Don Stratton says he’s just a good ol’ boy. He’s simple and plainspoken. But he has a painful past he can’t leave behind. When he talks about it, the old emotions surface.
Stratton attended a Florida reform school as a teenager in the early 1960s. Nearly half a century later, he’s telling a chilling tale of alleged beatings, sexual abuse and violent death at the hands of school reform workers.
He said he believes the bodies of slain boys are buried in unnamed graves on the grounds of the former reform school in Marianna, Florida.
“These men are animals and need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” Stratton told CNN in an interview at his attorney’s office in Tampa.
Stratton wore a black cowboy hat with a Harley Davidson logo. Despite his tough exterior, he fought back tears as he recounted how he was physically and sexually assulted.
Stratton is among a group of men, now in their 60s, who are suing state agencies in Florida as well as two former reform school workers over alleged abuse they received as teenagers. The suit was filed this month.
“At 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, you’d hear a boy crying,” Stratton told CNN. "And then the door would open and you’d see these guys come in and come up to somebody they liked, and they’d just tell you, ‘Come on with me, you’re mine for tonight. You’re my boy for tonight.’ And they would take you and do what they wanted to do with you.
“They would take a leather strap, six inches wide and three feet long,” he added, swinging his arm in a downward motion. “It’s like a shotgun going off. And they beat you until you’re bloody.”