Police: Cemetery workers emptied graves

July 9, 2009 at 4:08 PM
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CHICAGO, July 9 (UPI) -- The manager of a historic black cemetery in Chicago and three gravediggers were charged Thursday with dismembering human bodies.

The four were arrested Wednesday after police raided Burr Oak Cemetery, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. Investigators said the four were involved in a scheme to dig up bodies so they could resell the plots in the Alsip cemetery and pocket the profits.

Several hundred bodies may have been violated, police said, dumped into a mass grave.

"All of us who were working on this for the last week were pretty distraught," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. "You start with the premise of your own loved ones and how they are cared for after they are buried, but there is also a true significance to this particular cemetery."

Relatives of those buried in Burr Oak came to the cemetery Thursday morning to find out if their family graves were still intact.

"I couldn't believe it,'' Florence Duerson said. "They said they found bones. Please Lord don't let it be my mom or my dad.''

Bail was set at $250,000 for Carolyn Towns of Chicago, the former manager of the cemetery, the Southtown Star reported. It was set at $200,000 for Keith and Terrence Nicks and Maurice Daily, all of Chicago.

The cemetery is owned by Perpetua Inc., based in Tucson, Ariz. The company notified local authorities it had gotten a tip from an employee not in on the scam of possible fraud.

Luminaries buried in Burr Oak include jazz legend Dinah Washington, bluesmen Willie Dixon and Otis Spann and Emmett Till, the Chicago teenager lynched in 1955 in Mississippi.

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