59ºF

Bodies recovered from Dozier School for Boys returned to cemetery

photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The bodies of five teens and two adults who died more than 100 years ago in a fire at a notorious Florida youth prison were returned to their graves Wednesday in a Panhandle cemetery known as Boot Hill.

Coffins containing the remains of two former staff members and five boys incarcerated at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna were unloaded one by one. All lost their lives in the fire in 1914.

The remains were recovered as part of an investigation into the abuse at the school. In total, the remains of more than 50 boys were unearthed.

Attending the funeral were men who attended the school years later. Mark Engelsen drove all the way from Texas.

“A lot of things happened to a lot of people at this place and I'm one of them," said Engelsen, who attended the school in the early 1970s.

The seven were buried on former school grounds is because they were originally laid to rest there and their deaths were not related to the abuse that plagued dozier for more than 100 years.

Charles Fudge said the abuse both haunts and unites those who experienced it.

“We need love and kindness, not torture," said Fudge, who attended in 1960-61.

James “Harley" DeNyke, who attended the school from 1964 to 1966, said the ceremony is part of the healing process.

“It helps the healing for a lot of us guys that are up there in our years now and brings peace," DeNyke said.

More than 40 boys whose bodies also recovered in 2015 will be buried in a cemetery in Tallahassee beginning this weekend.

Last year, that Florida Legislature formally apologized for the atrocities at Dozier.