Sunday, December 29, 2013

No Mass Grave at Dozier School Cemetery: Media Falls Silent

Dozier School Cemetery Site
Employees from the University of South Florida (USF) appear to have completed the exhumation of the graves from the Dozier School Cemetery. No mass grave was found.

The cemetery proved to be exactly what former school employees and local residents said it would be, an old cemetery where most of the graves were interred more than 75 years ago.

The media, which covered the beginning of the dig with carnival-like excitement, has vanished.

The university is expected to continue its research at Dozier for another eight months, trying to find a "second cemetery" that some claim must exist at the school. Former employees and local residents say there has not been a second cemetery within the memory of anyone alive in the community. State and Federal maps and plats dating back to the 1930s show only one cemetery, the one that has now been dug up by USF.

Wire from the original cemetery fence.
All of the graves found were inside the old fence line of that cemetery, which the media has sometimes confused with the small memorial erected at the site during the 1960s. In fact, an old wire fence surrounded a somewhat larger area and all of the graves were inside that area. The remains of that fence were visible in the spoil piles left behind when USF used heavy equipment to clear the historic site earlier in the year.

USF has not commented on the results of the dig and all media coverage stopped after the work revealed the bodies interred at the cemetery had been buried in coffins according to standard religious and mortuary practices of the time, not "dumped in holes" as some had claimed. USF employees - before falling silent - said during the first days of the dig that some of the coffins were "quite decorative."

Former employees of the school and local citizens with knowledge of its history had long said that the graves were not hidden or clandestine. They pointed out that people - both students and employees - had died at the school over its more than 100-year history and were known to be buried in the cemetery. They indicated that the bodies were buried in coffins and that funerals were held. A long-time maintenance employee of the school even pointed out that the graves originally had wooden markers, but that time and the elements had rotted them away. They disputed claims that the cemetery was a "dumping ground" for human bodies.  Despite the ridicule they faced in the media and on the internet, they maintained their stand.  In the end, they were right.

Although the university isn't talking for now, one thing is very clear: there were not 150 or more bodies in the cemetery as claimed by some former students of the now closed reform school. One former student told the media on the day that the dig began that there were "at least 100 more bodies up there" than the 50 or so thought by USF employees before the dig began.

The claims of hundreds of bodies in the cemetery received widespread coverage in state, national and international media. There has been no coverage since the claims proved false.

In answer to questions about why he had stopped covering the dig once it became clear that most of the allegations surrounding the cemetery were false, one journalist indicated he was "waiting for the final report because I don't want to report anything that isn't correct." Oddly, such journalistic standards were not at issue before the dig began. Wild stories then included allegations of everything from hundreds of graves in the cemetery to claims that it was a dumping ground for people murdered by the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Attorney General Pam Bondi and the NAACP pushed for the dig, claiming repeatedly that "atrocities" had occurred. A leader with the NAACP even compared Dozier School to the infamous Nazi death camp of Dachau. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson did as well, posturing for television cameras with statements such as, "where there's smoke, there's fire."

More than $600,000 in state and federal tax money funded the dig, but in the end no clandestine mass grave was found.  The USF employees and volunteers have gone back to Tampa to analyze the remains and try to identify bodies for the handful of next of kin they actually found. The media has gone silent.

The little memorial placed decades ago by school employees and students in memory of those buried in the cemetery was destroyed by the dig. The graves it commemorated are gone.


33 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Dale for keeping us informed.

Anonymous said...

As a child my brother and I always went to Dozier at Christmas to see the light displays. That is a fond memory. A fond memory now will be the talking head blow hards doing their best to find anyway possible to NOT report the new findings.

Wendy Arthur said...

I just read your article from a link I saw on a friend's Facebook page. This is what I posted as a response:
"As a former journalist and Lifestyles Editor of the Floridan in the 90s, I can tell you that I would have been skinned alive by Jane Benton and Tammy Raits (Editor in Chief and Managing Editor, respectively) if I turned in a story without facts being checked. Tammy Raits always pounded into our heads the old newspaper adage, 'If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out!' NOTHING was to be printed until facts were checked! Kudos to Dale Cox for journalistic integrity and for standing up for the good names of the people who worked at Dozier."

Cindy Gay Sloan said...

No surprise about the graves. The wild accusers should be interviewed. I'm sure they would say there is another "mass grave pit" somewhere. They fail to acknowledge facts, just like the media. Benign facts don't sell newspapers, wild hysteria does.

For $600,000 USF should match all remains and identify each one by name. Oh, and they should be held accountable for the damage to the cemetery (replace memorial, at the very least.

BILL PRICE said...

are you kidding me? Dale Cox is not the one doing the digging at Dozier. If you want the real story, you should call and talk to Erin Kimmerle. I have seen and read several articles from this guy Dale Cox and he writes defensive articles for the area and persons living there and I do suppose worked at the school. I would not be surprised to find out that he is related to some of the area residents and is protecting family. I was at Dozier School for boys and I do have first hand knowledge of the abuse meted out at the school. I was there for running away from abusive stepfathers and dropped right in the middle of that devil pit. The article you have just read holds no merit because the first two graves exhumed were not in the cemetery as marked and has already proved that there are not only unmarked, but unrecorded deaths at the school. I have heard that they kept poor records and didn't record several deaths but have avoided the word cover up. how could these people who have made comments about this article believe what one man has written but ignore what 500 men have testified to? Ordinarily I wouldn't bother to get involved in a debate of he said and he said but I witnessed it first hand and I personally have lived with and suffered all my life with the abuse I received not just there but also from abusive stepfathers, and at the time didn't have the laws in place to protect a child as they do today. Imagine if you will that you are a child in the 60's and suffered what myself and many other children did at the time. Try to imagine your child in the same position and he or she can tell no one because they don't believe you and 50 years later they still don't. wake up America, wake up Florida, there are men still hurting out here and every time we tell someone they don't believe. Bill Price/former student 61-62.

Dale Cox said...

Bill, The little area with crosses at the site was not the cemetery. It was a memorial placed there by the school's boy scout troops in the 60s (in other words, by the students themselves). The actual cemetery was surrounded by a larger wire fence. That is according to both me and Dr. Kimmerle, since that is what she wrote in her interim report. It is one of the few things that she and I agreed on about the cemetery before the dig started. The first two graves you mention seeing exhumed were both found within that larger wire fence that enclosed around an acre of land. I will refrain from personally attacking you as you have done me and simply wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. God Bless.

Dale

RICESKI said...

Dale [may I call you that?] I have read what you have written before and you were wrong. You are the one who spearheaded an effort to stop this investigation and I for one am glad you failed. I was tortured at the hands of people just like you who happen to work for Florida [in my opinion.] People that put their own interest above finding the truth. You thinking the facts found by the investigators not coming to light yet gives you the right to claim the investigation has failed shows how ignorant you are of how justice works. We White House Boys will prevail over your interest and show the truth. Remember there is another investigation going on concerning graves and torture as well as sexual abuse in Marianna and Okeechobee. Why are you so gleeful in your report? I think you skewered the facts here and as one patient man who's waited well over 40 years to get to the bottom of this you and your ilk will prove to be one more bump in the road to justice. I feel for your kind but I just can't quite reach you. We will keep you informed of the truth because our lawyers, a US Senator and the Florida legislature along with the AG Pam Bondi disagree with your conclusion. For that we WHBz thank a just and loving God. Before it's over I think you too will be exposed for the bigot I suspect you are.

Happy New Year.

Dale Cox said...

It would be a waste of time to try to discuss the issue with you so I will just wish you Happy New Year too. God bless.

Dale

Anonymous said...

I wonder how Dale Cox has so much information that has not been released yet? From what I have been told the news crews left because no information is being released from the USF until ALL of the facts are compiled. Yet Mr. Cox is stating he has all of the facts......very strange reporting.

Chuck F.

prov134 said...

Sorry Bill I dont buy your answer. I too have personal knowledge of Dozier. I suspect your intentions sourly smell of money.

Dale Cox said...

Chuck, I have never claimed to have all the information. I only write what I can confirm. And you are correct, as I noted in the column USF has stopped commenting. I found that odd after all the press conferences and media interviews they gave, but that is certainly up to them. It will all be public record in the end and will all come out. I hope you had a Merry Christmas and that God blesses you with a good new year.
Dale

BILL PRICE said...

In answer to prov134, I don't recall mentioning anything about money. For your information I have done very well for myself and since returning from Vietnam where I fought for the rights and freedom of the people who abused me with no regard to compensation at that time or now. I sold my business and receive social security, so my life is comfortable and have no need of monetary compensation. I have lived a hard life and have made and earned everything I have, no one has given me anything and I haven't asked for anything here. I do question your comment though and why you would even involve yourself in a conversation that is of no consequence to you. please go to thewhitehouseboys.com and read some of the stories of the men that were there and educate yourself on the reasoning for my statements. Granted there are some that are looking for compensation for a life of sleepless nights and nightmares of what happened to them. I would love to be able to open peoples eyes and have them see and feel what I have felt. I was a child at the time and I was beaten until I bled by grown men, for trying to get away from being beaten. (catch 22) But by the grace of God I didn't turn the wrong way and complicate my life more. What I am trying to say to you prov134 is that I am not a liar and want to be believed

Dale Cox said...

Bill, I suspect prov134 was basing their post on widely publicized comments by another former student. And by the way, I can certainly understand your desire to be believed. We all prefer to be treated that way. Many of us in the community said that the Dozier School Cemetery had nothing to do with the abuse allegations, but no one even considered the fact that we were telling the truth. There is enough tragedy and sadness surrounding the cemetery (i.e. the 1914 fire, the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, etc.) without the false claims of hundreds of bodies being buried there.
Dale

BILL PRICE said...

Although I never witnessed the death of anyone at the school, I did see a deceased child there. I played football and at a practice one of the players collapsed and it was a long time before he was tended to and it was reported that he was seen to immediately. I was informed later that he was dead and I saw his body being removed from the gym. I understand the reasoning in separating the abuse from the cemetery. unfortunately I am not sure that it didn't happen given the extent of the brutality carried out at the school. I do realize that it is hard to believe that some one you know or possibly related to could commit acts of violence but we all have demons, some manifest them in different ways. I have been lied to, stolen from, abused and hurt in my life and the sad part is, they have been done by family and friends. We don't know. I know full well of the cemetery location because I worked for 2 years on the yard crew pulling gang mowers with a tug. the cemetery was marked in the same location because the wire fence was actually pulled down with one of the mowers, by accident (not mine) It was put back where it came from. At the time there were no fences so we mowed everything. Dale thanks for publishing these comments of mine. I don't do it to offend anyone today. I am sure there is no one alive that would condone this behavior whether in Marianna or anywhere in the country. Not everything I experienced was negative, I learned things and had some good times but lived with the fear that it could change at any time. p.s. let the anonymous know that I did do the decorations for 2 years, so thanks for the kudos

Anonymous said...

Gomer says shazam shame shame shame I worked on your daddy`s farm picking cotton your family made money off the backs of little boys but the big question is did your daddy kill any students at Dozier.Was your daddy the corrections officer in charge of the A.C.I. dogs your going to have to deleate all the balloney you posted about the burial grounds of Dozier

Anonymous said...

its a crime scene you will be arrested for snooping around

Dale Cox said...

Bill, I am always happy to publish comments that are thoughtful (or even some that aren't thoughtful, so long as they aren't offensive or obscene). I find your comments to be very thoughtful and although we disagree on some things, we agree on others.

I have read the coroner's inquest on the student you mention who collapsed at practice. He did receive an autopsy and it was determined he died from a heart problem. Cases like his are very sad to me, because their illness never seems to be detected until they collapse at practice. It seems to happen almost every year somewhere.

Was the fence you mention seeing hit by the mower a wire fence or was it a cable like the one that surrounded the crosses until recently? There was an older wire fence that surrounded an area of maybe 100 feet by 50 feet in the 40s and 50s. The crosses were part of a smaller memorial inside the line where that larger wire fence was once located. Pieces of it were turned up when USF used heavy equipment to clear out the cemetery area.

I'm glad you recall that the cemetery site once was mowed. I've been telling people that for several years but it is hard to get anyone to believe me.

As far as Dozier itself, I personally believe that the state (or judges in the state) committed child abuse when they sent kids to the school for such things as truancy or because the orphanage was full. I look back through copies of the old school newspaper and see Happy Birthday wishes in there for kids as young as 1 and 2 years old. What on earth was a judge thinking to send a kid that age to a juvenile facility?

Dale

Dale Cox said...

D.H., I know who you are so you don't have to keep posting anonymously. Also, as you can see, when you post comments without being offensive and obscene (or using racial slurs, which you did in one yesterday), I don't delete them.

To answer your allegations: 1) No, my dad never worked at Dozier School. 2) No, he was not in charge of the dog teams at ACI. 3) We never farmed cotton, so you never picked cotton for us.

Regarding your claim that the cemetery is a "crime scene," it is not. Marianna Police, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, FDLE, FBI, the Attorney General's Office and USF all say it is not a crime scene. There is no active criminal investigation regarding the cemetery or anything else at Dozier.

Dale

Wendy Arthur said...

I would like to make it known that someone called me today at 3:24 pm from a blocked number to let me know he takes umbrage to the fact that I "agree with Dale Cox" about his stories on Dozier School. He claimed to know the "real story" and has taken the FBI to the school. This coward didn't give me the chance to say anything before he hung up. I can only assume it was the same person who messaged me to express the same opinions a few days ago.

Cell phone records will be requested to find out who this coward is, as my husband is bent on finding him for having the nerve to call and harass me for expressing my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Several abusive stepfathers only to be thrown into a abusive reform school....let me guess the abuse continues today from your spouse, your neighbors , your job... IDK...maybe it's all on you, ever thought about that?

Dale Cox said...

Wendy, I am terribly sorry that someone would stoop so low as to make anonymous harassing calls to you. I receive them regularly, but am used to it and willing to deal with it (although I do report anything threatening to authorities and am willing to file charges over threatening messages). You merely expressed a viewpoint and shouldn't be subjected to such. Everyone has a right to their opinion and you have my full support in finding out who it was and taking any steps necessary to end harassment.

Dale

Dale Cox said...

As far as the comment about stepfathers, I can't even follow what you are talking about. I definitely am not involved in abusing anyone, if that is what you are suggesting. Just because people disagree with you does not mean they are "abusing" you. Me letting the "cat out of the bag" that no mass grave was found doesn't abuse anyone, it is simply a statement of fact.

Dale

Anonymous said...

When this is all over with I challenge everyone to have a food fight at Golden Corral

Dale Cox said...

Please note that I don't mind receiving comments from people with different viewpoints on this issue. I am fine with different points of view.

That said, please don't waste your time by sending obscene, threatening or racist comments. No comment appears here that is not moderated first, so comments of that nature aren't going to see the light of day.

Also, don't drink and post. :) Sometimes it is wise to just step away from the keyboard. If your post is unintelligible, I'm not going to waste everyone else's time with it.

That said, feel free to discuss and debate as much as you would like.

Dale

Anonymous said...

I didn`t know a pie was a deadly weapon,no threats have been made and I was told when I`m allowed to speak to the press I just might pick you.I have 52 pictures I took while I was at Dozier showing investigators where the white cemetary is located.Sunshine News article June 3rd and if you can apply all your energy having that zoom blowed up you will have something to add to your story.There are two sets of folklore tales Dozier Employee`s or the Inmates so far the Inmates are winning The Longest Yard............

Dale Cox said...

I don't know what you are talking about with regard to pie and are you admitting you placed the "anonymous" call to the lady last week and didn't even have the courage to tell her your name?

Also, I've tried to tell you this politely, but they already checked the location you keep saying you pointed out and found no evidence of grave shafts. The same was true of all the other locations that people pointed out that they had "heard" was where bodies were buried. Nothing was in any of them, other than the known cemetery that everyone knew was there.

You would serve your cause and fellow former students better if you would stop making claims like that. Just relax and stick to the truth and you will have much more credibility.

Best,
Dale

Anonymous said...

As mentioned above, there were many ailments that ended in demise in that era. Are you terribly certain that couldnt have been the culprit ultimately? I work with offenders every day and there are several factors that go into timely care, ones that you may not consider as a childly bystander.. just a thought!

Daniel Holloway said...

Hey Dale you going to that USF news release tuseday?? I think you should attend because you have alot of time investigating the case.I was invited to the press release maybe i`ll see you at the event.I can talk to the press now about that white cemetary and maybe i`ll even stop in at the downtown diner for breakfast and give everyone a good ole boy handshake when I come back to Marianna.Maybe you get to meet the director for the H.B.O. series coming out on the Dozier Prison For Boys~~~~~~~~Southern By The Grace Of God Daniel Holloway

Dale Cox said...

Daniel, I'm glad you are going to hear that my statements on the cemetery have been accurate! I don't plan to attend. USF refused to come and look at my files on the cemetery after requesting access to them through the local historical society. I don't think I'm particularly scary, but I guess they do. You are always welcome in Marianna and Jackson County, as is anyone who would like to visit. It is a beautiful and friendly community.

Best,
Dale

Daniel Holloway said...

Dale you did not do time in Dozier as a child you do not know what you are talking about you have been mis-informed.I have one employee hand book one punishment manual and thirty more graves that you people missed the crosses where removed from the white cemetary and placed in the school dump a fence line and a telephone pole compramised some of the graves and Elmore Bryant and mr.Couch are afraid to say anything about that cemetary but I`m a true rebel at heart just like jose Wales i fly my x-flag high and proud but you can`t change history to preserve the integrity of marianna yes i`m a cracker and maybe some of them yankee kids deserved a bullet but i`m just helping Mr.Varnadoe a fifth generation Plant City cracker retreive his uncle out of that hell hole and really that is the only thing that matters to me as far as the white house boys most stories were imbelished and over the top and they are mostly yankee`s the african americans have seperated themselves from the whitehouse boys for a good reason and i`m on their side just if i was a brother.........

Dale Cox said...

Danny, The crosses in the cemetery were put up by the school's boy scout troops in the early 60s. The community had nothing to do with them. The number placed came from ledgers, which only went back to around 1920. The previous ledger book was destroyed in the 1914 fire.

I have said for a couple of years that I believed there were more graves the 50 that Dr. Kimmerle and USF expected to find. In early 2013 I said I thought there were 54 or 55 graves total and since that time have located records for two additional burials, placing the number at 56 or 57.

I offered to share my documentation on the burials with the University of South Florida, but the school's representatives declined. I believe that is a ridiculous stand for anyone to take when researching any historical matter, but I offered and that is all I can do.

I also have noted that no records survive for the years 1906-1914 and I think it is possible that extra deaths could have taken place in those years, as well as in 1918 during the flu outbreak.

I firmly believe that all deaths at the school from the last 94 years (in other words, after 1920)are recorded.

I disagree with you on your claims about the "white cemetery." I believe the one on Boot Hill is the only one from the school era (i.e. post-1900) and I suspect the press will be finally be informed on Tuesday that the remains of both white and black individuals were found there.

I have never said much one way or the other about the White House allegations except that some individuals had changed their stories several times. In fact, I never commented at all on the Dozier situation at all until people began making untrue statements about the little cemetery.

The real tragedies of Dozier School to me are the 1914 fire deaths, the 1918 flu outbreak and the numbers of kids sent there - primarily by judges in South Florida - who did not belong in a reform school.

Attorney General Bondi has talked about "atrocities" at the school. Personally, I think the real atrocity took place when a Tampa judge overruled the school's managers and mandated that they accept kids as young as 6, 7 and 8 years old.

As far as hiding anything or trying to change the past, I have no interest in doing that. I have been very honest about what the documentation says and have been quick to release new information as I located new documentation. I suspect that when the university releases the number of graves found on Tuesday, it will be closer to my number of 56 or 57 (based on the documentation) than Dr. Kimmerle's 50(based on ground-penetrating radar).

Dale

Dale

A Davis said...

I find this article and the comments incredible in that this story cannot be solely invented from the imagination of a group of boys....We already know the cover ups the KKK and white power boys could perform in the 40's, 50's and 60's. Smells downright bad to me. Politics and the law were controlled by bigots down South. Oh, and I'm white by the way. Pure Canadian with no values associated to hate

Dale Cox said...

The KKK was very active in the North and Midwest during the Civil Rights era as well. Don't fall for "partial history." Marianna is a good community and for there to be a mass grave, someone would have to be missing. Despite my years of asking, no one has been able to provide me with even one single name of someone said to be missing from Dozier School. If they do, I will gladly get to the bottom of what happened to them. No one is seeking to cover up history, only to make sure that accurate history is preserved.

By the way, good luck on the winter up there. Its a tough one all over!

Dale