Friday, October 10, 2014

Did Florida boys school officials send family a casket filled with wood?

(CNN) -- For almost 90 years, the casket lay beneath the earth, Thomas Curry's family believing the teen who died too young rested in peace there, in an unmarked plot with his great-grandparents.

Curry was a charge of Marianna, Florida's Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, a now infamous juvenile detention facility that closed in 2011 for budgetary reasons, capping a chilling, 111-year legacy of brutality.

From 1900 to 1952, according to a court document, 100 boys died there, but only about half were buried on the reform institution's grounds. Others were shipped home to their families.

Curry, 17, became part of that tally in 1925 when he died "under suspicious circumstances while escaping Dozier twenty-nine days after arriving," says the court order permitting his exhumation this week.

The coroner at the time ruled Curry's manner of death was unknown. The ledger entry at the Dozier school said he was "killed on RR Bridge Chattahoochee, Fla." Another document at Old Cathedral Cemetery in Philadelphia says he was "killed by train." No one from Dozier ever reported his death to the state.

He was returned in a casket to his family, who, in turn, buried him in Philadelphia. Or so the family thought.

It wasn't until a state investigation beginning in 2008 that Curry's death certificate was found at Dozier. It said he died of a crushed skull from an "unknown cause."

And it wasn't until Tuesday, when University of South Florida anthropologists who have been working to unearth and identify remains on the former campus visited Philadelphia with Pennsylvania authorities, that the family learned Curry wasn't in the casket -- no bones, no clothing, no sign of him at all.  (more...)

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