Bay area man wants bodies at Dozier identified - WFLA News Channel 8

Bay area man wants bodies at Dozier identified

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Don Stratton says his days at the Dozier School for Boys haunt him 50 years later. Don Stratton says his days at the Dozier School for Boys haunt him 50 years later.

In 1958, 13-year-old Don Stratton thought he'd found paradise. At least it was better than jail, where he spent the last six months, for running away from home.

"When I got there I thought 'wow what a nice place. What a nice campus,'" Stratton said.

It didn't take long to see the dark side of the Dozier School For Boys, a reform school in Marianna, FL.

"After I was there for a short period of time I realized how they kept it so beautiful," Stratton said. "They just tortured, beat, and abused these children. They had no fences but they had men that controlled the lives of young children."

Stratton learned to fear a building called "the White House" on campus. He watched as inmates would walk up to the house and crawl out.

He vividly remembers the first day school officials beat him in the house.

"When he hit me with that strap he beat me, and beat me, and told me just to lay there, and take it," Stratton said.

Stratton told News Channel 8 unimaginable stories of beatings, sexual abuse, and even murder. He says he watched his friend Billy walk in "the White House" but didn't see him walk out.

"They beat him to death. They killed him. They murdered him," Stratton said. "They beat him to death. He was 10 years old."

The school closed in 2011 and now USF researchers say there are as many as 50 unidentified bodies buried on campus.

Senator Bill Nelson and Attorney General Pam Bondi are trying to get the bodies exhumed and identified.

Now, 68 years old, Stratton says those three years at Dozier have sabotaged the rest of his life. He started a group called "the White House Boys" and together they're determined to push politicians to identify the bodies.

"The bodies that are buried under those crosses haunt me today," Stratton said. "They are crying out for justice and this needs to be solved."

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