A team of researchers from the University of South Florida have identified the remains of two more boys unearthed from the site of a former Florida reform school, the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.
According to the Gainesville Sun, the remains of the two boys were buried on the grounds for over 50 years and are those of 13-year-old Thomas Varnadoe, and 12-year-old Earl Wilson.
Both boys reportedly died while being held at Arthur G. Dozier reform school, Varnadoe allegedly of pneumonia in 1934, 34 days after being admitted, and Wilson from a beating in August, 1944, suffered at the hands of four other boys while they were all confined in a small structure called the “sweatbox.” Wilson had also only been at the school for a few days when he was attacked by the four other boys.
During the trial for the four boys that followed, medical evidence showed that young Earl’s death was the result of blunt force trauma to the head.
Researchers believed they’d identified another boy in August, George Owen Smith, who was the first of 55 other sets of remains to be dug up from the Arthur G. Dozier reform school grounds.
“It’s been a long road for me and my family,” said Glen Varnadoe, Thomas Varnadoe’s nephew, at a Thursday news conference. Mr. Varnadoe also noted that his father was once held at Arthur G. Dozier reform school, and that his family has been committed to removing his uncle’s remains “from the atrocity-laden soils.”
“We got the report that he died from pneumonia. We didn’t believe that in a minute,” said Glen Varnadoe’s father, Richard Varnadoe. Now 85, Richard was only 5 years-old when his older brother Thomas got sent away to Arthur G. Dozier reform school after being accused of stealing a typewriter.
CNN reports that horrific stories of of boys being beaten, tortured and even murdered have long haunted the history of Arthur G. Dozier reform school, which opened in 1900 and was finally shut down in 2011 due to budgetary reasons.
Several of those subjected to Arthur G. Dozier reform school’s campus of horrors in the 1950s and 60s long claimed that school employees and guards were brutally abusive, both physically and sexually. Despite an investigation, however, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement claimed nothing could be done because too much time had passed and none of the claims could be validated. A group of the former child prisoners from that Arthur G. Dozier reform school era call themselves “The White House Boys,” referring to a white building where they say unspeakable beatings, and worse, took place.
Investigators believe they have evidence for the deaths of 98 boys who died while confined to Arthur G. Dozier reform school, 55 unmarked graves having given up the remains of the brutalized and lost boys.
Authorities say knowledge of all those who died at the reform school is hazy, which prompted the efforts, begun several years ago, to exhume the remains and attempt to identify them.
Modern DNA tests allow for identification. Thomas Varnadoe’s remains positively matched DNA from his brother, Richard Varnadoe, and the remains of Earl Wilson, who was beaten to death by the four other boys, positively matched the DNA of his sister, Cherry Wilson, according to the University of South Florida.
“Our ability to provide answers and the physical remains of those who died to their brothers and sisters after more than 70 years is a remarkable privilege,” said USF Associate Professor of Anthropology and lead researcher, Erin Kimmerle. “We recognize the need to help families and victims find resolution, no matter how many decades pass.”
[Images via MSNBC, Reuters and The Miami Herald]