The Dozier School for Boys closed in 2011 amid tales of abuse and even murder. University of South Florida Researchers have located dozens of unmarked graves. But their efforts to exhume those bodies have been thwarted. Until now.
"We are not exactly sure what happened there, but we know it wasn't good. And it's something that we as Floridians cannot ignore," said Pam Bondi.
"There is no shame in searching for the truth," said Ag Commissioner Adam Putnam.
Acting as the property's owner, "Any comments or objects? Hearing on the motion carries."
Governor Rick Scott and the State Cabinet voted to allow the USF to exhume the bodies.
Dozens for former inmates in the audience applauded.
Johnny Lee Gaddy was sent to Dozier in 1957. "I saw body parts of boys in different areas, in the hog pen."
The search for bodies will encompass an area near an existing cemetery and the former white section of the property where no graves are marked.
Robert Strayley was sent to Dozier in the 60’s. "I say that there is 200 kids buried there, and they may not find them all."
Researchers hope to start what they are describing as slow and pain staking work by the end of August.
"Well they've given us a year so we'll take a year, and we'll be doing field work and then continuing with the interviews," said USF Forensic Anthropologist Dr. Erin Kimmerle.
And for the families looking for loved ones who never came home, the search can’t begin soon enough.
State lawmakers gave USF 200,000 dollars to cover the exhumation costs. The federal government will pick up the cost of matching DNA with victims families.