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Thursday, May 21, 2009

FDLE Confirms: No “Mystery Graves” at Dozier

By Times Staff
Marianna – As the Jackson County Times has reported for some time, there are no "mystery graves" at Dozier School in Marianna.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released the results of its investigation into nearly 100 years of deaths at the Marianna facility, confirming reports by the Jackson County Times and the previous findings of Jackson County historian Dale Cox that there are no suspicious graves and no missing youths at Dozier.
The investigation was launched by order of Governor Charlie Crist after former students of the school alleged that students had "disappeared" while at Dozier and that some were buried at the little historic cemetery on the hill behind today’s Jackson County Correctional Facility. Television stations in the area even showed images of former Dozier students standing in the cemetery and crying for boys they said had been beaten to death and buried there.
Local historian Dale Cox quickly refuted the allegations of "mystery graves" almost as quickly as they surfaced. Cox indicated that his research into the history of the Dozier cemetery indicated that most of the 31 graves there dated prior to 1920. Cox told the Jackson County Times and other media outlets that 22 of the graves date from a fire in 1914 and the influenza epidemic in 1918. The rest, he said, explainable. To bolster his statements, Cox produced a 1940 aerial photograph two weeks ago that shows the cemetery.
It turns out the historian got it right. The report released by FDLE on Friday confirmed his findings on the history of the Dozier Cemetery and indicates that all of the graves there had been identified and almost all of them dated before 1940. None of the people buried there died as a result of staff abuse.
As Cox had earlier indicated, FDLE discovered that 22 of the graves dated from a fire at the school in 1914 and the Spanish flu epidemic 4 years later. Five other individuals were buried at the school prior to 1925. Of the remaining four graves, one is of a student who was killed by a mule, another contains the victim of an accidental drowning and one holds a student who died after running away in 1940. The last one contains a student who was murdered by four other students in 1944. His murderers were charged and tried.
The FDLE is continuing its investigation into claims of abuse at the school, but has completed its study of student deaths there without finding any evidence of either missing students or students who died from alleged staff abuse.
The announcement received limited media attention, nothing like the earlier stories when reporters flooded to Marianna in search of sensational headlines and "mystery graves." Historian Cox lambasted the media for the way it had covered the story and treated the community in general. "There were some good reporters who came here," he said, "but there are quite a few reporters and media organizations that owe Marianna and Jackson County an apology for the way they covered this story. They printed wild accusations of murders and secret graves with no supporting evidence. Now they should make up for it."

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