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FORT WORTH -- Inside the University of North Texas's Health Science Center, there are bones to be sanded, cut out, and washed.

It's procedure and precision that counts in the lab, but it's not without feeling. Each scientist knows they're working to heal a family's devastating pain.

'There isn't a price tag you can put on identifying someone's loved one,' said associate professor Rhonda Roby.

She gave us an exclusive look inside the Human Identification Lab, where they are working on remains found buried on the grounds of the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna, Fla.

It opened as a reform school in 1900, and rumors of rape, torture, and murder plagued the campus until it closed in 2011. Crews found 55 unmarked graves in the last two years, and five of those bone fragments are at UNT's facility in Fort Worth.

The process of learning who these five are will be a long one, starting with a square section of bone.

'We cut the little piece out, it gets cleaned, cut into smaller pieces,' Roby said. 'Then those smaller pieces are put into a compactor core which then pulverizes the bone sample.'

Then, from a powder, scientists extract mitochondrial DNA.

'One reason you use mitochondrial DNA is because in an aged, very old sample, sometimes that's all we can amplify and are able to visualize,' Roby said.

This is extremely important in this case, where some of the boys buried on campus could have died 100 years ago. That DNA will then be matched with families who've donated theirs to see if they can finally find out what happened to their loved one who attended Dozier, but never came back.

E-mail msaavedra@wfaa.com

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