USF Team Uncovers More Bodies at Dozier than State Records Show

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: January 28, 2014 11:50 AM
Dozier School Crosses

A research team from the University of South Florida announced they’ve found five more bodies at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, bringing the total number of burials to 55 -- 24 more burials than official state records indicate should be there.

Erin Kimmerle and Christian Wells held a press conference Tuesday to update the status of the excavation process, which began in September and continued through December.

“Locating 55 burials is a significant finding, which opens up a whole new set of questions for our team,” said Kimmerle, who leads the research team.

In August, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet gave their full permission for the USF team to proceed with the exhumation of bodies in dozens upon dozens of unmarked graves on the reformatory's Marianna site.

In the excavation process, the team of researchers recovered bones, teeth and numerous artifacts in all 55 burials.

Researchers will continue to search for additional unmarked burials on the school grounds and will use ground-penetrating radar analysis and specially trained K9 teams to locate burials. The team will also begin analyzing excavated skeletal and dental remains to help aid in identifying remains.

Further analysis will also help the team date the burials and discover the circumstances surrounding the deaths.  


Artifact found at Dozier School

Kimmerle and her team began their research on the school two years ago, when they estimated there were up to 50 grave shafts in at the Marianna-based reform school.

The Dozier School for Boys has come under fire several times since it was founded 114 years ago in 1900. Allegations of torture and abuse, both physical and sexual, of boys living at the school became more common in recent years, and the calls to exhume bodies grew louder so families could get answers to questions about what happened to their relatives at the reform school.

Eleven families of former Dozier students have been found and the Hillsborough County sheriff’s office is currently undertaking the task of collecting DNA samples from them to help identify remains at the school. HCSO is still looking for other families in the effort to identify the remains of children buried at the school.

For the research team, the ultimate mission of the excavation process is simple -- they want to give closure to the families who have sought answers for so long.

“This project has always been about fulfilling a fundamental human right,” Kimmerle said. “Families, like all of us, have a right to know what happened to their loved ones.”

Orvell Krell, whose brother was buried at Dozier, said she hoped the process would give her answers.

“Like everybody else in this, we just hope we’re one of the lucky ones that get some closure,” she said. "[Finding my brother] would be the answer to many long years of hopes and prayers."

The team will be heading back to Dozier to continue their research in February.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

Comments (11)

Bill Price
8:45AM MAR 6TH 2014
I read all the time about what this governor and that governor didn't do and it makes me sick to think that when complaints came to them they passed the buck. I realize that there is no governor that could personally go out and dig for the truth but when every governor from the late fifties until now had this same complaint about sexual and physical abuse and possible murder cross their desk and not one of them followed up on the investigation. The FDLE could have copied the first report and given it to the each sitting governor, because it contained the same outcome where they announced their pending arrival to the school to allow the staff to clean up and hide the students that might give pertinent information of what was happening there and supplying them with paper work previously prepared. When you have that many complaints there has to be a basis for it. They chose not to believe young boys and as they walked out the door another one was being brutalized and hidden in the ground. Charlie Crist is the latest to be duped by the FDLE. He had the school investigated in 2008, but failed the kids at the school and the state by allowing the abuse to continue. Fortunately there is no longer a rug big enough for this trash to be swept under. I don't speak from what I heard, I am an eye witness, I was there, I was abused and beaten, I witnessed others being beaten, I felt the leather strap cut into my body, I felt blood run down my legs, I felt the burn from the soap and water as I showered afterwards, I saw my skin turn black and blue from the bruising of the strap, I was 13 years old. WHB 1961-62
2:29PM JAN 31ST 2014
There will be more skeletons about 4' down on the grounds and some skeletal remains found in the surrounding woods. After finally being allowed to start their work, the anthro team was withdrawn for months last fall, leaving the grounds open for locals to remove evidence if they could remember where it was -- but what are the odds they found everything(?) -- and even with the bones removed, the soil can easily show clear chemical signatures of the decomposition of human remains; the specialized "ancient grave" dogs are likely to find those spots even without bones. Troy Tidwell in particular had one boy bury another boy beside the sawmill and seems to have considered burying both together but relented; check the accounts of the African-American boys who survived. Tidwell also directed Troy Warren and another boy to dig three holes one night behind the cafeteria, 4 feet deep and "as long as a boy." You can say that incident was "just psychological abuse" if you like, since Warren never saw a body, but the other incident included a body, and that boy was buried nowhere near the cemetery. The cemetery was used for double-stacking on occasion, so the researchers should find either that the graves have been disturbed in the last 8 years or that there are multiple sets of remains in single graves with evidence of the first being enclosed in a coffin and the subsequent occupant(s) not. But that only covers the ones that "shouldn't have died" -- there are no crosses over the worst cases.

A problem no one has mentioned is that not only the various guards but the school nurse, the doctor (both of whom had to get out the forceps and remove embedded fabric from the boys' lacerated legs, butts and lower backs after beatings, and follow up with stitches on the largest gashes left by the strap), and other administrators all came from the local community. Tidwell's family explain that they have never asked him about the beatings and alleged deaths, because they 1) believe they were just spankings, and 2) they "respect him too much to ask" something like that. Being around the kind of brutality that made those boys cry and scream in their sleep in fear of random pain and death every day for years seems to have caused the locals not directly involved in the beatings and other assaults to just accept it. The massive violence wasn't directed at them, in most cases it hadn't actually proved fatal, so it was best not talked about... something like that. The whole social fabric of the town had to have been permeated by that attitude, and if you read their local press today, they are still asserting everything is made up or exaggerated because it makes their town "look bad." News flash: accepting and hiding this kind of activity is abetting it -- it doesn't just LOOK bad, it is bad. Doesn't matter how many of the beaters of young boys then went to church with their families every Sunday: the sickness in the community is what they were doing on Saturday night (and quite a few other nights, apparently), not Sunday morning. Until the community recognizes it for what it was and rejects it, it can't heal. It can only scar, and deny/ignore the scars.

At see "For Their Own Good," for-their-own-good-a-st-petersburg-times-special-report-on-child-abuse-at/992939

Also at is a summary of some of the documentary evidence of the extreme nature of these beatings, from adults who worked at or had some oversight capacity at the school: documents-detail-abuse-at-florida-school-for-boys/1077770

At see the page glennraymax.html

At see the page Robert-Trapped.html
Rick Scott turns his head everytiime
7:52AM JAN 30TH 2014
The sad news here is that will all these efforts to uncover these atrocities which occurred over the last 114 years at Dozier, absolutely nothing has changed and the state officials still refuse to protect anyone in their custody, or admit that their darling vendors can do any wrong.

Case in point, a suit filed in October 2013 in federal court by Attorney Michael Hoffman, the top administrator at one YSI youth prison regularly made sexual advances toward teenage boys held there in 2010 and 2011 and on at least one occasion brought inmates home with him and into his bedroom. A separate case filed in Florida court in November 2013 alleges that a female guard at another YSI facility in 2012 began an "intimate and sexual relationship" with a 14-year-old inmate. Florida officials at the Department of Juvenile Justice did not investigate these alleged incidents until months and even nearly a year after they occurred, according to accounts from the mothers of the victims and documents obtained by The Huffington Post. This was in part because the for-profit prison operator failed to immediately report the alleged episodes as required under its contracts with the state. These lawsuits reinforce the findings of a recent Huffington Post investigation that revealed more than two decades of abuse and neglect inside private prisons operated by Youth Services International and other companies run by its founder, James Slattery. The series focused particular attention on the state of Florida, which has become emblematic of a nationwide trend in which growing numbers of prisoners of all ages are placed inside institutions operated by for-profit companies. Florida has entirely privatized its youth prisons and privatizes early release programs and half way houses with vendors like Bridges of America (Green Isle Ranch former owners) wasting million and millions of dollars with their vendor friends who are then required to ”share the wealth!”

The articles detailed multiple instances of young inmates at YSI facilities in Florida complaining of having been beaten, sexually assaulted or neglected by guards only to have their reports buried or minimized. Former staff at these prisons told HuffPost that the company systematically discouraged employees from reporting mistreatment and other violations in order to avoid imperiling future state contracts.
Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice largely relies on contractors to self-report serious events such as fights, assaults or escapes. Former YSI employees told HuffPost that the state's system created incentives for the company to under-report and cover up incidents of staff misconduct or violence.

If we had a true, honest. moral governor and cabinet or perhaps a few ethical senators and state reps who were not simply working to secure more kickbacks from the vendors this should have bee front page news from Tallahassee. But what was the outcome? More contracts for their slimy friends at YSI. Never does Florida government take up for the victims in their institutions, there only recourse is always to hire a lawyer and sue the state. This proves our state is anti-child safety. So 50 to 100 years from now someone will still be looking for bodies and seeking answers to what happened to their loved ones!

To solve this crisis the people must demand accountability and immediate actions regarding all actions with our children from every state official and employee of authority over our children. Demand they stop lying and covering up sex crimes committed on our children. Demand when they do so they are held accountable by federal charges of obstruction of justice!
3:19PM JAN 31ST 2014
I'm not sure "turns his head" really covers it. According to "Prisoners of Profit," a three-part investigative piece, "Slattery has established a dominant perch in the juvenile corrections business through an astute cultivation of political connections and a crafty gaming of the private contracting system.

Even as reports of negligence and poor treatment of inmates have piled up, his companies have kept their records clean by habitually pulling out of contracts before the government takes official action, HuffPost found.

In Florida, his companies have exploited lax state oversight while leaning on powerful allies inside the government to keep the contracts flowing. Slattery, his wife, Diane, and other executives have been prodigious political rainmakers in Florida, donating more than $400,000 to state candidates and committees over the last 15 years, according to HuffPost’s review. The recipient of the largest share of those dollars was the Florida Republican Party, which took in more than $276,000 in that time. Former Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos, an avid supporter of prison privatization, received more than $15,000 from company executives during state and federal races.

The company has given more in Florida over the past 15 years than the combined donations of Office Depot and Darden Restaurants, Inc., two of the state's largest Fortune 500 corporations.

Among the company’s lobbyists in Tallahassee is Jonathan Costello, who served as legislative affairs director for Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 and 2012. Gary Rutledge, another YSI lobbyist, served on Scott’s inaugural committee after his 2010 victory."

There's more than head-turning going on, there's awarding of contracts to companies run by owners/upper management with huge track records of ignoring or delaying reporting of abuse complaints, that sidestep investigations by making sure their paperwork on the "contractor policies" is all spotless -- never mind unreported riots, lack of basic sanitation (no toilet paper???!), staff regularly holding "fight events" with inmates beating one another, or child sexual abuse. "Policies are in place" about all this, and that's all that the contract oversight office is directed to look at, not the actual conditions inside.
Rick Scott had the evidence all along
7:22PM JAN 29TH 2014
Don't any of you guys fool yourselves that Rick Scott really wanted to get to the bottom of the deaths at Dozier or bring to light the abuse and sex abuse of the boys at Dozier. He wnated very much to cover it up just like he has covered up so many other sexual crimes against out youth at the hands of his political handlers. Rick Scott had the evidence on Green Isle and allowed his FDLE to cover it up just like he allowed them to lie and cover up the deaths at Dozier.
tired of being a victim
5:33PM JAN 29TH 2014
Mr. Robbins our group found some of your publications and forwarded them around to other interested parties. We thank you so much for being able to put into words these horrors at the hands of the powerful. Somewhat like you one now deceased member of our group was abandoned in Jacksonville in 1963 at age four by his mother, and sorry to say he was never able to over come that nightmare.

In the 1980's Florida became flooded with religious schools and homes on the pretense of doing something good for children. Unfortunately most were nothing more than schemes to defraud the taxpayers on one hand and making so called "wayward" children available to their perverted friends at at price on the other. Most were spin off of Mel Sembler's Straight, Inc. Sembler always pumped the cash into the right politicians including last year he was still buying influence up in his 80's. There was also the Franklin Scandal a network of political allies for sex abuse purposes between the politically well connected.

One of these "ranches" was formed by Don Brown who also still owns Bridges of America Fl Dept of Corrections vendor collecting multi-millions for half-way houses and prison ministries. Along with his friend Gary Borders an Osceola county jailer at the time they formed The Green Isle Boys Ranch not from from Walt Disney World near Orlando. They open Green Isle in 1989 and Gary Borders relocated to run the Lake County Jail in Tavares. From the beginning stories of the boys being raped leaked to the streets. All reports were covered up. One nine year old boy was repeatedly raped in 2000. His parents sued and settled out of court for money to help him recover his abuses. In 2006 Don Brown and his Jeb Bush connections was able to reward Gary Borders by making him the sheriff of Lake County. In 2009 five boys 12-15 was brutally raped over the summer by a 17 year old boy insiders say was being groomed by Gary Borders and was required to groom the younger boys in preparation for friends who visited the Orlando area. The news of the rapes finally hit the TV months later. Sheriff Borders and his friends in the justice system faked up an arrest and the rapist continues to abuse others to this day. While this is not a political issue it is the Republicans who cover up the sex abuses of our children. The corrupt political system has protected this corrupt sheriff for years while he continues to abuse young makes (some even employee's of his office) every day of the week.

So from way before your abuses in 53-54 until this present day if people find them selves at the mercy of someone like Arthur Dozier or Lake Sheriff Gary Borders - God help them is all we can say. Thank you!
Claude Robins
1:06PM JAN 29TH 2014
I was in Marianna 53-54 and beaten at the ICE CREAM FACTORY aka THE WHITE HOUSE several times, each time fearing they were going to kill me, especially the one time I tried to run away. I was pistol whipped and brought back to the school a bruised and bloody mess and then taken to the White House and beaten with the strap. I can testify to the brutality of the treatments received from the employees of the school, who seemed to always be looking for an excuse to beat a boy. Look at him when he is talking to you, not looking when he is talking to you, not speaking clearly when spoken to, not saying Yes Sir quickly or loud enough, saying it too loudly, stepping off the sidewalk. Walking too fast, not walking fast enough. Not reporting rule infractions. Some of the employees made up rules as they went along. Any employee could add time to your stay by simply giving a 'low grade' and you had to take a lower status and work back up to a higher status. Not all employees were so mean, but the few who were, actually kept most boys in a terrified state. Right now, this very minute, even as I type this the bodies of proof are being removed from the cold cold ground., some only inches deep. Look up Claude Robins, author and read my description of the brutality of a White House Beating. Some didn't survive. I am willing to take a LIE DETECTOR TEST AT ANY TIME. I will travel to the person of your choice to take the test.
1:04PM JAN 29TH 2014
What these boys and young men went through at the hands of the monsters at Dozier horrifies and disgusts me. The boys sleeping in the graves cry out for justice! May justice come soon for them and to the survivors.
4:58PM JAN 28TH 2014
This has nothing to do with any race except the human race. What people do not have enough life experience to realize is from 1900 to 1970 or so there was no difference between blacks and what they then called white trash. These guards would just as soon abuse and murder one as the other.

Nothing has changed. Today every Florida juvenile prison is privatized. No bids necessary, the ones who grease the palms of the politicians in power get the contracts to run private FDOC vendor services. Juvie Prison vendor (YSI) Youth Services International has at least two lawsuits of employee's sexually abusing juvenile inmates (one supervisor taking boys home from the facility)

In Lake Coaunty, Fl the Sheriff Gary Borders and his friends in the system run the Green Isle Boys Ranch the scene of untold numbers of rapes over twenty years. The last five rapes the sheriff was caught covering up for the rapist (his personal friend) and the sheriff and his friends in the judicial system faked up an arrest, prosecution and fake community control for their friend the rapist.

Nothing has changed in 114 years and nothing will ever change until the people stop turning the heads to the perverts wearing guns and badges and black robes and start demanding real justice right now for the victims of child sex abuse at the hands of those who are only powerful because the pick on the weal who can not defend themselves against their sickness.
8:50PM JAN 28TH 2014
Actually from 1900 to 1970 there was substantial difference in how the white and black residents of the Dozier School were treated with the blacks being treated much, much worst. The peole who were there white and black have testified as to the differing treatment. The remainder of your remarks are correct.
3:11PM JAN 28TH 2014
No suprise and I would wager the majority of unregistered burials were in the African-American section.

Leave a Comment on This Story

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.