Grave Excavation Begins at Fla. Reform School Site

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Kimmerle said the remains of about 50 people are in the graves. Some are marked with a plain, white steel cross, and others have no markings.

Robert Straley, a spokesman for the White House Boys, said the school segregated white and black inmates and that the remains are located where black inmates were held. He suspects there is another white cemetery that hasn’t been discovered.

“I think that there are at least 100 more bodies up there,” he said. “At some point they are going to find more bodies, I’m dead certain of that. There has to be a white graveyard on the white side.”

Among those that have pushed to allow USF to conduct the research are Florida’s Republican Attorney General Pam Bondi and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

“My goal all along has been to help bring closure to the families who lost loved ones at Dozier. I feel great relief that the work to identify human remains is now underway,” Bondi said through a spokeswoman.

The holiday weekend’s initial work is meant to ensure that the process works smoothly before researchers return to the site. The remains will be brought to Tampa to be studied. DNA obtained will be sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification for analysis. The hope is that it can be matched to relatives. Ten families have contacted researchers in hopes of identifying relatives that might be buried at Dozier.

If matches are found, remains will be returned to the families.

(Photo: University of South Florida assistant professor Dr. Erin Kimmerle hugs Elmore Bryant on the site of the Boot Hill cemetery. AP)

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