IF you’re going to talk about the Arthur G Dozier School for Boys, you’re going to have to bring up the Okeechobee School for Boys.
Literally located at the opposite end of the State, Okeechobee came to be in 1955 as a means to “Fix” the overcrowding issues that Dozier was experiencing. Upon opening it’s doors, many of Dozier’s long time students were transferred to the new facility to serve out their sentences.
CONSTRUCTION OF OKEECHOBEE
Unfortunately, this would NOT be a reprieve from the abuse that they’d endured as many of their abusers would make the trip with them to help staff the new school. It didn’t take long before stories equally horrific started drifting beyond this new facility’s walls. There were several deaths between 1960 & 1965, some definitely under suspicious means. Two of the most suspicious were that of Cherry Black Jr. & Patrick “Timmy” Gabriel.
THE body of 13-year-old Cherry Black Jr. was found in a sewage tank on the campus. School officials claimed that the boy was trying to escape & got into the tank in an attempt to hide from staff. The Coroner performed NO autopsy, however, quickly listed his official cause of death as “Accidental Drowning.”
Patrick “Timmy” Gabriel was shot & killed during an alleged escape attempt. School officials reported that Gabriel had attacked staff before escaping & made sure to let local papers know that he was “considered dangerous.” It was alleged that he had been shot & killed in a nearby home after the owners returned & found him hiding inside. After receiving his remains, the boy’s family were immediately suspicious as NOT only had he been shot right between the eyes, the rest of his body showed additional trauma NOT related to his death.
AN INVESTIGATION…WELL KIND OF…
WITH the discovery of unmarked graves in Marianna & the number of former students from both locations coming forward with accounts of the atrocities that they had endured, witnessed OR both, the Okeechobee Sheriff’s office initiated an “investigation” of Dozier’s sister school. This included interviewing some witnesses & doing a search of the grounds with cadaver dogs.
The final report…Nothing! Everything according to the FDLE & OSO was “Roses & Sunshine.” Although there were witness statements to attest to such violence, the “investigation” of Okeechobee was ultimately closed with “No Findings.”
RETURN TO THE PRESENT…
IF ANY of the above didn’t make you sad OR angry, let me give you one more fact that just might push you over the edge…
Okeechobee Reform School for Boys is still open for business….
To Be Continued…