FORT WORTH — The University of North Texas Health Science Center in Fort Worth is working to identify skeletal remains found buried on the grounds of a Florida reform school.
The Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys opened in 1900 and closed its doors two years ago.
“There have been allegations of abuse of the boys, and possibly even boys that were claimed to have run away but were never heard from,” said Arthur Eisenberg, Ph.D., chairman of Forensic and Investigative Genetics at the UNT facility. “They never returned to their families. They just disappeared.”
The center teamed up with the University of South Florida to identify the remains. The USF team started digging on the school lot Labor Day weekend. Two coffins with remains inside were found and the digging continues.
Eisenberg’s team will be in charge of DNA testing and analysis.
“You have to get whatever DNA is left in the remains, but then you need to compare the bones to samples, family reference samples,” Dr. Eisenberg explained.
At least ten families provided DNA samples. According to the center, the remains are expected to arrive later this year.
“We need those remains to be compared to close relatives who may still be alive,” Eisenberg said.
It’s the unknown and the pain that families have to live with every day that drives him.
“There are families who wake up every morning — 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, 40 years — not knowing what happened to their loved one,” Eisenberg said. “I always get emotional now that I have daughters and grandkids. The fact of the matter is that it means something to them.”
The USF project is funded by the State of Florida and a $423,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.