27 more graves uncovered at notorious Florida reform school where children were "locked in chains, beaten and sexually abused"
Experts estimated at least 82 bodies were buried at the site when the school was segregated in the late '60s
Environmental workers may have uncovered 27 more human graves at a notorious Florida reform school. The school, which was shuttered in 2011, reportedly saw students locked in chains, brutally beaten, and sexually abused.
Experts said that "anomalies consistent with possible graves" were found at the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Florida, stated a Daily Mail report.
According to the Miami Herald, the discovery was made by workers from the Department of Environmental Protection as they were preparing to clean up fuel storage near the adjacent Boot Hill Cemetery. The workers estimated at least 82 bodies were buried at the site.
A large gravesite was already found on the north side of the campus. Numerous African American boys were buried at the site when the school was segregated. At least 31 graves were marked with white crosses, however, they do not correspond with actual burial sites, researchers say.
Now, forensic scientists have found evidence of more bodies buried under the site using high-tech search equipment.
Evidence of at least 50 graves was found on the school's property using ground-penetrating radar and soil samples, the University of South Florida in Tampa said in 2012.
Prior to that, it was found that there were 81 school-related deaths of students from 1911 to 1973, according to an investigation report published by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in 2009.
The University of Florida team had conducted another investigation in 2012 when they confirmed a staggering 98 deaths at the school in the period between 1914 and 1973. While quite a few of the bodies were presumed to have been shipped to their families, most of them were buried in the area.
However, the searches have been hindered owing to overgrowth on the grounds.
According to the school's own records, more than 50 children were buried at the gravesite and around 30 other bodies were transported to another burial location. Some of the boys had reportedly died under unexplained circumstances, according to relatives of the children.
On Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis wrote a letter to Jackson County Chairman Clint Pate, saying that "during a ground pollution cleanup… anomalies consistent with possible graves have been discovered."
DeSantis reassured Pate his team "is dedicated to collaboratively determining the best course of action" and said a combined effort by the DEP, Department of Management Services, the Department of State and the Department of Economic Opportunity would "develop a path forward... Representatives of these agencies will be reaching out to meet with county officials as the first step to understanding and addressing these preliminary findings."
"We have received the report and are studying the information and findings," County Administrator Wilanne Daniels said in a statement. "We will be working with our State Agency partners to determine the next steps."
Several years ago, former students of the school opened up about stories of sexual abuse and regular beatings at the institute. For about 100 years, Dozier, the state's major reform school, was a legend among adolescents. Much of the abuse reportedly took place in a whitewashed building at the school called the "White House".
After a years-long controversy over widespread physical and sexual abuse, the Department of Juvenile Justice closed Dozier School in June 2011.