Sheriff: Burr Oak Overcrowded by Thousands - NBC Chicago

Sheriff: Burr Oak Overcrowded by Thousands

As many as 147,000 people may be buried at historic Alsip burial place



    Sheriff: Burr Oak Overcrowded by Thousands
    Getty Images / Scott Olson
    A tombstone is marked with an X by investigators searching for evidence at Burr Oak Cemetery July 14, 2009 in Alsip, Illinois.

    A new study shows thousands more people may be buried at Alsip's Burr Oak Cemetery than the land can hold, according to a new study.

    Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says the study suggests the practice of stacking caskets on top of each other or simply descarding remains was far more widespread than they have suspected.

    The study concludes that as many as 147,000 people are buried at Burr Oak. That is about 9,000 more than what the study concludes is the capacity of the historic black cemetery in Alsip.

    Dart said the study underlined a point he had been making for months and had reiterated in December when the cemetery revealed that since burials resumed a handful of remains had been found in spots where nobody knew people were buried.

    "You need to stop," he said of his advice to the cemetery. "We can't keep going like this."

    A cemetery official declined to comment, saying he has not seen the study.

    Burr Oak was closed for months this summer after revelations that hundreds of graves were dug up so the burial plots could be resold.

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

    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 WashingtonEmmett Till, whose murder in the south was a touchstone moment in the American Civil Rights Movement, was also buried there. 

    Full Coverage: Desecration at Burr Oak Cemetery