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2 graves exhumed at ex-school in Florida

MARIANNA, Fla. — Researchers unearthed the remains of two children buried at a former reform school that had a history of extreme abuse, and the bones will be analyzed in hopes of identifying the children and determining how they died, the anthropologist leading the excavation said Tuesday.

Based on the size of the remains, the children probably were between the ages of 10 and 13 when they died, said Erin Kimmerle, the University of South Florida professor who is heading the project to exhume an estimated 50 graves.

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The remains were buried close to each other, but one had a very elaborate coffin and the other was plain, Kimmerle said. The coffins were different sizes and one was found a little less than 1.5 feet below the surface and the other more than 2.5 feet below the ground.

‘‘It probably reflects a very different period in time and different people involved in the burial,’’ she said.

The work at the now-closed Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys began Saturday. The school opened in 1900 and closed in 2011 for budgetary reasons. Former juvenile delinquents from the 1950s and 1960s have detailed horrific beatings and abuse at the school.

On Tuesday, researchers were restoring the area they dug. The remains will be brought to Tampa, where they will be studied.

DNA from the remains will be sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. The hope is that it can be matched to relatives. Ten families have contacted researchers in hopes of identifying relatives that might be buried at Dozier.

Based on the art deco style of the more elaborate coffin, Kimmerle said she believes it was made after the 1930s. Shroud pins were found with the remains, meaning the child was wrapped in a shroud. Buttons were found with the other set of remains. There was not enough information to estimate when that child was buried.

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