Researchers from the University of South Florida are exhuming remains from the bodies of 19 long-lost residents of the infamous Dozier Reform School for Boys in the Florida Panhandle.
“Even if we can’t name them, just the fact that they’re not lost, with trees growing through them, is a big service to the community,” forensic anthropologist Erin Kimmerle told CNN in a story aired Friday.
An informal cemetery with 31 crosses already sits on the grounds of the school to honor students confirmed to have died there, but 22 other students remain unaccounted for, and residents of the town nearest the school, Mariana, reportedly believe another undiscovered cemetery is located at the 1,400-acre property.
“We’re approaching it much like you would an archeological excavation,” Kimmerle told family members and survivors from the facility, according to NBC. “It’s all done carefully and by hand.”
In the short time since the school closed in 2011, survivors and relatives of Dozier residents have come forward with stories about students there being subjected to sexual abuse, regular beatings and deaths that were either not explained or outright suspicious in nature. Some residents have suggested that the bones found on the property belong to black residents killed by the Ku Klux Klan.
The researchers’ findings will be analyzed at both USF and the University of North Texas.
Watch CNN’s reports on the search for the missing residents of the Dozier school, aired Friday, below.