This past weekend it was discovered that the out of state owners of Burr Oak Cemetery, a historic African American cemetery near Chicago, have for the last year been excavating existing graves and dumping the remains in order to resell the plots. In some cases the the existing remains were simply pounded down into the ground to make way for new occupants.
The Raw Story reports:
Grave robbers stripped at least 300 plots at a historic black cemetery outside Chicago, dumped many of the bodies and then resold the plots for a profit, officials said Thursday.The Reverend Jesse Jackson had this to say:
The years-long scheme was carried out by the cemetery's manager and three gravediggers who sold the "used" graves so they could pocket the fees rather than pass them along to the Arizona-based owners.
"This was not done in a very delicate way," Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said at a press conference.
"They would excavate a grave, excavate the entire site and then they would proceed to dump the remains wherever they found a place to do it in the back of the cemetery."
Burr Oak is one of Chicago's oldest predominantly African-American cemeteries and is home to a number of historic figures, including Emmett Till, whose 1955 murder galvanized the civil rights movement.
Blues legend Dinah Washington and boxing champ Ezzard Charles are also buried at Burr Oak.
"There should be a special place in hell for these graveyard thieves who have done so much to hurt these families"As a final insult cemetery manager, Caroyln Towns, is also accused of pocketing cash from a fund she set up to build a memorial museum for Till.
Cook County prosecutor Anita Alvarez sums it up:
"This crime is a whole new dimension that shows us what lengths people would go through for financial gain,"More from Raw Story
Yesterday the site was shut to relatives who had been coming to look for the remains of their family members. The site is now considered a crime scene as additional bones are being discovered. MSNBC reports:
ALSIP, Ill. - Authorities are closing the grounds of a historic black cemetery near Chicago where four employees are accused of digging up bodies to resell plots after more bones were found on the property.More from MSNBC
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Friday that families can no longer wander through Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip to check loved ones' graves because more of its 150 acres are now considered a crime scene.
Dart says law enforcement and families alike have found more bones while walking around the cemetery.