USF gets permission to exhume bodies at Dozier School - WFLA News Channel 8

USF gets permission to exhume bodies at Dozier School

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Cabinet granted a request to let university researchers exhume human remains at a defunct reform school.

Related story: 08/05/2013 Decision to exhume bodies at Dozier nears

Scott and the Cabinet gave the permission to University of South Florida researchers seeking a permit to exhume bodies buried near the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna at their August 6 meeting.

In a statement shortly after the vote, Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "From the beginning, I have supported efforts at the Dozier School for Boys in order to provide family members who lost loved ones with closure. I was proud to vote in favor of the land use agreement that authorizes the University of South Florida to continue their work to return the human remains to the families and provide them with proper burials."

The move comes after months of back and fourth between USF researchers and state officials.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in mid-July that his department - which oversees historical resources - didn't have the legal authority to grant the request. The site located about 60 miles west of Tallahassee is state-owned.

Related story: 07/22/2013 Sen. Nelson critical of state response on Dozier

"This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). "Nothing can bring these boys back, but I'm hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve."

Related story: 07/10/2013 USF professor submits more evidence for Dozier exhumation

Exhumations could begin as early as the end of August. Researchers will be attempting to match DNA samples from living relatives with any remains they exhume.

Florida officials closed the school in 2011 following a state probe into allegations of abuse at the non-defunct reform school. At the time, no evidence of any crimes was discovered.

USF researchers have said remains of children who died at the school have not been located.

Dr. Erin Kimmerle from U.S.F. has led the effort to locate those remains.

Dr. Kimmerle says, "Well they've given us a year so we'll take a year, and we'll be doing field work and then continuing with the interviews."

Robert Strayley is a former inmate of the school, who now lives in Clearwater.

Strayley says, "They say that there is 200 kids buried there, and they may not find them all."

Others who have family members who may be buried there say they are praying they do find the remains, so they have finally have closure.

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