Marianna and Jackson County, population 50 thousand, are about to become the center of attention. Numerous reports of beatings and boys being sent to the Dozier School for Boys, never to return, have fueled speculation about brutality at the facility.
Over Labor Day weekend the University of South Florida will begin exhuming bodies from unmarked grave.
The majority of local residents are unhappy and they say the past is the past and should stay that way.
“I believe it’s going to be a hornet’s nest,” said John Cooper.
“Things are different, People were different. It wouldn’t happen today, I don’t think,” said Glenda Retherford.
“I mean its something that happened 56 years ago. You know, let bye gones be bye gones,” said John Perkins.
In allowing researchers to begin exhuming bodies, Attorney General Pam Bondi acknowledged local concerns. The community is not universally opposed, “I think they need to do it,” said Charlie Roberts, but a local judge and county commissioners, all of whom must face voters, took a stand against allowing the search for bodies.
“What we are acting on are allegations made by criminals and juvenile delinquents,” said Commissioner Jeremy Branch.
About the time researchers wrap up their first day at the dig, parishioners at this church will hold a memorial service for the boys who never went home.
The look for bodies could go on for as long as a year but finding out what really happened over the 100 year plus history of the school is likely to remain buried forever.
The state is spending about 200,000 dollars to cover the exhumations. A federal grant will cover the cost of DNA testing, which will try to reunite the remains with a loved ones family.