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For Nearly 90 Years, Family Members Thought They Knew What Was Inside This Casket: 'Decades and Decades of Efforts to Deceive


"It was a little bit of a shock."

Photo via University of South Florida

Officials have uncovered new evidence that suggests there was “decades and decades of efforts to deceive” at an infamous reform institution where as many as 100 boys are believed to have died. Though many of the deaths are not believed to be criminal, some are still shrouded in mystery.

One of the boys, 17-year-old Thomas Curry, died in 1925 while attending Florida's Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys, which closed down in 2011 due to budget issues. His cause of death was ruled as “unknown” by the coroner at the time and no one at the reform school reported the boy’s death to the state. It was later suggested that he was “killed by train” or “killed on RR Bridge Chattahoochee, Fla."

But officials eventually found a death certificate at the reform institute stating Curry’s skull was crushed by an “unknown cause.” It was the “suspicious circumstances” surrounding the teenager’s death that led to officials’ interest in the decades-old case.

Screngrab via CNN report Screngrab via CNN report

Curry’s family was delivered a casket in the 1920s containing what they thought was the boy’s remains. The casket was buried in Philadelphia and for nearly 90 years, family members believed Curry’s body was in it.

But when anthropologists with the University of South Florida along with Pennsylvania authorities attempted to unearth and identify Curry’s remains, they discovered his body was missing.

Instead, they found only “pieces of wood.” Officials did find, however, the remains of Curry’s great-grandparents.

Photo via University of South Florida Photo via University of South Florida

Cpl. Tom McAndrew of the Pennsylvania State Police told CNN the discovery “was a little bit of a shock.” He said a state investigation into the Dozier school was launched in 2008 and it has uncovered "decades and decades of efforts to deceive, coverups, and not just by one but by many people."

McAndrew said he believes the wood-filled casked further demonstrates intent to deceive the Curry family by officials at the Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.

More on the state investigation into the infamous reform school via CNN:

The state investigation in 2008 and 2009 said there was insufficient evidence of abuse at Dozier, but dozens of men, many of them now senior citizens, have come forward with stories. A support group for ex-students, dubbed The White House Boys, takes its moniker from the structure where boys say they were beaten with a leather strap attached to a wooden handle.

They were whipped until their underwear was embedded in their buttocks, The White House Boys say. Some were beaten unconscious. Crying or screaming out would earn you extra lashes, they say.

So while this week's exhumation didn't answer any of the myriad questions surrounding Dozier and its missing and dead boys, it was still an important part of the ongoing investigation, researchers and police said.

Anthropologist Erin Kimmerle told CNN her crew has already discovered 55 bodies at the site, some of whom died from things like the flu, pneumonia and a dormitory fire. She also said they are working to learn more about 22 boys who seemingly died there but are “unaccounted for.”

Read the full report here.

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