TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The unmarked graves at the Arthur G. Dozier School in Marianna, Florida, will be exhumed according to a State of Florida press release.
Florida's governor Rick Scott and Cabinet voted Tuesday morning to issue permits to researchers at the University of South Florida to begin exhuming human remains from unmarked graves at the now-defunct Arthur G. Dozier School in Marianna, Florida.
"This decision puts us a step closer to finishing the investigation," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. "Nothing can bring these boys back, but I'm hopeful that their families will now get the closure they deserve."
The decision by the Cabinet comes after months of debate between USF researchers and state officials.
A Jackson County circuit court judge rejected a request by state Attorney General Pam Bondi to grant a local medical examiner permission to exhume the bodies buried on school grounds in May. Then in July the Florida Department of State denied issuing the permits needed to begin the exhumations.
According to the release the USF research team, led by Dr. Erin Kimmerle, is expected to begin the exhumations later this month. The researchers will try to match DNA samples taken from living relatives of the boys buried long ago on the grounds.
The school has been the subject of several major investigations stemming from allegations of abuse through the years, the release detailed. Dozier was closed in 2011 by Florida officials after the latest allegations that found no evidence of any crimes, according to the release.
The search was called into question late last year when the USF forensic team began examining the site and found more unmarked graves than police had said were there, the release said.
Nelson got involved after a Polk County man asked the lawmaker's office for help last year in locating his uncle's remains known to be buried in an unmarked cemetery on the grounds of the reform school. Since then, he has written the governor urging him to the back the scientists' work.
Nelson continues to back the university's application for a Department of Justice grant he helped identify that would cover the costs associated with forensic research involving the use of DNA to identify missing or dead persons. Up to $3 million will be awarded to select applicants, the release detailed.
First Coast News