Juvenile Justice

Remains of 55 are exhumed at notorious reform school, 24 more than records showed were buried there

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Records for a notorious Florida reform school and a 2009 state investigation showed that 31 bodies had been buried on the grounds.

Now a research team from the University of South Florida has unearthed remains for 55 people, and DNA is being sought from relatives of boys who went missing while being held at the state-operated Marianna facility, in the Florida Panhandle, in the hope of identifying all the bodies buried in unmarked graves, according to Los Angeles Times (sub. req), the Tampa Bay Times (reg. req.) and Reuters.

“This is precisely why excavation was necessary. The only way to truly establish the facts about the deaths and burials at the school is to follow scientific processes,” anthropology professor Erin Kimmerle of the University of South Florida, who heads the research project, told Reuters.

Opened in 1900, the facility was known as the Florida Industrial School for Boys, the Florida School for Boys and the Dozier School for Boys before it was closed in 2011.

Over the years, numerous individuals said they or others were physically or sexually abused during their time there. A number of boys simply disappeared. An attorney at a St. Petersburg law firm representing survivors told the Tampa Bay Times that over 500 men have complained of such treatment after five went public in 2008 with stories of extreme abuse by guards.

Among those seeking answers is a younger sister of George Owen Smith. Now 85, Ovell Krell was 12 when the disbelieving family was told Smith had died, at age 14 after crawling under a nearby house. He was already buried in an unmarked grave by the time the family could drive to the school, she told the Tampa Bay Times.

Getting answers and her brother’s remains “would be the answer to many a year of prayer,”said Krell. “I want to get him out of there and put him between my mother and daddy in Auburndale.”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “Who died at boys reform school over last century, and how? State AG asks judge to OK exhumation”

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