USF completes investigation of shuttered Dozier School

USF completes investigation into troubled Dozier School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Many winters have passed since Roger Kiser was sent to the now shuttered Dozier School for Boys -- the first time was 1959 and the second in 1961.

Kiser, who was living in an orphanage at the time, was sent to the reform school because of his behavior. 

He remembers his first day at the Marianna campus. "Everything was beautiful," said Kiser. "I thought, 'Boy I have gone from hell to heaven,' but it wasn't. It was hell to hell."

In 1989, Kiser revealed the atrocities committed at the school in his book, "The Whitehouse Boys: An American Tragedy". 

"They flogged you until you were bloody," he said.

Kiser, 70, said he still remembers the threats he received when he said he was going to report how he and others were treated.

"He pointed his finger in my face and said, 'Talking like that is a good way to wake up dead, sonny boy,'" said Kiser. "I knew one day I would come back and tell what they're doing there."

In 2011, the state permanently closed the school after a FDLE investigation confirmed the allegations of abuse. In 2012, the University of South Florida started excavating the graves of missing children. At least 55 graves have been found on the 1,400-acre property.

"These boys were forgotten thrown away like trash," said Kiser.

USF archaeologists excavated 55 graves with the purpose of trying to determine the location of the buried children and repatriate the remains to their families. Kiser has followed every step of the process.

"Some of the boys they dug up were so young they actually found marbles in their pockets. This is how young they were," he said.

Investigators have made seven positive identifications through DNA and 14 presumptive identifications. An additional seven families are waiting for matches.

On Thursday, researchers are presenting a 168-page report of their findings to Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet. They would like lawmakers to create a plan to bury the unclaimed bodies.

Kiser said for some the report will bring closure, but for him it won't -- not quite. "I don't think there'll ever be any closure for me because the sadness will always be there," he said.


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