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Reform School Deaths: Attorney General Pam Bondi wants boys' bodies exhumed from Dozier School for Boys

11:24 AM, Mar 13, 2013   |    comments
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Dozier School for Boys graves

Clearwater, Florida - He was only 13 years old when he went to the Dozier School for Boys in North Florida.  It was supposed to be a reform school for boys, nestled among the pines.

But for Robert Straley, it became hell on Earth from the very first night, when he was whisked away in his pajamas to be whipped with a thick leather belt 18 times. 

It was in a place nicknamed "the white house." Little boys were beaten so severely, flesh came off their backs, their cries at night were never heard, and the sexual abuse was so vicious, grown men weep when they speak of it.

Straley told 10 News, "He turned on a big industrial fan to make a large racket, but not so much that you couldn't hear the sounds, the slap of the whip, the grunts, the groans, the cries, screams and noises that I never heard from anybody in real time."

Robert Straley still sleeps with one eye open. He's had nightmares for 45 years.  He was married for 15 years but says he's struggled with relationships and rage issues after systematic sexual and physical abuse as a child at Dozier.  

He described the belt: "It was a double ply, thick leather, about 4 to 5 inches  across wooden handle.  And the board was worse. Look at that, if that isn't an inch and a half to two inches." 

Two years ago, the school closed permanently after more than a century and the allegations of torture and abuse investigated by FDLE. In fact, USF researcher Dr Erin Kimmerlee and her team have found nearly 100 bodies of little boys left behind.

Attorney General Pam Bondi says, "They were buried in shallow unmarked grave and so, this is horrible and it's important for these families if their loved ones are there."

Robert tears up when he talks about this latest initiative by Bondi, who wants the bodies of other boys in unmarked graves exhumed, giving closure to grieving families.

With tears in his eyes, Straley told us, "You know, the expos√© of all this is good, because maybe it really wasn't about the abuse to begin with.  Maybe it was about getting those boys up and out of the ground and into the light.  They're never going to find them all."

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