very stressed out, because to think they might try to actually stop this at this point seems impossible," he said.

Dozier was shut down in 2011 amid allegations of torture, abuse and worse, children who just disappeared.  Straley spent a year of his life there.

University of South Florida scientists discovered unmarked burial plots-- what they believe is an African American cemetery.  Back then, segregation followed you to your grave.

"No doubt.  No doubt in my mind whatsoever they have yet to find the white cemetery," said Straley.

Now USF's Anthropology department has uncovered evidence of a second possible cemetery. If children rest here, their remains are located deep in the woods.

"It would be really surprising if there was not a second cemetery," said Dr. Wells.

Now USF scientists wait for a permit to exhume bodies. Families have given DNA in hopes a state archeology board and Florida's Secretary of State who oversees it will give the ok.

"All they have to do is grant that permit," said Straley.

But the board is showing signs it might not.  An internal e-mail obtained by ABC Action News shows the board was set on denying it, but opted for more time to decide.

So Straley and many others are left with a map instead of answers.

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