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USF Request To Exhume Bodies At Dozier On Cabinet Agenda, Recommended For Approval

University of South Florida

The University of South Florida may be one step closer to digging up the human remains of boys believed to have died from alleged abuse at the infamous Dozier School for Boys. the USF researchers’ request to exhume bodies at the former Panhandle reform school is up for consideration at the next Florida Cabinet meeting.

After repeated attempts to get the state to approve the request, lead USF researcher Christian Wells says the school considered asking a judge to get involved. But, he says with the help of Attorney General Pam Bondi, the university put that plan on hold. The proposal to exhume the bodies at Dozier is now up for a vote at next Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

“We’re really grateful to the Attorney General’s office and Attorney General Pam Bondi for doing this and taking the initiative. We have been sort of mired in bureaucracy for quite a number of months in trying to determine who has authority and jurisdiction to allow archeological excavation of the [Boot Hill] cemetery area of the Dozier School for Boys,” said Wells.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner denied USF’s permit request twice. He says he does not have the authority to allow remains to be dug up for research purposes. USF researchers say they only want to return the remains believed to be on the Marianna property to the families affected. The request now goes before the four-member Cabinet, which includes Governor Rick Scott. Three votes are required for approval.

The chances look good for USF researchers, since the agenda item is recommended for approval.

This year, Florida lawmakers already appropriated $190,000 for the USF researchers’ continued research in the budget approved by Governor Scott.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner 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.