It's now a race against time to find more bodies buried decades ago at a reform school in the Florida panhandle. An emergency court order just issued has brought the case back to life.
A research team from the University of South Florida headed up by Erin Kimmerle, associate professor of anthropology, now has 120 days to examine what is believed to be a second secret cemetery at The Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.
The reform school has a history of abuse.
"It's never been really known or documented how many people are buried there, so in the 90s, a group set up a number of crosses to mark the area," says Christian Wells, who is an associate professor of anthropology at USF.
Researchers found 31 crosses, but that was never the right number.
Stories of torture leaked out from boys, who are now old men. They claim to have been beaten and abused.
"I think they are going to find a lot of bodies. They don't know how many boys are really there," says Robert Straley, who lived at the school as a boy.
The story has received national attention and some survivors have dubbed themselves the "White House Boys," because they say a small white building is where the abuse took place.
Over the summer, USF researchers, using ground-penetrating radar, found more bodies.
"We've determined that there are at least 49 burials in that particular area, but the documentation they found suggests double that number died. Where are the other 50 bodies?" asks Wells.
And that's the mystery right now, where are the other bodies? The team of researchers came across information indicating a second, unmarked cemetery at the school, but the state planned to sell the property and they were denied access until the court issued the emergency injunction.
They hope to get to work soon, but the fall semester will make scheduling the work a challenge. And what do they expect to find?
"We anticipating finding between -- and this is an estimate -- 20 to 30 unmarked graves," Wells said.
FOX 13 contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which says the agency is aware of the new plan to look for a second cemetery and more bodies, but would not comment on the new development.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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