Arraignment for Burr Oak Gravediggers Delayed Until Friday

All four face several felony charges

By Andrew Greiner
|  Thursday, Sep 3, 2009  |  Updated 3:24 PM CDT
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Emmett Till's Casket Found Rusting at Burr Oak

This combination of booking photos released Thursday, July 9, 2009 by the Cook County, Ill. Sheriff's Office shows Carolyn Towns, 49, Terrence Nick, 39, Keith Nicks, 45, all of Chicago, and Maurice Dailey, 61, of Robbins, Ill.

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History of Burr Oak Cemetery

The Burr Oak Cemetery was for a time the only cemetery where Black people could be buried in Chicago. Keiana Barrett, with the DuSable Museum of African American History, talks about what the desecration means to the community.

First Lawsuits Filed Against Burr Oak

"The last memory they have has now been destroyed," said an attorney representing the families.
More Photos and Videos

The four former cemetery workers suspected of digging up corpses and reselling burial plots got a 24 hour reprieve from being formally charged and entering pleas.

Originally scheduled for a court appearance Thursday, a judge delayed the arraignment one day. 

"Initially, another defense attorney, a private attorney, had made an appearance for Carolyn Towns at the bond (hearing) and then ultimately he had to withdraw, so that was why the public defender was not appointed originally for that defendant," said Special Prosecutor Jack Blakey.

The public defender is allowed 24 hours to get up to speed on the case.

Towns, Maurice Dailey, Keith Nicks and Terrence Nicks, were arrested last month, accused of using backhoes to dig up graves and haphazardly discarding the interred bodies so the plots could be resold. Their trial should continue Friday.

All four face several felony charges, including desecration of human remains, conspiracy to dismember human bodies and theft.

The foursome is expected to plead not guilty.

Cook County Sheriff's detectives arrested the workers in July. The arrest and subsequent revelations from authorities that hundreds of graves in historic black cemetery in Alsip may have been dug up made international headlines.

Often called the first African-American cemetery in Chicago, Alsip's Burr Oak Cemetery has a storied past and is the final resting place for several notables, including boxing great Ezzard Charles and blues legends Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington. 

Emmett Till, whose murder in the south was a touchstone moment in the American Civil Rights Movement, is also buried there. His casket will go on display at the Smithsonian in 2011. 
 

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