TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's new state budget includes money for University of South Florida researchers so they can try to uncover the truth at the controversial Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.
Florida lawmakers set aside $190,000 for USF anthropologists to investigate the mysterious deaths at the former, state-run reform school during the 20th Century. Former students of Dozier School claim the school's staff committed atrocities against some of the boys.
USF researchers have already determined more boys died at the school, nearly 100, than state records show.
They also discovered 49 unmarked graves on the property. That's 17 more graves than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found during its investigation in 2009.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, pushed for the funding for USF. "I think it's important for the state that we figure out if there are, in fact, children buried there, that we're able to locate them and that we're able to get closure to these families that have been affected by what may have happened years ago at that school," said Stargel.
Dozier School for Boys closed in 2011 after operating for more than 100 years.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi asked a judge for a court order to exhume bodies at the former Dozier School for Boys. That petition was denied.
"I remain committed to assisting with the efforts to help resolve unanswered questions regarding deaths at the Dozier School for Boys," said Bondi. "In light of today's adverse ruling, we will be meeting with the interested parties and considering the next course of action to explore other avenues."
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has not commented on the judge's ruling. He was seeking federal funds to help pay the cost of exhuming bodies and identifying the remains with DNA technology.
The new state budget takes effect July 1.