TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The unearthed remains of 51 young men who died while in state custody at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna will soon have a final resting place.
The bodies were unearthed, some from unmarked graves, four years ago by USF anthropologist Erin Kimmerle. The majority remain unidentified.
Under a contract the state of Florida signed with two funeral homes, the remains of seven boys who were victims of a fire, will be returned to their original resting place at Dozier.
“They were never part of the mystery," said Art Kimbrough, owner of Tallahassee Memory Gardens Cemetery.
Because of the raw emotions of Panhandle residents and anger from former wards of the school, the remains of more than 40 others will be buried in donated plots in Tallahassee.
“To some extent, the anger of being painted as a town of torturers," said Kimbrough.
The most significant part of the contract with the state calls for the remains to be treated with dignity.
“The White House Boys, the ones who claim they were beaten and abused, didn’t want to see these remains go back to the place where they’d been abused before," Kimbrough said.
A monument to the boys will also be erected on the grounds of the state Capitol.
“They may never be identified (but) they’re still somebody’s loved ones, and it's our job to show proper humility and respect," said Rocky Ezell, lead funeral director at Abbey Funeral Homes.
The first step is to reinter the remains, then transport them back to North Florida. The contract calls for the reburial to be done within a year, but those doing the work say it won’t likely take more than 90 days.
If any of the unidentified remains are ever matched with a family, the state says it will pay to move those remains to a location of the family's choosing.
“Death is death. Burial is burial. There’s a finality to that that puts closure on things," Kimbrough said.
The cost of reinterment of the remains will depend on several variables, but should come in around $300,000.