|Memorial area at Dozier School Cemetery|
In a press conference this morning in Tampa, employees of the University of South Florida (USF) confirmed that the number of graves found at the Dozier School Cemetery matched exactly the number provided by me and others in the community.
The media all day has been claiming that researchers found "24 more graves than should be there." That is categorically false. They found exactly the number of graves that documentation indicates should be there.
The university, which has spent more than $600,000 in taxpayer funds to dig up the historic cemetery at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, FL, confirmed this morning that it had found 55 graves in the cemetery.
I tried to provide the university with evidence of 55 graves at the cemetery, but its employees refused to meet with me.
For more than 18 months, I have indicated that I believed there were "approximately 53 bodies there" (quote from the Tampa Bay Times, 4/13/2013). On September 22 of last year, I provided the university's legal office with documentation of 2 additional deaths at the school from the years prior to 1906, bringing the total to 55. University researchers never responded.
|Artifact left behind in tracks of USF vehicle.|
It raised a question that remains unanswered today. What kind of scientist or professional researcher, being paid with taxpayer money to find the truth about the cemetery, would not examine a box containing thousands of pages of documentation? You can answer that question for yourself.
Today's announcement by USF confirms an article I posted here on December 29, 2013: No Mass Grave at Dozier School Cemetery. There was no mass grave at the Dozier School Cemetery. In fact, claims by one former student that more than 150 graves would be found there, the university's announcement now confirms, have been proved to be completely false.
|Memorial at Dozier before its destruction by project.|
I said in early 2013 that if no bodies of students murdered by employees - as some have claimed - were found at the school, then employees of USF would owe the people of Marianna and Jackson County an apology. I predict, however, that no apology from them will ever come.
They say they will continue to search and dig in what is now becoming a clearly desperate effort to find more graves. Let them dig, but in my opinion no more public money should be provided to them once they have finished spending the more than $600,000 they have already been given.
I hope they can find the families of those known to be buried in the cemetery. It would be a shame if 80% of the bodies they dug up without first taking the time to do so are just thrown back in a hole with nothing but a number. How is that an improvement? Regardless, hopefully they can find the families that do not know they need closure so they can "give them closure" as they have promised.
|1947 map showing original cemetery fence.|
The media also continues to show its inability to understand that the little area at the school with metal crosses and a cable around them was a memorial, not the actual cemetery. The actual cemetery - once surrounded by a wire fence, portions of which were found in spoil piles left behind by USF - enclosed a somewhat larger area of around 50 by 100 feet. All of the graves found were inside the line of the original cemetery fence, not "outside the cemetery" as some media outlets have already claimed today.
Apparently they either can't understand that simple fact or they are lying to save their reputations.
As far as Marianna and Jackson County are concerned, our community has been vindicated. The media will never say that and USF will never say that, but we know it and we can hold our heads a bit higher today.
I wish only peace and happiness to all involved in this fiasco.