Sen. Bill Nelson Tours Former Dozier School For Boys In Marianna - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Sen. Bill Nelson Helps To Find Funding For Identifying Bodies Buried At Former Dozier School For Boys

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There may finally be closure for family members of former students at the now closed Dozier school for boys.

The Marianna school has been under investigation after allegations of abuse and suspicious deaths from decades ago.

US Senator Bill Nelson is trying to help. He was in Marianna today as researchers look for answers.

"Just an iron cross and that's it," said Jackson County native Elmore Bryant gets a funny feeling when walking past this grave site, or Boothill Cemetery, on the North side of the former Dozier School for Boys.

He once played football against some of the young men who went to the Dozier School for Boys growing up and wonders, "Maybe some of those boys I played ball against could be buried, there's no name, nothing."

The former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, now closed, has been under fire after allegations of abuse and families saying their loved ones died suspicious deaths at the school.

"There's all of this information that is coming forth, which I call smoke, is coming forward and where there's smoke, there's fire, and we want to find the fire," said Sen. Nelson.

For the past year, a team of scientists led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle from the University of South Florida have been searching for answers.

"So we found burials in this area and beyond that," said Kimmerle. "We estimated about 50."

Wooden stakes in the ground at the site serve as temporary markers and make up some of the unmarked burials.

"We know there are graves here and in the woods beyond what was ever cared for or marked," said Dr. Kimmerle. "Excavation will give us more answers than what we have today."

The team now awaits a court order for exhuming the bodies to find out if there was any criminal activity before trying to identify them.

It's a costly project though. A project Senator Bill Nelson has helped seek funding for through the US Attorney General.

"They have identified for me on Friday a pod of money of three million dollars of grants to determine missing persons by examining their DNA and Dr. Kimmerle will be applying for that grant," said Sen. Nelson.  

On Monday, the Florida senate also announced they would set aside $200,000 for the USF Research Team.