ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- University of South Florida researchers say they've located 55 bodies at the now-closed Dozier School for Boys in the Florida panhandle. That's 24 more than official records indicate.
A team of more than 50 people from nine different agencies are now attempting to identify the remains, as well as determine the cause of death. USF Associate Prof. Dr. Erin Kimmerle says they'll use bone and tooth samples to try and identify the bodies.
"This project has always been about fulfilling a fundamental human right," Kimmerle told reporters on Tuesday morning. "For families who, like all of us, have a right to know what happened to their loved ones and are entitled to bury their relatives in a manner in which they deem proper."
Some former students of the reform school claim they were abused and beaten at Dozier.
USF researchers will continue doing field work at Dozier through early August. The researchers needed permission from the state before they were allowed to begin exhuming graves.
Kimmerle says they'll resume work on site next month, using specially trained K9 teams to locate any additional burials. They have already used ground-penetrating radar to find bodies.
So far, bone and tooth samples from five bodies have been sent to the University of North Texas Health Science Center for DNA testing.
Dozier, located in Marianna, had been open for 100 years before it closed in 2011.
Researchers are searching for families. Anyone with with information is asked to contact Hillsborough County Sheriff's Master Detective Greg Thomas at 813-247-8678.