MARIANNA, Fla. – One of the Sunshine State’s darkest chapters is secreted in red clay and cemented by soaking nightmares.
“I’d wake up and tears would be coming out of my eyes,” Terry Burns said. “We’ve always said there’s more dead boys on there.”
Terry Burns, of Bradenton, spent nine months at the Dozier School for Boys. The state closed it in 2011 after decades of sexual and physical abuse claims. Just a year later, University of Southern Florida researchers carefully excavated dozens of unmarked graves and inside found boys’ remains who died mysteriously under state custody.
“Unanswered questions serve nobody and that the memory of the children requires us to pursue any questions that come up,” said Rev. Russell Meyer with the Florida Council of Churches.
Now a new preliminary report shows a private contractor clearing away large pine trees detected 27 anomalies consistent with possible graves.
“If there are human remains there, they are more than likely African American,” Rev. Meyer said.
The possible graves found as county officials cleaned-up buried pollution on the Dozier School’s 1,400 acres.
Now Governor Ron Desantis is now asking USF as well as a local reverend to work together.
“Careful, deliberate excavation by hand in the areas of the anomalies to determine what’s in the ground there?” Rev Meyer said.
In an email, USF researcher Dr. Erin Kimmerle stressed the importance of “fieldwork for the next phase” for a “resolution.”
A resolution Burns is still digging for.
“The fear of that school, it still lingers in my mind,” he said.