No "Closure" for Families at Burr Oak

Investigators will never unlock all of Burr Oak's secrets

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images / Scott Olson
    Investigators search for evidence at Burr Oak Cemetery July 14, 2009 in Alsip, Illinois.

    A day after the four former employees were indicted on new charges, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart announced that authorities were concluding their investigation at Alsip's historic Burr Oak Cemetery and were turning the property over to the court-appointed receiver.

    In doing so, investigators conceded that they still don't know for certain the name of a single person whose remains were disinterred, meaning identifying the bones will almost certainly never happen.

    "Unfortunately, the closure that a lot of people expect and have grown to expect from television shows quite frankly, you're not going to get here," Dart said.

    There will be no DNA testing on the remains, according to Thomas Trautmann with the FBI.

    Investigators Pull Out of Burr Oak

    [CHI] Investigators Pull Out of  Burr Oak
    Investigators say the nearly 1,200 pieces of evidence collected so far is enough for a criminal case. (Published Friday, Aug 7, 2009)

    "Even if we could have obtained the DNA profile from a bone or bones or fragments thereof, then we would have the problem of, who do we compare them with?," he said.

    Officials have been on the property for nearly a month, after word broke that as many as 300 graves were dug up so they could be resold in a money-making scheme.

    Dart said the investigation was ending now because the nearly 1,200 pieces of evidence collected is enough for a criminal case. Continuing to collect samples would accomplish little more, and in shutting down their operation, investigators cautioned that they have not recovered -- and won't recover -- every bone.

    "There would be no purpose whatsover to further torture everybody here by having this cemetery closed for another 12 months or two years, while every single inch of it was excavated," Dart said.

    A newly-formed non-profit organization, Chicago Burr Oak Cemetery Historical Society, is working with Dart's office in hopes of creating a memorial for the unidentified disinterred.

    Burial plots that have already been sold need to be honored, but the question remains as to if Burr Oak will ever been a working cemetery ever again.

    The cemetery has been closed to the public since July 10, and while authorities said they don't have an exact date on when it can reopen, the court-appointed receiver, Roman Szabelski, said Friday that "it's not going to be anytime soon," as a new survey of the property must be conducted first.

    "There is much work that I feel needs to be done, so that we can welcome families with great confidence that this is where their loved one is," Szabelski said.

    Dart said he estimates that the investigation has cost the county about $400,000.

    Full Coverage:  Desecration at Burr Oak Cemetery