More Remains Uncovered at Burr Oak

At least two caskets, one set of bones discovered during burial attempts

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    ALSIP, IL - JULY 09: A man kneels over a grave at Burr Oak Cemetery July 9, 2009 in Alsip, Illinois. Hundreds of people turned up at the cemetery today to find the graves of family members to see if they had been desecrated. Police suspect upwards to 300 graves could have been dug up in the historic cemetery over the last several years and the bodies dumped in the back of the cemetery so the graves could be resold by the cemetery management. Blues music legend Willie Dixon and civil rights figure Emmett Till are among those buried in the suburban Chicago cemetery. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

    More human remains have been uncovered at Alsip's Burr Oak Cemetery, officials said Wednesday.

    Burials resumed at Burr Oak in mid-October, and some attempts since then to inter people have uncovered at least two caskets and one set of human bones in those spots.

    "It's during the process of excavating the grave that you'll determine if there's something underneath or not," said Roman Szabelski, who, along with crisis management expert Howard Korenthal, was placed in charge of the cemetery.

    The cemetery suspects the remains are from the early 1900s and that the burials may have been done under a term-lease agreement.  But officials say there is no paperwork to help to determine who the people were or when they were buried.

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    "We were just trying to figure out, OK, how do you move forward with the families, saying, OK, you have purchased property, there's previous burials there, you have deed of property, are you interested in making a burial here, how do we help that family get through that process?" Szabelski said.

    Approximately 9,000 people have visited the burial place since it reopened to the public last month.

    Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, whose office investigated the original allegations of desecration, said the burials should not be continuing.

    "It was abundantly clear when we were out there that there were serious issues with who's where, with what the records tell people," he said.

    The cemetery has been closed since July,  when Cook County Sheriff's Police raided the historically-significant cemetery to advance an investigation into claims that human bodies had been removed from their resting places, dug up by backhoes, and haphazardly discarded in another part of the cemetery so the plots could be resold in an off-the-books money-making scheme.  In some cases, caskets were smashed further into the ground so another body could simply be placed on top.

    Four former cemetery employees have been charged in the scheme.  All have pleaded not guilty.

    In the wake of the scandal, Gov. Pat Quinn created a governmental task force.  That panel in September recommended tougher regulation and oversight of Illinois cemeteries.

    More burials are scheduled for this weekend.

    Full Coverage:  Desecration at Burr Oak Cemetery