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State petitions to exhume bodies at Dozier

University of South Florida researchers searching for the forgotten graves of former inmates at the Dozier School for Boys could receive additional help from the state.

Attorney General Pam Bondi announced today that she filed a petition on behalf of Medical Examiner Michael Hunter that would give him a year to dig up the remains recovered at the former reform school in Marianna. Although the USF archaelogists are still involved, because some remains may not yet be 75 years old the Medical Examiner's Office is required by state law to intervene but needs a court order.

In addition to seeking authorization to exhume bodies, Bondi is supporting efforts to slow down the planned sale of the state-owned land by extending the current injunction another 150 days.

Bondi's petition was filed in the 14th Circuit Court, which includes Marianna.

Here is Bondi's full press release:

Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office today filed a petition on behalf of Medical Examiner Dr. Michael Hunter to allow him to exhume human remains on the site of the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla. for up to one year. The petition seeks a court order to exhume bodies from “Boot Hill Cemetery” and surrounding areas, where it is believed there may be unmarked graves and unaccounted for bodies of boys who died between 1900 and 1952 at the school.

“The deaths that occurred at Dozier School for Boys in Marianna are cloaked in mystery, and the surviving family members deserve a thorough examination of the site,” stated Attorney General Pam Bondi. “I am committed to doing everything within my power to support investigative efforts to help resolve unanswered questions and bring closure to the families who lost loved ones.”

The exhumation would be conducted in order to locate unidentified graves and human remains and to conduct complete autopsies and medical investigations to determine the cause of death of the boys.

Dr. Michael Hunter is the appointed Medical Examiner for the Fourteenth District of Florida.

In addition to filing the petition on behalf of the Medical Examiner to exhume bodies, Attorney General Bondi has also supported investigative efforts by working with the Department of Environmental Protection to support a 150-day extension of an injunction barring the sale of the state-owned land.

Click here to Download Dozier Petition.