DNA samples could help solve reform school mystery - FOX 13 News

DNA samples could help solve reform school mystery

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Researchers from took DNA samples from family members of boys who died decades ago at a now-defunct Florida reform school to try to help solve the mystery of which bodies were buried on the property.

USF's Dr. Erin Kimmerle is creating a DNA database. She's taking samples from living relatives, in hopes of matching them to remains buried at the cemetery at the former Dozier Reform School.

"I feel like this is a very historic moment because they have searched and waited, in some cases a lifetime," Kimmerle said.

Family members were eager to give their samples. For some, they feared they wouldn't live long enough to get the answers for their families. Richard Varnadoe's brother Thomas died at Dozier and was buried there.

This past spring, he was put in the hospital for pneumonia.

"I was afraid. Afraid I might not make it. This has been an emotional trip if you will. I was afraid I might not make it to do this. But thank God I'm here," he said.

84-year-old Ovell Krell says she needs to know where her brother Owen is. She was the first to be swabbed and says as they did it, she could only think of being able to properly bury Owen.

"I hope for it, I really hope for it. It would give me peace of mind. But it would give me just as much peace of mind if I can find out that he is truly dead. And I could get his remains to put with my mommy and daddy," Krell said.

USF is waiting to see if the state's Bureau of Archaeological Research will grant their permit to exhume the bodies.

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