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Funding For 'Unique' Facility Named For Dozier Victim Does Not Survive Gov. Scott’s Veto Pen

Lead USF Researcher Erin Kimmerle (left) speaking during a Tampa press conference in 2014, announcing the identification of two more remains found on the Dozier School for Boys' property. It included the remains of Thomas Varnadoe (right).
Aimee Blodgett
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Funding for a first-of-its-kind facility did not survive the Governor’s veto pen. That’s despite being named for an abused victim of the now-closed Dozier School for Boys.

Thomas Varnadoe is among the 55 remains University of South Florida researchers unearthed a few years agoon the Dozier grounds in unmarked graves in Marianna.

“He and his brother Hubert were sent to the school in 1934 and after only 34 days of being there, Thomas died, and it took 80 years for us to be able to find his remains and return it to his family,” said Lead researcher Erin Kimmerle.

So, Kimmerle says it’s only fitting to name a unique facility after Varnadoe—focused on teaching others about forensic science, violent crimes, and solving thousands of cold cases. This year’s legislative budget included $4.3 million for the Thomas Varnadoe Forensic Center for Education and Research in Pasco County—also a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

That is, until, Governor Rick Scott vetoed that funding last week for the so-called “body farm,” saying because “it’s a statewide responsibility, it should be under the management of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement”—not Pasco County. 

The Governor did sign a bill into law allowing for the creation of two memorials to remember those who survived or died from the abuse at the Dozier school.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner .

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