Torture and murder at a Florida reform school

4:52 PM, Dec 10, 2008   |    comments
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Clearwater, Florida - They speak softly, without vengeance or anger. The tone of their voices has no trace of bitterness.

They are now grown men. At one time long ago, they were children, little boys who were having problems early in life. They were labeled incorrigible and unwilling to follow the rules.

The punishment they received was hell, and the place they were sentenced to was the Florida Home for Boys in Marianna, just an hour outside of Tallahassee.

"There was blood all over the walls. I tried to climb the wall and there was nowhere to climb," Roger Kiser says as he lowers his head.

Kiser was just a child when he spent from 1958 and 1959 in Marianna.

He was beaten so badly that his underwear was buried into his skin. The nurse on campus had to surgically remove it. He says his face was unrecognizable after multiple lashes with a whip.

Kiser was one of many young boys taken to a white concrete building on campus, infamously named, the "white house," where children were tortured, sodomized and sometimes killed.

Kiser spoke of a filthy mattress filled with blood, feces, mucus and sweat. His face was forced into the pillow where his cheek brushed up against bits of tongue and lips from other boys who had been beaten there.

After a while during that beating, Kiser passed out.

"When I came out of the white house, no one could recognize me, I was so bloody," Kiser said.

Part of the campus property is marked by grim crosses made from PVC pipes. The boys who are buried there are unknown, since many of the children there were orphans.

Kiser admits he saw two to three deaths. Another man, Dick Colon, saw a little boy being shoved into a dryer in the laundry room. Colon was only 13-years-old and weighed just 93 pounds. He desperately wanted to run to the young man who was being tortured and killed.

Colon feared he would be next. He has never admitted this terrifying detail of his life until now. Colon, now a successful millionaire businessman, thinks about the young man every day, a little boy who died before his very eyes.

Governor Charlie Crist is now calling for an investigation into the deaths of 32 victims who were most likely killed in the "white house."

Crist calls the events from the 1950's and 60's a "horrible plight suffered by children."

Kiser says he is pleased to hear about the investigation, but ultimately, the damage is done.

"Do I have faith in an investigation? No. Nah. I have no faith in it," Kiser said shaking his head.

The "white house" has since been sealed, with a bloody handprint on a wall inside and blood stains on the floor. A small plaque commemorating the victims hangs on the wall outside.

One victim from Clearwater, Robert Strayley, was 13-years-old at the time of his abuse and torture. His first night at the Florida Home for Boys was the worst.

He said, "My rear end was black and blue. You weren't thinking. You were in a state of shock."

He, too, doesn't believe the investigation will accomplish much, but is hoping that those staff members still living will be found and punished.

"If you abuse a kid like that, years can pass, it'll still come back and get 'ya."

Melanie Brooks, 10 Connects News

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