Woman gets 12 years in cemetery scam

July 9, 2011 at 11:17 AM
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CHICAGO, July 9 (UPI) -- Carolyn Towns, the former director of Chicago's famed Burr Oak Cemetery, has been sentenced to 12 years in prison in a grave reselling scandal, officials said.

Towns, 51, blamed a gambling addiction for her actions, in which she resold the graves of people already buried to other families, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday.

"I am very sorry for this situation and how it has affected my family and the families of the Burr Oak Cemetery," Towns said at her sentencing hearing Friday. "It was always my goal to treat them with dignity and respect."

Towns and three other cemetery workers were charged with digging up graves at the historically important, largely black cemetery, then reselling the plots. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said the remains removed from the graves were dumped in another part of the cemetery.

Towns pleaded guilty to six of seven original felony counts, including dismembering a human body and theft from a place of worship. Investigators said Towns took some $300,000 over several years.

"The victims in this case are essentially the public," said Cook County Judge Frank Castiglione. "The defendant's actions in these crimes caused -- while not physical harm -- I believe irreparable emotional and psychological harm. There is no way to repair the harm done to those grieving families and friends."

Towns will start serving her sentence this fall.

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