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Decision coming on exhuming bodies at former Dozier School for Boys

3:27 PM, Aug 5, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Gov. Rick Scott and members of the Florida Cabinet have a big decision to make on Tuesday.

They will decide whether to allow the remains of dozens of boys to be exhumed from an old cemetery at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

The cemetery may solve long unanswered questions about mysterious deaths at the former state-operated reform school that operated for more than a century before Florida closed it in 2011.

Records list the graves of 31 boys who died at the school, but University of South Florida researchers discovered about 50 more unmarked graves around the cemetery.

The researchers have tried, unsuccessfully so far, to get permission to exhume the bodies at the request of families.

Former students believe boys were murdered at the school and buried there.

John Bonner lived at Dozier from 1967 - 1969. He said the state's guards beat him like an animal and the nightmare has affected his entire life.

"It affects me now and affect me and my family and affect me going to school. It affected everything about my life and so I'm back here trying to get some closure and perhaps get some type of justice that is due me, overdue, all of us. It's not just about me, it's about all of us, black and white boys, all of us."

Now Bonner wants justice.

"We have caught pure hell and we coming back to try to get some closure within ourselves because I'm tormented after all these years and just all of a sudden, just by chance, God is making a way for us to get some form of justice within ourselves, having people support us and we ask other people to support us and help us."

Bonner is part of a group of men in their 60's, 70's and 80's who have formed a group called the "Black Boys at Dozier Reform School."

They are calling on Gov Scott and the Cabinet to approve the removal of bodies from decades-old graves to help put an end to the many questions there.

Dave Heller

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