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The Dozier saga

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The Lost Bones

A two-part series

A special report by Ben Montgomery

Photography by Edmund D. Fountain

Illustrations by Cameron Cottrill

Part 1

Ground Truth

Part 2

Puzzle Pieces

For more than a century, boys were sent to the Florida School for Boys reformatory in the north Florida town of Marianna. Many were beaten brutally and bear the physical and psychological scars to this day. Many boys, though, never came home. They died, some under mysterious circumstances. They were buried in unmarked graves and they were forgotten. Several years ago, a young anthropology professor from the University of South Florida decided she would try to answer the many questions about what happened to these boys and, if she could, return their remains to their families. To get to the truth she would have to fight.

The

Backstory

Dozier School for Boys

For their own good: a St. Petersburg Times special report on child abuse at the Florida School for Boys

MARIANNA — The men remember the same things: blood on the walls, bits of lip or tongue on the pillow, the smell of urine and whiskey, the way the bed springs sang with each blo ...

John Bennett, a former guard at Dozier

Florida juvenile justice: 100 years of hell at the Dozier School for Boys

MARIANNA The boys were watching. They had noticed the old men and the television trucks gathered at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys. They were not allowed outside, but th ...

The

Victims

Related

Stories

  1. Boys' remains from troubled Dozier school to be buried in Tallahassee, memorial to be erected on school grounds

    Human Interest

    MARIANNA — The bones came up from the red earth of Jackson County, from a forgotten corner of the campus of Florida's oldest reform school. Putting them back into the ground, deciding how and where the remains of boys who died in state custody should spend eternity, proved hard.

     The cemetery at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys is seen at the end of exhumation work on Dec. 20, 2013, in Marianna, Fla. Researchers from the University of South Florida removed 55 sets of remains from the cemetery. [Photo courtesy of Dr. Erin Kimmerle, University of South Florida]
  2. Rural Jackson County, laid-off workers feel the pinch of Dozier school's closing

    MARIANNA — To the rest of Florida, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys was best known for its dark history as a place where the reformatory's guards regularly beat their charges until that practice was ended a few decades ago. But to the current residents of rural Jackson County, it was an economic engine, …

    The Dozier School for Boys, which closed in June, provided many people, including generations of families, with jobs over the past 111 years in Jackson County.
  3. After a century of pain, former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys closes

    News

    MARIANNA — He drove up from Fort Walton Beach, to the front gate, and by the time he arrived his daughter's text had come through. I'm proud of you.

    Bryant Middleton stands at the entrance to the former Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna on Thursday. 
  4. A Dozier boy’s nightmares

    Perspective

    Editor's note: Last month, the state Department of Juvenile Justice announced it would be closing Florida's oldest state-run reform school, commonly known as the Dozier School for Boys, on June 30. Robert Straley, of Clearwater, was sent to the school in 1963 for running away from home. He attributes a …

    Robert Straley at 12, not long before Dozier.
  5. State closes controversial boys' school in Marianna

    Human Interest

    The state-run school for boys in Marianna, which has eluded closure for more than a century despite chronic scandal, is closing June 30 after 111 years of operation.

    Boys would frequently run away from the school. It was eventually ringed with a chain-link fence and razor wire.
  6. Suit alleges former Dozier school abused three boys

    Public Safety

    They changed the name, pushed out the superintendent, reduced the population of young prisoners, retrained the staff and fired employees caught sleeping on the job.

  7. Infamous school for boys will shed the Dozier name

    Human Interest

    Change is coming again to the state's oldest reform school, a place with such a long and ugly history some say it can never be fixed.

  8. Investigation into child abuse at Marianna reform school brings no charges

    Public Safety

    They have thought about revenge, daydreamed about swinging a leather strap at a feeble old man. Some have even driven back to Marianna, as grown men, with murderous intent.

  9. Change is coming to Dozier, officials say

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — With lawmakers questioning its future, a top official with the Department of Juvenile Justice made assurances Wednesday that change is coming to the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

    The Florida School for Boys did not have fences in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, boys would frequently run away, but they were usually caught by guards, dogs or townspeople.
  10. Documents detail abuse at Florida School for Boys

    Human Interest

    John Brodnax wishes the truth were so easy to ignore. How nice it would be to forget Marianna and the blood he left there.