CHICAGO (CBS) – Former Burr Oak Cemetery employee Keith Nicks was accused of unimaginable acts in 2009, including desecrating human remains and dismembering human bodies.
For the first time, Nicks is telling his side of the story to CBS 2’s Suzanne Le Mignot.
The ex-cemetery superintendent says the displaced bodies that received much media attention three years ago were from actions that predated his 2005-2009 employment at Burr Oak.
The Alsip cemetery was at the center of a plot reselling scandal in 2009, prompting authorities to dig up the grounds to investigate.
“When I took over Burr Oak in 2005, I was informed by the older guys that worked there that there was human remains in the back. I didn’t investigate it or nothing. I believed them,” Nicks told Le Mignot.
Nicks says he was told those human remains came from the front of the cemetery. More money could be charged for a deeded plot there.
Nicks says bodies that had been in that spot for more than 50 years were dug up and put in back of the cemetery, in a mass grave.
“I can’t be responsible for what happened in the ‘70s and ‘80s,” he says.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office charged Nicks with supervising and participating with two other defendants in the destruction of graves. Nicks says he made numerous complaints to management about what he uncovered while working.
“We would dig graves in deeded property and run across a baby and I don’t know why,” he says.
Nicks says he and his co-defendants are being used as scapegoats because the statute of limitations has run out to charge anyone with a crime. He has gotten the support of the Chicago Far South Suburban Branch of the NAACP.
“It’s a frivolous case,” President David Lowery says.
Lowery and Nicks say the case is politically motivated.
The Cook County State’s Attorney’s office says the case was charged in good faith with all the evidence required to prove the charges, adding one defendant has already pled guilty.
A spokesperson says to suggest any other motivation is simply untrue.
The current owners of Burr Oak had no comment.