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Small Cemeteries May Win Exemption From Regulations Aimed At Burr Oak

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Burr Oak Cemetery

A flag marks a grave at Burr Oak Cemetery near a blue dumpster behind which a pile of human remains were found July 8, 2009 in Alsip. (Credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (CBS) — Small cemeteries, pending the approval of Gov. Pat Quinn, will be exempt from many strict standards imposed after the infamous grave reselling scandal at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports, the Cemetery Oversight Act was this year deemed too much for small rural cemeteries to comply with. It was put in place after it was discovered in 2009 that employees at Burr Oak were digging up bodies to resell the plots.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Alex Degman reports

State Sen. John O. Jones (R-Mount Vernon) still thinks cemetery operations shouldn’t be regulated.

“I’m still fearful. I have a lot of small cemeteries in my district where the volunteer trustees and the like are going to say ‘Hey, I don’t want any more to do with this,’ and they’re going to walk away from it,” Jones said.

The new bill gives religious burial grounds and small cemeteries either total or partial exemptions from the Cemetery Oversight Act, and restricts punishments only to serious violations.

In the Burr Oak case, cemetery director Carolyn Towns admitted to accepting cash from the families of the recently deceased who sought to secure graves, then pocketing the money and have the gravediggers bury the bodies in graves that were already occupied.

Towns was sentenced to 12 years in prison earlier this year.

Cemetery foreman Keith Nicks, and laborers Terrence Nicks and Maurice Dailey, have been charged with doing the dirtywork in the scheme.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.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.)

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