More Bodies Found Dumped At Burr Oak Cemetery

UPDATED 03/21/11 6:00 p.m.

ALSIP, Ill. (CBS) — Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Monday that archeologists have uncovered bodies and bones in an unused section of the historic Burr Oak Cemetery, in far greater numbers than previously believed.

LISTEN: Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports

As WBBM Newsradio 780’s Mike Krauser reports, a 6-acre, supposedly unused section at the 150-acre cemetery has now been marked “Crime Scene A.”

Chicago-based Archaeological Research Inc. found the bodies in the northeast corner of the cemetery. Remains are buried immediately below the surface, and buried deeply in the same area, according to the sheriff’s office.

Bones were also found on the ground, and more bodies are surfacing because of erosion.

The corner in question was touted as an area that could be used for new burials at the cemetery, since previously, its only known use was as a dumping ground for broken headstones, foliage and other debris.

But the archaeologists found in their November and December survey that the area is elevated up to 12 feet higher than it should be, and human remains and coffin pieces – some of them burned – were found up to 8 feet deep, according to the sheriff’s office.

“We didn’t have any specific area where we didn’t come across remains,” Dart said at a news conference Monday.

Dart figures there might be the remains of 300 to 600 people – taken from graves, allegedly so they could be re-sold, and scattered in an area where new owners want to create new plots.

“It’s absurd to think that any burials can go on out there,” Dart said. “It can’t.”

In July 2009, authorities charged Burr Oak manager Carolyn Towns, foreman Keith Nicks, and laborers Terrence Nicks and Maurice Dailey, with digging up human remains from graves for resale, and dumping the remains elsewhere in the cemetery.

The arrests made international headlines and prompted thousands of people to visit the historic black cemetery to try to determine if their loved ones were among those graves that were disturbed.

At the time of the investigation, authorities estimated that 300 graves were dug up. But they acknowledged they may never know how many graves were involved, saying that shoddy record-keeping and in some cases records that had literally disintegrated made it impossible to say exactly how many corpses were dug up, or the identities of all those whose remains were moved.

In the 2009 raid, investigators found chunks of burial vaults, pieces of pine boxes that had been used as caskets decades ago, and even a skeleton wearing a suit and tie inside an empty burial vault, with no casket in sight.

Monday’s news brought back horrible memories to families. Some of Charles Coleman’s relatives had been found in a mass grave where dozens of bodies were discovered.

“I get angry,” he told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker. “I just don’t see how anyone could do that to loved ones — or anybody, period.”

The cemetery is also in Bankruptcy Court.

Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, is the resting place of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmett Till and other prominent African-Americans.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • foxyrainy

    this nightmare will never go away!!!!!!!!!!

    • jeff

      Yes and stupid people keep bringing there loved ones there to be buried ?,
      They had 3 burials last week alone…

      • Wendy

        It’s a black thing.

  • me

    i’d be very careful about making a statement like that. a white woman from waukegan did just go to jail running a neglectful funeral home and mistreatment of bodies.

    • me

      i guess the original comment was removed, it was insinuating that the fact the management of the cemetery was black was the reason behind why this is happening.

      • Paul

        That’s a good point me. Crime just seems to run through the veins of black negroes.

      • jeff

        I agree , very good points…

  • Tracy

    If they would stop digging and rooting around, they wouldn’t find any more bodies. Close the damn place and end it.

    • grammadee94

      Would you have that same attitude if it was YOUR loved one whose remains were NO longer in the burial site where they were BURIED. Would you STILL want them to “stop digging” and close the “damn place” and NOT know where your loved one ended up???? I think not!

      • Tracy

        I really wouldn’t care, and neither would the dead people. What about someone who is buryed at sea? Once someone is dead, who cares. A dead body is nothing more than an empty shell. The soul has left it.

  • jesse jr.


  • Jennifer A.

    Yeah but there is a certain creepy factor that’s kinda cool.

    • grammadee94

      Kinda cool? Are you crazy? Would you still think it was “kinda cool” if it was one of YOUR family members that had been dug up and just tossed away?

      • Anonymous

        Dead people don’t care.

      • Marco P.

        I see what she means in a sort of Poltergeist kind of way.

  • Guest

    It’s just awful what has happened to these bodies. We expect them to have their own spot forever in this country. It’s upsetting when that doesn’t happen. In some places in Europe there isn’t enough space for new cemeteries. You would use the same spot as some other relative, a sort of stacking over a long period of time, and an everlasting togetherness with long deceased family members.

    • Billy

      There is no togetherness, they’re all dead.

  • Nextel

    i am pleased Sheriff Dart is still looking into this gross mismanagement of burials. This is so surprising. One would think this type of conduct would not occur in today’s environment. Thank you Sheriff Dart!

  • Where Is Grandma

    Can you dig it???.

  • Bob Roberts

    This is incredulous. This company, Perpetual out of Arizona owned this cemetery during this, and filing bankruptcy should not relieve them of liability of the issues present during their tenure there. This is such a blight on the industry as a whole in Chicago, and charges should be handed down to everyone involved, not just the 4 originally indicted. If the company didn’t check up on these employees, they too should be held accountable.

  • [St.]

    “black negroes”?

    There are other types now?

    Saying this is a “black” thing is simply terrible, stupid, and just plain ignorant.
    Why don’t they fill shallow graves with people like you?

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