SATSUMA, Fla. -- After decades of searching for the truth, on Saturday, University of South Florida researchers will exhume bodies at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna. The Dozier School is a place where former students claim they were abused, some tortured and others killed. It was in operation from 1900 to 2011.
In The Florida Times-Union on Sunday, February 8, 2009, Huel Gandy came face to face with his past. A dark reminder of the 10 months he lived at the so-called reform school. Gandy was sent to Dozier with his older brother back in 1950, after constantly running away from an abusive home.
"I told people about it all my life and nobody listened," said Gandy.
He said no one believed his truth, about what happened on the other side of the walls in a building students called the White House, because of it's color.
"They would make us lay down on these beds, bite the pillow and hold the rails on the bed," said Gandy.
During his time at Dozier, Gandy recalls visiting the White House for a scheduled beating at least seven or eight times.
"They would put us all in that one room on the left hand side," said Gandy. "And we would stand there and watch them beat those kids. It would just scare you to death."
Among the many allegations of misery and sexual abuse that came out of Dozier are also claims that children were killed there.
"Sometimes they would beat them and you would never see that kid anymore," said Gandy.
He doesn't know whatever came of those kids. But some former students believe the unmarked graves at St. James Church in Marianna are of children who were beaten to death, some shot, others tortured.
Thanks to a federal grant awarded to USF researchers, many are hoping for some answers. State records list 31 graves on the property, but researchers have uncovered about 50 more unmarked graves. They hope to perform DNA testing to identify the remains for their families.
"Tickles me to death," said Gandy. "I just wish the people that done it as alive you know. So they would have to pay for it."
Hundreds of boys went through Dozier over its 111 years of operation. There are reports of kids being chained to the walls and whipped there, as early as 1901. Another survivor of the Dozier School for Boys, Roger Kiser, has been on a mission to expose the abuse for the past 22 years.
He's a bit anxious to see what researchers will be able to find on Saturday.
First Coast News