TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - The first phase of the investigation into 27 suspected graves at the Dozier School for Boys is complete. Researchers found no evidence of burials at the dig site, but the investigation is not over yet.
Almost immediately after 27 anomalies described as possible graves were discovered at the former school Governor Ron DeSantis ordered the investigation.
"You know, we should have the facts and put them out for the public. So I've told them to proceed as quickly as possible. I have no idea how long it's going to take,” said DeSantis in June.
After fewer than two weeks, University of South Florida researchers completed the initial investigation into the anomalies. Instead of bodies the team found mostly tree roots.
“When something is not a burial, right? You know, if it's a ball of tree roots, a stump, that's immediately obvious and we can ultimately document that and move on,” said Dr. Erin Kimmerle, the USF forensic anthropologist leading the investigation.
Researchers will now conduct laser surveying of the entire 1,400-acre school property to rule out the possibility of any additional graves. The effort will be aided by historical analysis of the property.
"In terms of looking for other burials in different parts of the campus, you can really use probability theory to say how likely is it someone was ever buried here because if there used to be a structure there, they're most likely not buried underneath that structure,” said Kimmerle.
The White House Boys, a group of former Dozier students, told us the latest findings don’t change their long held belief more bodies are still somewhere on the school grounds.
“We know that there's 183 on the books that came in, but they're not on the books going out. So what happened to them?” said White House Boy James ‘Harley’ DeNyke when we spoke with him after the investigation was officially announced in June.
Fifty-five remains were unearthed at the school in 2013 and members of the White House Boys have their suspicions where other graves may be located.
The second phase of the investigation set to begin in the fall should put the issue to rest once and for all.
The Department of State has said a meeting will be held to discuss the latest findings, but the date hasn’t been set yet.