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Bondi, USF Say Detzner 'Misunderstood,' Can Grant Permit To Exhume Bodies At Dozier

The University of South Florida is not backing down from the state’s denial of a permit to search for more unmarked graves at the infamous Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. USF researchers, with the help of Attorney General Pam Bondi, believe they may unearth the remains of more boys believed to have died due to the alleged abuse received at the former North Florida reform school.

In a letter sent Monday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner says a permit to dig at the site only covers the recovery of objects of historical or archeological value—not the excavation of human remains, as requested by the USF researchers. But, following a meeting with Bondi Tuesday, USF released a statement saying Detzner misunderstood his office’s authority and could, in fact, issue the permit.

USF is requesting the permit to excavate the unidentified human remains at the Boot Hill Cemetery—a site linked to the Dozier School for Boys, where as many as 50 unmarked graves were found last year.

Bondi's Statement:

Our office met with the University of South Florida to determine what options are available, and we will continue to meet with them and support efforts to obtain answers to the many questions surrounding the deaths at the Dozier School for Boys.

Full USF Statement:

The University of South Florida met today with the Florida Attorney General’s Office and mutually agreed to follow up with Secretary of State Ken Detzner regarding his July 15, 2013 letter. We believe Secretary Detzner has misunderstood his office’s authority and jurisdiction under Florida law in this matter, specifically in USF researchers’ discovery of what appears to be unidentified human remains  at the Dozier site and the danger of those remains being destroyed. The discovery of human remains requires state action under Florida Statues section 872.05. The legislative intent of 872.05, states: “[i]t is the intent of the Legislature that all human burials and human skeletal remains be accorded equal treatment and respect based upon common human dignity without reference to ethnic origin, cultural background, or religious affiliation.”  We fully intend to present our position to Secretary Detzner in the near future. The University of South Florida remains committed to its research at the former Dozier School for Boys. The university also remains committed to fulfilling this project on behalf of the families of untold numbers of children who were buried at Dozier in unmarked graves and these families’ fundamental right to have their relatives’ remains identified and buried in a proper and respectful manner.

For more news updates from Sascha Cordner, follow her on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.