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27 more possible graves discovered near Dozier School in Marianna

Posted at 4:20 PM, Apr 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-11 18:07:28-04

MARIANNA, Fla. (WTXL) — More than 25 more possible graves have been found near the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

According to a letter Governor Ron DeSantis sent Wednesday to Clint Pate, the chairman for the Jackson County Board of County Commissioners, "anomalies consistent with possible graves" have been discovered near the former school.

Jackson County by on Scribd

During a ground pollution cleanup of the site, 27 possible graves were discovered.

In late 2017, the Department of Environmental Protection contracted a company to clean up the site. Before starting the cleanup, the contractor conducted a survey of the land using a ground-penetrating radar.

According to the report from the contracted company that was received by DEP in March 2019, the radar revealed 27 "anomalies" that could be the graves. The graves could possibly belong to some of the students who died in a 1914 fire at the school.

Since the discovery, Gov. DeSantis wrote that cleanup efforts have carefully avoided the possible graves.

Now, Gov. DeSantis is directing several state departments, including the DEP, to work with Jackson County to "develop a path forward." As part of that, state officials will be reaching out to county officials to figure out the next steps in addressing the findings.

In December 2018, the state turned over about 360 acres, containing the Dozier site’s North Campus, South Campus and Boot Hill Cemetery, to Jackson County.

"My administration is dedicated to collaboratively determining the best course of action," Gov. DeSantis wrote in the letter.

Dozier School for Boys was a reform school where documented abuse happened for decades. In 2017, the Florida Senate and House passed resolutions formally apologizing for the abuse of the children sent to Dozier.

According to the News Service of Florida, the resolutions acknowledged that treatment of boys sent to the facilities was cruel, unjust and "a violation of human decency."

More than 500 former students have alleged brutal beatings, mental abuse and sexual abuse at the Dozier school, which closed in 2011 after 111 years of operation.

In 2016, forensics with USF was able to identify 21 of the boys' bodies that were found earlier in the decade. The USF forensics' report stops short of any criminal finding but revealed suspicious details surrounding the boys' remains.

In February, some of the students who died in the 1914 fire at the school were reburied at the site of the original campus where their remains were found.