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?
“whether the filled spaces would now be occupied by persons unrelated to me.”
The spaces are empty. even if the cemetery operators were crooked (unlikely)whatever monument space is attached to the graves precludes anyone selling the spaces to another party (who would expect to be able to put up a monument). That deed probhably gives you right of burial (It would in New York)
Actually I thought African-Americans have more success with genealogical research because way back they were considered “property” and more records were kept because of their value as such. Coming from poor white people who were here before the Revolution, I know records for my people are very sketchy.
Color me blonde, but don’t they have to have a court order to disinterr? That should eliminate moving bodies for profit. Oh, I forget, it’s CHICAGO!
When you say "property" I assume you are speaking of slave records.
Genealogical research through slave records is extremely difficult. I got a taste of it at the Georgia State Archives while trying to help my secretary, who is Black. At that time, Georgia's Archived employed a couple of specialists in slave genealogy.
Although pre-1850 census records for whites don't list all of the household members by name, you at least HAVE census records. With luck (and courthouses that never caught fire or weren't burned during The Late Unpleasantness), you have marriage records, wills, deeds, and estate inventories. You may have family bibles, military service records, and military pension records.
With slaves, if you're lucky, you may find a bill of sale for "Big Tom", or an estate with the names of slaves. The lists don't indicate families or husband/wife connections. The lists don't have last names. You'll find Blind Jim, Essie, Rufus, three Toms, and "Lula (crippled)" on the list.
The 1850 census records for whites (and black freemen) have the state of birth and age (I can't remember whether 1850 also has the birth state of each person's parents). Even 1840 and earlier have a tick mark giving an age range. The slave records are not likely to give you any information about where a slave was born or how old he or she was.
I'll admit that it's often hard to follow a poor white family into the 1700's and earlier. A lot depends on how common the surname and given name are, the luck of the drafting of wills or deeds that name other family members and their relationships, and other factors. Sometimes you just hit a dead end when the poor left no written records, or a courthouse burned, or a surname and given name are common.
Most Blacks are rightfully frustrated when trying to trace their genealogy.
"T: Federal and county officials are now holding a news conference at the site of the desecrated cemetery in Alsip, Ill. The Rev. Jesse Jackson has just joined Sheriff Tom Dart and State's Attorney Anita Alvarez. Jackson said, "There should be a special place in hell" for the perpetrators."
It’s a black-on-black crime......
I’m sure when they’re tried the defense will be that they weren’t disinterring anyone— they were just digging folks up to help them vote. /sarc