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Employees at "historic African American" cemetery arrested.


CofCC.org News Team

Four employees of an all black cemetery have been arrested. The group dug up at least 300 bodies and dumped them in a ditch, so they could resell the plots to new people.

“Once you have one family member here, you’d put the others here,” she said.

So when she heard Thursday that four people had been accused of reselling plots and dumping the remains of old bodies in an empty, abandoned lot, she was overcome with emotion. After searching the cemetery, she could only locate two of the grave sites of her 11 relatives.

“This is the biggest breach of trust I’ve ever experienced,” said Brown of Oak Lawn.

Area funeral homes were inundated with calls from frantic families seeking burial records or assurance. A phone line at the Cook County sheriff’s office set up to take calls was overwhelmed. Alsip officials fielded hundreds of calls and dispatched police to handle traffic near the cemetery in unincorporated Cook County.

Prosecutors said 200 to 300 bodies were dug up and dumped in an isolated, weedy area of a cemetery at which many prominent African-Americans are buried, including civil rights icon Emmett Till. Exposed bones, chunks of concrete and broken coffins litter the hilly, overgrown area about four blocks long, authorities said.

Former cemetery manager Carolyn Towns, 49, foreman Keith Nicks, 45, and dump-truck operator Terrence Nicks, 39, all of Chicago, and back-hoe operator Maurice Dailey, 59, of Robbins, were each charged with dismembering a human body, a Class X felony. All face up to 30 years in prison.

“This crime, it’s a whole new dimension that shows us what lengths people will go to for financial gain,” said State’s Atty. Anita Alvarez.

Sheriff Tom Dart said investigators, including dozens of FBI agents, would be at Burr Oak for months sorting through the discarded piles of bones. Not only were remains heaved into a “dump area” at the cemetery, bodies were allegedly double-buried in existing plots, Dart said.

“Literally, they were pounded [down],” he said. “They pounded the other [body] down and put someone on top.”

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