Department of State Denies USF Permit to Exhume Bodies at Dozier

By: Sanika Dange Email
By: Sanika Dange Email

A number of people are upset about the state's latest denial of a permit to a group of University of South Florida researchers wanting to dig-up suspected grave sites at the old Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied the request yesterday.

US Senator Bill Nelson says he refuses to accept this as an end to this on-going controversy.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied the University of South Florida's request, saying his department did not have the authority to grant an exhumation permit, unless they have historical or archeological significance.

But US Senator Bill Nelson says that's not the case. "The Department of State under law has the authority to exhume graves under the State Archaeologist that are more than 75 years old."

Since Dozier opened in 1900, researchers believe at least some of the unmarked grave sites are old enough to meet those guidelines.

But Nelson didn't stop with the rules and regulations, saying, "If the Governor really wanted to do this, it would be done. Saying the Department of State doesn't have jurisdiction, that's just an excuse."

But local historian Dale Cox believes the state was right to deny USF's request.

"It should be the final answer. In fact I think the judge's ruling when it was issued a couple month's back should've been the final answer. The real issue here is university of South Florida's unwillingness to attain permission from the next of kin of the people buried there."

But researchers say they do have the support of the families, even collecting DNA samples from some of them to help identify the remains.

Nelson also believes the questions and mystery needs to be resolved.

"People of Florida want to know what happened. The families want to know what happened. The families want closure about this mystery of their loved ones."

Senator Nelson says the school is consulting with attorneys to find their next course of action.

Governor Rick Scott signed this year's budget, which included about $200,000 for the USF researchers to do their work at Dozier.

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