Florida Graduate Students Help With Mass Grave Excavation

Some Florida students are getting the chance to learn in the field as they help with the mass grave search happening at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery.

Friday, June 4th 2021, 5:45 pm

By: News On 6


Students from Florida are getting the chance to learn from scientific experts at the mass grave search happening at Tulsa’s Oaklawn Cemetery. 

The team of experts worked on Friday to continue establishing boundaries of the mass grave found during the investigation to search for victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. As two grad students walk into Oaklawn Cemetery each day, they are taking steps toward making their dreams come true.

"Well my goal is to eventually get to the FBI,” Leslie Urgelles said.  

The two are earning their Masters of Science for Forensic Studies with a concentration in Human Identity and Trauma Analysis at Florida Gulf Coast University.  

“I also plan on working in the FBI. I like crime investigations,” Cahjanae Henfield said. 

Henfield and Leslie Urgelles are considered volunteers while they are at Oaklawn. They are helping to sift through the dirt and look for artifacts and turn in anything they find to archeologists and anthropologists.  

"It's great to see a big team of different professionals, different experts in different fields, working together to work toward something bigger than themselves," Urgelles said. 

While they are getting the real-world experience they will one day put on a resume, the women said there is so much more involved than the technical work. 

"Also seeing descendants here, and then seeing their reaction, it hits home. It gets emotional,” Henfield said. 

Their professor, Dr. Heather Walsh-Haney, is proud to know the work the women are doing now is just the beginning for them. 

"It really helps them and their families understand that after graduation there's a chance for them to really make a difference in the world,” Walsh-Haney said. 

Urgelles and Henfield plan to be here for about two more weeks. Another student will be here at the end of June. Walsh-Haney said FGCU is paying for travel to and from Tulsa and most of their meals. She said the City of Tulsa is paying for their hotel rooms while they are here.  


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