USF awaits go-ahead for Dozier dig - FOX 13 News

USF awaits go-ahead for Dozier dig

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MARIANNA (FOX 13) -

USF is still waiting for word on whether they can begin exhuming bodies on the campus of the former Dozier School for Boys.

On Wednesday, USF forensic anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle toured the site with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson. She showed him the work they have already done and explained where they plan to begin exhuming the graves.

The exhumation and skeletal autopsies would be the only way to know who is buried here and how they died.

Dr. Kimmerle estimates the cost will be about $200,000. But during the tour, a Marianna resident confronted Sen. Nelson about the town footing the bill.

"We want to be assured that we do not bear the full burden of this search. And you have given me some assurances of the possibility of federal funds. But can we be certain?"

Nelson appeared annoyed that money seemed to be the priority. "Well, let's don't worry about the funding, let's just make sure it's there to get to the truth."

But the truth may be hard to take. Dozens of men have told stories of torture inside a building called the White House. The now-grown men say they were beaten by guards with a leather strap.

The men say some of the boys never came back from the White House.

Elmore Bryant was born and raised in Marianna. He was the first black mayor. He was never sent to Dozier, but he was a teacher there for 11 years.

He said the attitude at the school and in town was like a fraternity, no one ever telling the secrets.

"Nobody said it, but the truth was, so went Dozier, so went the attitude of this town. This town, in 1934, had one of the worst lynchings in the South. And that added to pretty much, whatever came in here," said Bryant.

Dale Landry of the NAACP's Florida State Conference said he was hopeful when the FDLE began to investigate the cemetery in 2010.

That report showed only 31 graves on the site. It also showed everyone buried there had either died from a fire or sickness or some other explained death. But then USF's report came out. And it showed 19 more graves.

"I was inflamed," Landry told FOX 13. "I have every respect for FDLE but I think they dropped the ball.

"We thought they had exhumed something or done something. They actually hadn't done anything, other than look at records, and based on what people said."

State lawmakers have said they are pledging all the money for the cost of the exhumation and the autopsies. So it appears Marianna residents will not have to pay to find the truth.

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