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USF Researchers Announce Dozier Updates

Dr. Erin Kimmerle addressed the media about the ongoing research at the shuttered Dozier School for Boys.    Photo by Aimee Blodgett

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2015) – During a press conference on Tuesday, Aug. 4, a team of researchers from the University of South Florida announced several updates to their ongoing work at the now shuttered Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

New Dozier student identification

USF researchers have announced a new DNA match from the Dozier School for Boys, bringing the total number of identifications to six.

Dozier student Robert Stephens has been matched and positively identified through a DNA sample from his nephew (with the same name) provided at a June 14, 2013 press conference at USF.

The younger Stephens was named after his uncle. He did not know about the existence of his uncle until his family requested that he attend the press conference and provide a DNA sample.

The elder Stephens was 14 years old when he was committed to the Dozier School on Sept. 3, 1936 for breaking and entering. He was sentenced to two years or until he was legally discharged. Approximately 10 months later, on July 15, 1937, shortly after his 15th birthday, he was found dead. The school ledger states that Robert was stabbed to death by another inmate named Leroy Taylor. His death certificate states that the cause of death was “knife wound following hemorrhage.” According to records at the county clerk’s office in Jackson County, Fla., Taylor was indicted of First Degree Murder but plead guilty to Second Degree Murder on Nov. 30, 1937.

Robert Stephens spoke about providing his DNA that helped to identify his uncle and Dozier student, also named Robert Stephens.   

Information on the report of findings

A final report on the USF Dozier research is due to the state of Florida in Jan. 2016. The report will include a summary of the research findings on the lives and deaths of the boys who were reportedly buried on school grounds. This includes a brief history of the school, the individual death investigations, summary findings about the burial practices and health and well-being of the children, documentation of the dormitory that burned in 1914 and a summary of the ethnographic research into the Dozier School.

Status on the reburial plan

The USF research team is working with the Florida NAACP, the Interfaith Commission for Florida’s Children and Youth, the Department of Environmental Protection, Florida CFO Jeff Atwater and the families of the boys who died at Dozier to create a reburial plan for children who cannot be reunited with their loved ones, in addition to creating a way to memorialize the children who died at the school.


Dr. Kimmerle is working with an award-winning documentary company, Part2Pictures, to produce a two-hour TV documentary on the team’s research, which is scheduled to air in 2016. The documentary is based on the research team’s findings and their work with the families of the boys who died at the school. Part2Pictures has extensive experience producing factually accurate scientific and historical films. The film will document the science and methodology of Dr. Kimmerle and her team’s work, as well as inform viewers of the historical context of these efforts by following the stories of the families as they search for their missing brothers and uncles.

Part2Pictures has produced several high-profile projects, including “Engineering Ground Zero” about the construction of the new World Trade Center building and memorial in New York; “Titanic’s Ghosts” about the victims recovered from the wreck of the Titanic and the work of the scientists who used DNA analysis to identify their remains; and the “Lost Fleet of Columbus” which demonstrated how archeologists and explorers attempted to reconstruct the first and failed European colony in America.

Other facts about this production:

Land Use Agreement

USF has a permit to access the Dozier property which is scheduled to expire on Aug. 6, 2015. The land use agreement has been extended through Jan. 31, 2016, which will allow Dr. Kimmerle and her team to access the property until their final report is finalized and submitted.

Additional Information

To date, the USF 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 report stated that there were a total of 31 children buried at the school.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office is still looking for surviving family members to collect their DNA to compare to the children located at Dozier. If you have information about Dozier family members, please call Detective Greg Thomas at (813) 247-8678 or contact him via email at

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.

Items of interest:

Video Coverage:

Images of posters displayed at June 14 news conference:

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