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Dozier school exhumation request denied

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Updated: 7/15/2013 11:47 pm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A state agency has turned down a request from researchers at the University of South Florida to exhume human remains at the former Dozier School for Boys in Marianna.

The decision has upset parents of former students and lawmakers, who say the state should take more responsibility for gravesides found on state-owned land.

Toreen Dory is devastated by the news.

She didn't believe her troubled son, who, in 2003 at age 13, was serving a court-ordered sentence at the state-run school when he began to complain of abusive punishments.

"He just kept complaining and I thought he was saying that because he didn't want to be there."

The state closed the school in 2011, and since then researchers have uncovered more than forty unmarked graves, believed to be young boys who never returned home.

"If I'd had known I would have got him out."

And now, it appears those families may never never have closure.

Researchers from the University of South Florida have collecting DNA samples from family member with hopes of exhuming the bodies to reveal what happened to them.

But in a letter sent to researchers Monday, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said that the state "does not have the authority to issue archeological permits to excavate human remains under these circumstances."

Roger Kiser, a former student who claims he was also abused, believes the state is dodging the repercussions if evidence of abuse is uncovered.

"If you can allow it, then how can you deny it? They're going to have to pay the families of the boys that they killed, so they're going to block it every way that they can."

And while her son lived, Dory says the decision is devastating to the families of all Dozier students.

"That just makes me think the state knew, and turned a blind eye and that's not right."

USF researchers are meeting with general counsel on Tuesday to determine next steps.

Meanwhile, Florida Senator Bill Nelson, who has been advocating for the investigation since his office received requests for help from family members last year, issued the following statement.

"At this point, it's starting to look like a classic run-around. This is state-owned land, it's the state's responsibility and the state of Florida needs to do the right thing and not pass the buck."

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