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USF Dozier DNA Update

USF researcher provides update on unmarked child burials at the Dozier School for Boys in Florida.

Photo by Katy Hennig | USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 5, 2015)
- University of South Florida Anthropologist Erin Kimmerle continues to conduct research at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida which began in 2012 to establish the number, location, and identity of children who died in state custody and were then buried in unmarked graves on the school grounds. Kimmerle and her colleague Antoinette Jackson met with representatives for several members of the Florida Cabinet on February 3, 2015 to present a status report. This report is required by the Florida Cabinet as part of its approval to allow Kimmerle to conduct further research on the school grounds. 

Kimmerle’s status report to the Florida Cabinet can be viewed in its entirety here.

Significant new updates in the report include two new identifications bringing the total number to five:

- Sam Morgan entered the school at the age of 18. The school’s ledger entry states that he first arrived on 9/23/1915, was paroled on 1/18/1918 and then brought back to the school on 2/10/1918 (23 days later). Under the ledger column “how released” it states that he was “indentured”. Because of the indentured status, the research team believes he may have died in the custody of the business or farm that had acquired him. Morgan was buried on the Boot Hill grounds of the school’s property. However, his exact burial location was unknown as the school’s records do not list him as deceased and they do not provide information about him, his death, or his burial. Only 51% of the children the team is looking for, excluding the dorm fire incident in 1914, were recorded in the school’s records as being buried at the school.

- Bennett Evans was an employee of the school who died in the dormitory fire of 1914. No DNA was obtained from the burned bone samples, so his identification is based on his age at death and burial context and is considered a presumptive match.

To date, the team has found a total of 51 individuals buried in 55 graves. The remains of three fire victims were commingled and spread throughout seven of the graves, leading to the discrepancy in numbers. A 2009 Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) report stated that there were a total of 31 children buried at the school.

In the status report, Kimmerle also details the team's continuing work with various organizations including the Florida NAACP, the Interfaith Commission for Florida’s Children and Youth as well as the Department of Environmental Protection to create a plan for the reburial of children who aren’t able to be identified and to memorialize the children who died at the school. Additional fieldwork is planned in hopes of finding other victims who died in the 1914 fire. Kimmerle expects her work at the Dozier School to be complete by August 2015 with a final report being issued by the end of 2015.

The effort to locate relatives is ongoing with the assistance of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office. The team is searching for surviving family members in an effort to collect their DNA and match it with the children recovered from the site. View an updated list of relatives that the team is trying to locate.


Additional articles and further information about the research at the former Dozier School for Boys:

Additional resources relating to USF’s research at the former Dozier School for Boys is available through the following links, which are provided for research and public information purposes only. No further right or license is granted. Questions about reproduction of broadcast or print media articles should be directed to the original author or media outlet.

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