Phase two of Dozier investigation to begin next month

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The state is preparing for the second phase of an investigation into the infamous reform school in the Florida Panhandle.

The investigation was ordered by the Department of State following a routine environmental cleanup on the former school grounds that accidentally identified the anomalies while using ground-penetrating radar. (Capitol News Service)

The emotional wounds the Dozier School for Boys left on the men who were sent there throughout its century-long existence are still painfully raw.

“I have a hard time with it. So does a lot of other people,” said Roy Conerly, who attended Dozier in 1961 and 1962.

The remains of 40 boys, who are suspected to have died from physical abuse, were uncovered in 2013. Earlier this year, an additional 27 possible burial sites were investigated, but no remains were found.

The excavation that turned up the remains of the 40 boys took almost half a year to complete. The most recent dig was completed in only a few weeks.

Not even Dozier survivors were allowed access to the dig, leaving them with unanswered questions.

“The amount of anomalies that were actually dug up,” said Charlie Fudge, who attended the school from 1960 through 1961.

“I'd like to have some answers on why it went so fast,” said James ‘Harley’ DeNyke, who was at Dozier from 1964 through 1966.

In a meeting Monday afternoon, lead researcher Dr. Erin Kimmerle, a University of South Florida forensic anthropologist, said the investigation was thorough.

"We ultimately excavated a very significant portion of this site, beyond just where the flags were,” said Kimmerle.

Now Kimmerle’s team will map the campus with LIDAR, a 3D imaging technology, to rule out other potential burials.

However, the technology has a significant limitation: it can only map open spaces.

“The challenge going forward with this property, of course, is that today much of it is wooded,” said Kimmerle. “And much more of it than was wooded well... basically until the 1980s."

It’s not yet clear how much of the 1,400-acre campus will be scanned when phase two begins next month.

Kimmerle noted some portions of the school grounds have been mapped previously by state agencies conducting routine surveying. She said the team is currently in the process of compiling all of that information.

The White House Boys, a group of Dozier Survivors, tell us Secretary of State Laurel Lee has indicated she hopes to allow them to be present during the LIDAR scans.