Skip to comments.Bodies Dug Up, Plots Resold at Historic Cemetery (Chicago suburb)
Posted on 07/08/2009 4:48:51 PM PDT by KeyLargo
Bodies Dug Up, Plots Resold at Historic Cemetery:
As many as 100 bodies disinterred at Alsip's Burr Oak Cemetery
By BJ LUTZ and PHIL ROGERS
Updated 6:19 PM CDT, Wed, Jul 8, 2009
As many as 100 human bodies may have been dug up from a South suburban cemetery and the burial plots resold, investigators said Wednesday.
Often called the first African-American cemetery in Chicago, Alsip's Burr Oak Cemetery has a storied past and is the final resting place for several notables, including boxing great Ezzard Charles and blues legends Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington. Emmett Till, whose murder in the south was a touchstone moment in the American Civil Rights Movement, is also buried there. Authorities said they feel "very confident" his grave was not disturbed.
Since April, officers with the Cook County Sheriff's Police have been investigating reports that staffers were running an off-the-book operation by digging up bodies, reburying them in a common area of the cemetery and pocketing the money paid to them for new arrivals.
It was initially an investigation into "financial crimes," tipped off by the owners of the cemetery, but Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said his department's investigation led to a crime that is "beyond revolting." And he said it may have been going on for over four years.
To avoid suspicion, areas of the cemetery where people had been buried for a long time or that had not been visited in a while were used in order to maintain a certain number of plot vacancies and keep new burials off the books.
"We do not have the ability, at this point, to tell people what sections of the cemetery are free and clear," Dart said, adding that it appears the number of plots involved "will exceed 100."
Authorities don't know if the bodies were dumped in a mass grave or if the bones were buried in a number of different places around the property.
"After a grave was disinterred, they basically just dumbed the bodies, the bones, the remains," Dart said.
Over three months into the investigation, neighbors said they had a feeling last week that it was ramping up.
"There would be like three to four to five undercover cars over here, and they had the videotapes pointed at the cemetery and just videotaping, and we couldn't tell what they were doing," one neighbor said.
Officers finally raided the cemetery, at 4400 W. 127th St., when the gates opened up at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday because they knew the media had gotten wind of the story and they didn't want that to impede the investigation or alarm loved ones.
Five people were taken into custody, including the cemetery's former manager. Police are looking for more suspects.
"The company was informed earlier this year that there might be unearthed human remains on the property," said Trudy Foushee, a spokesperson for the cemetery's owner, Perpetua, in a statement. "This information was immediately reported to authorities. The company has fully cooperated with authorities. We have few specifics on the scope or the magnitude."
The sheriff's department has erected an enormous fence to cordon off a large portion of the cemetery where they intend to search for reburied human remains.
A human bone found on the ground of the property last month was sent to the Cook County Medical Examiner's Office for possible indentification.
Forensics experts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation are expected to be on site next week as the massive dig begins.
Extreme Cemetery Makeover: Chicago Edition
I reckon they ain’t making any more [burial plot] land.
It's a Get Out The Vote effort.
That sure messes with the bell curve.
I wonder if that is a picture of the cemetery managers and owners?
What people will do for money. It’s disgraceful.
Geez, what kind of people come from Chicago. Oh, I forgot Obambi and doesn’t Hillary hail from IL only to fake herself into NY?
Just another example of the Chicago way of doing things.
“After a grave was disinterred, they basically just dumbed the bodies, the bones, the remains,” Dart said.
Dumbed the bodies?
I guess they sent them to public School AND they voted?
Do these reporters proofread anymore?
While going through some old family records I once came across a deed to a family burial plot in a well-known cemetery outside a large American city. Included with the deed was a map that showed two empty spaces remaining in the plot. I have always wondered, if I took the time to visit, whether I would find the empty spaces filled, and whether the filled spaces would now be occupied by persons unrelated to me.
So do these bodies still vote in the district where they were originally buried or do they have to register at their new address?