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USF Researchers Identify First Set Of Remains From Dozier's Unmarked Graves

Florida Channel

A team of researchers say they’ve identified the first set of unearthed remains on the property of the now-defunct Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. It’s the first move towards closure one family has received, and some say it’s about time.

At a Tampa press conference, lead University of South Florida Researcher Erin Kimmerle announced her team had made their first positive DNA match in 14-year-old George Owen Smith, whose last known location was Dozier about 70 years ago. The match came from his now 85-year-old sister Ovell Smith Krell, who says she was surprised when she heard the news.

“At first, I was totally speechless, and I really didn’t know whether to believe it,” said Krell.

Robert Straley says he too was surprised by the news, but he’s just glad the process to bring closure to the families searching for answers can begin.

“Of course, the importance of them finding this boy’s body after 74 years, I believe it was, means that anybody in there has a shot of finding their loved ones as well,” said Straley.

Straley is one of the so-called White House Boys, who say they survived abuse at the North Florida school. He says he’s happy that state officials agreed to extend the permit for the researchers to continue their work until early August of next year. USF Researchers have so far uncovered the remains of 55 bodies.

Stay tuned to Friday's Capital Report for more on this story!

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.