Announcement of new Dozier excavation provides hope for survivors

Published: Jun. 20, 2019 at 7:05 PM CDT
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After the discovery of 27 possible new graves at the former Dozier School for Boys in Mariana, state and local leaders have agreed on a plan to excavate the grounds.

Members of the group “The White House Boys,” who formerly attended the school, said they hope the new investigation brings the 100 plus year saga of Dozier to a close.

Early Thursday morning, three members of the White House Boys tended to the graves of 40 young boys found at the Dozier School for Boys in 2013. They did so with the knowledge more bodies may still be on the school grounds just an hour away from the Tallahassee cemetery where those already discovered are now buried.

"I don’t believe they found them all yet, and nobody else does,” said Roy Conerly, who attended Dozier from 1961-1962. "We've already found more than they said were there, there's no records, they don't even know who's who."

The White House Boys, now in their 60s and 70s, said more than 100 boys still have not been accounted for at the school, which is infamous for reports of physical and sexual abuse.

"One of these boys here was about six years old and the only thing that boy had amongst the remains was a marble,” said James ‘Harley’ DeNyke, who attended Dozier 1964-1966. “And all of us White House Boys, we carry a marble signifying that boy’s possession.”

Twenty-seven anomalies, believed to be graves, were identified at the school in April during a routine environmental cleanup.

The state announced Thursday afternoon that it had given the green light to start excavating the sites as early as mid-July.

From start to finish, the excavation and reinterment of the first 40 boys found at Dozier took about seven years. The White House Boys hope this time things move faster, and so far, indications are good.

"Maybe this will be a beginning to an end for all of us boys that have lived with this for our whole lives practically,” said Charles Fudge, who attended Dozier 1960-1961. "When they take an abused 12-year-old, you don't forget it. I'll be 72 this year and I'll live with that every day."

A timely conclusion isn't guaranteed, though. Once the initial dig is completed, there will also be LIDAR scans of the school grounds, the results of which could lead to a full excavation of the school grounds. Then there’s the question of relocating any remains that may be found.