Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner (FDLE) Gerald Bailey today announced the findings of the department’s investigation into unmarked graves located on the property near the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.
FDLE investigators identified 31 individuals buried in the school’s cemetery:
·Twenty four of the individuals died as a result of illness or accident. Of the 24, eight students and two staff members were killed in a dormitory fire in 1914. Twelve students perished as a result of influenza, pneumonia, tuberculosis, or other medical conditions. Two students died of accidental deaths: one drowned and another fell from a mule and ruptured a lung.
· In 1944, one student was murdered by four other students who were planning an escape. Accounts indicate the victim was killed because of his knowledge of the escape plans. The four involved were charged in the death.
· In September 1940, an individual ran away from the school and was later found deceased four months later under a Marianna residence. Records reflect a coroner’s inquest but determination of death could not be made due to decomposition.
·Five individuals, all of whom were buried from 1919 – 1925, had no listed cause of death. The only notation found in records indicated that they were buried in the cemetery.
In addition to identifying the 31 individuals buried at the ceremony, the investigation documented 50 student deaths that occurred from 1911 to the last known death at the school in 1973. These deaths were mostly accidental or illness-related and their circumstances are documented in school records and death certificates. Two of these deaths are cases in which students murdered other students. In one case, an escapee from the school was shot and killed by a sheriff’s deputy. The records available document all of these student deaths. There is no information indicating burial in was the cemetery.
The investigation found no evidence that the school or the staff caused, or contributed to, any of these deaths. The investigation found no evidence that the school or its staff made any attempts to conceal the deaths of any students at the school. In all cases, the deceased were accounted for in official records.
In conducting the investigation, FDLE interviewed former students and staff and reviewed records from school ledgers, student record books, the school’s newspaper (The Yellow Jacket), local and national newspapers, the Florida Department of State Library and Archives and the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Vital Statistics. The Department of Juvenile Justice cooperated fully in the investigation and provided FDLE with access to all available records, files and documentation.
FDLE’s investigation also found that during the time the graves were placed (1914 – 1952), the school was owned or operated by the Governor Appointed Commissioners and the Board of Commissioners of State Institutions.
FDLE’s investigation began Dec. 9, 2008 at the direction of Governor Charlie Crist. Governor Crist charged FDLE with determining: 1) the entity that owned or operated the property at the time the graves were placed; 2) identification, where possible, of the remains of those buried on the site; and 3) if any crimes were committed, and if so, the perpetrators of those crimes.
While the portion of the investigation addressing the identification of unmarked graves has concluded, FDLE continues to investigate allegations surrounding the abuse of the students at the school.