University of South Florida researchers will start exhuming long-buried bodies at the former state-operated Dozier School for Boys in Marianna on Saturday.
Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet have given USF one year to dig up remains on the property, look for additional graves, and perform DNA testing to try to reunite the remains with families.
Some relatives of boys who died at Dozier have already given their DNA, hoping they can finally find their long-lost loved ones and discover the truth about how they died.
A cemetery on the school's property contains 31 metal crosses, but the markers don't correspond to the actual interments. The exact locations of burials were never documented.
USF researchers used ground penetrating radar in the cemetery last year and found 50 more undocumented graves. Their research documented a total of 96 boys' deaths.
Former students accuse guards of torture and abuse. The students believe boys were killed and their deaths covered up by school administrators.
Rep. Alan Williams says he's talked with families who lost loved ones at Dozier and he thinks it's time to reunite the remains with their families.
"That's what we're trying to do, close this chapter and finally send those men home," Williams said. "They went in as boys and never came home and so now is our time to send them back home to their loved ones."
The Dozier School for Boys operated from 1900 to 2011. There are reports as early as 1901 of boys being chained to walls and receiving brutal whippings.
Some Jackson County residents are concerned about how the work to exhume bodies will reflect on their community and possibly even affect the economy.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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