Violated cemetery now a crime scene

July 11, 2009 at 7:16 PM
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ALSIP, Ill., July 11 (UPI) -- The entire Chicago-area cemetery where employees allegedly violated graves has been declared a crime scene, police said Saturday.

The move means family members and the news media will be barred from Burr Oak Cemetery for at least five days, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. The cemetery manager and three gravediggers were arrested Wednesday on charges of digging up bodies and reselling the plots.

Two of the defendants, Keith and Terrence Nicks, are related to Robert Nicks, a former Cook County employee charged in 1995 with robbing a corpse in the county morgue of money and drugs, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Investigators say as many as 300 graves may have been violated at Burr Oak and authorities say they have been unable to locate the section devoted to children's graves.

The cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent black Chicago residents, including jazz singer Dinah Washington and Emmett Till, a 14-year-old boy lynched in Mississippi in 1955. Till's original coffin, replaced when his body was exhumed in 2005, was discovered in a shed this week.

The episode has caused Illinois officials to call for increased cemetery regulation.

"The honor system isn't working anymore," Alsip Mayor Patrick Kitching told the Tribune.

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