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Authorities: Cemetery Urn Thief Had Worked At Burr Oak

Police confiscated stolen urns on the South Side. (Credit: Chicago Police)

Police confiscated stolen urns on the South Side. (Credit: Chicago Police)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Another Burr Oak Cemetery employee has been linked to criminal activity in cemeteries, this time involving the theft of decorative urns.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports, two men from Chicago – Mario Bautista, 18, and Orneli Castaneda, 59 – are charged with stealing the urns from area cemeteries. The urns had been used for flowers at gravesites.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Steve Miller reports

A 911 call of a theft in progress led police to a home at 101st Street and Ewing Avenue Monday morning. Officers found two men loading blue bags filled with urns into a sport-utility vehicle.

The Cook County Sheriff’s office says Castaneda has worked part-time at Burr Oak Cemetery.

Authorities say they are still working to find out whose family plots – and which cemeteries – were targeted by Castaneda and Bautista, who they say intended to sell the urns and the plaque for scrap metal.

As it happens, on Monday – the same day Castaneda and Bautista were arrested – the former manager of Burr Oak Cemetery surrendered to begin serving a 12-year sentence for grave desecration and profiting by re-selling already occupied grave plots.

Carolyn Towns, 51, of Blue Island, pleaded guilty in July to several charges stemming from the scheme.

To accommodate the new bodies, Towns had the gravediggers exhume the bodies that were already buried, prosecutors said. They would crush the vaults and caskets in the graves and dump the remains in another part of the cemetery, prosecutors said.

Other times, the gravediggers would stack caskets on top of each other, prosecutors said.

Foreman Keith Nicks, and laborers Terrence Nicks and Maurice Dailey, have been charged with doing the dirty work in the scheme. Their cases are pending.