Boys Graves Identified at Florida School Site
Posted: May 15, 2009 12:46 PM
By Rich Phillips CNN Senior Producer
TALLAHASSEE, Florida (CNN) -- A Florida State investigation has determined that 31 unmarked graves, at the site of
a former reform school, are the final resting place of teens and reform school workers, who, through the years, died in
a fire, from an influenza epidemic, and even one student who was murdered by another student.
The five month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement has ruled out claims, by a group of
reform school survivors, now in their 60s, that they witnessed murders, and that students suddenly disappeared after
they suffered severe beatings at the school, in Marianna, Florida, in the 1950s and '60s.
The men believed the graves, marked only by white, steel crosses that are rusting with time, were those of the teens
who were beaten and murdered by reform school workers and administrators.
"This is our conclusion, based on what we know today," said Mark Perez, the chief of investigations for the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement, FDLE.
"Enough information has been corroborated on who is buried there. We went and identified all of the individuals who
perished while in custody," he said.
FDLE released its results in an 18-page investigative report. It says that no information could be corroborated, that
any of the administrators or workers, at the facility, contributed to the deaths of any of the students. Their
investigation into the alleged charges of physical abuse, made by the former reform school students, continues.
However, the investigation has also found that claims by the former students, of alleged murders and disappearances
of boys, could not be corroborated.
The report says, "None of the former students were able to provide any first hand information which would have
identified any of these alleged victims, or the persons responsible for their purported demise."
Roger Kiser is one of the former students who pushed for the probe. He's written a book on the alleged abuse at the
school, and says that FDLE has yet to contact him, despite claiming to have personally witnessed two deaths at the
"My personal feeling is that the State of Florida does not want to know the truth. It is just too horrible a tragedy for the
general public to learn about," he wrote in an e-mail to CNN.
Florida's governor, Charlie Crist, had ordered an investigation to determine who is buried in the 31 unnamed
The graves are located in a secluded area on the property of what was the Florida School for Boys, in Marianna, a
town near the Georgia border. This particular land was known as "the colored side," of the reform school during
FDLE says that the records found have determined that the cemetery was known to everyone back in the early
1900s, and got lost in time.
"There was enough information available to establish their identities and the cause of death," said Mark Perez, of
"It will help bring closure to some of the issues raised," he said.
However, FDLE has not been able to determine why the graves are not marked with a headstone or any
"That's the million dollar question. We can't find any records why they weren't marked," said Perez.
But the records, that were found, have determined that the remains are those of boys who died in a fire that ravaged
the reform school in 1914. Many of these victims were orphans, and indigents, whose families could not afford to have
the bodies shipped home, so they were buried at the school, according to FDLE. Others, died in a flu epidemic, about
FDLE says that other remains are those of one reform school boy who was murdered by another student. Other
graves are those of pets. The deaths were reported extensively in local news coverage, and even in a newsletter that
was published, at the reform school, called "The Yellow Jacket."
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