Pastor of Muppets (syndicalist) wrote in ontd_political,
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Historical black cemetery victim of ghoulish scam artists

Does it even get any more evil than this? Funeral home workers digging up, discarding corpses to re-sell burial plots for $$$.

Above, click to watch CBS News video. They disabled embedding. =(


Cemetery workers made $300K in gravedigging scheme
By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
12 mins ago


ALSIP, Ill. – Four former employees accused of digging up bodies and reselling plots at a historic black cemetery near Chicago made about $300,000 in a scheme believed to have stretched back at least four years, authorities said Friday.

Three gravediggers and a manager at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip are accused of unearthing hundreds of corpses and either dumping some in a weeded, desolate area near the cemetery or double-stacking others in graves. The cemetery is the burial place of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmett Till and blues singers Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington.



While Till's grave site was not disturbed, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said investigators found his original iconic glass-topped casket rusting in a shack at the cemetery.

The 14-year-old Chicagoan was killed in 1955 after reportedly whistling at a white woman during a visit to his uncle's house in Mississippi. Nearly 100,000 people visited the casket during a four-day public viewing in Chicago, and images of his battered body helped spark the civil rights movement.

When Till was exhumed in 2005 during an investigation of his death, he was reburied in a new casket. The original casket was supposed to be kept for a planned memorial to Till.

Thousands of families have come to the cemetery since Thursday looking for answers about their loved ones, authorities said. Hundreds of relatives, some clutching maps of the 150-acre site, were seen at the cemetery Friday.

Dart said officials have assisted the families in locating relatives' plots, and family members have reported at least 30 cases of disturbed graves and missing headstones.

The sheriff said two burials planned for Thursday also have gone wrong — with one person initially buried in the wrong plot and another whose plot was already occupied by someone else's body.

"This is a heartless act, these graveyard robbers," the Rev. Jesse Jackson said Friday. Jackson called on the cemetery's Arizona-based owner, Perpetua Inc., to answer for the conditions.

The Illinois official who regulates cemeteries said Friday that the process of revoking the cemetery's license has been started. Comptroller Daniel Hynes also said Friday his office is investigating whether the money that families paid for future cemetery needs is still safely held in a trust.

The cemetery is owned by Perpetua Holdings of Illinois. Hynes said the company is cooperating with authorities, but the horrible problems at Burr Oak justify revoking the license.

Perpetua started the investigation by calling Cook County authorities to report alleged financial wrongdoing and issued a statement Thursday that the company is cooperating with investigators.

The suspects, all of whom are black, were identified as Carolyn Towns, 49, Keith Nicks, 45, and Terrence Nicks, 39 — all of Chicago — and Maurice Dailey, 61, of Robbins. They each have been charged with one count of dismembering a human body, a felony.

Bond was set at $250,000 for Towns, the cemetery's manager, and at $200,000 for the other three.

Authorities said Towns also pocketed donations she elicited for a Till memorial museum. She has not been charged in connection with those allegations. Court documents show she was fired from the cemetery in late May amid allegations of financial wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office said Towns is being represented by a private attorney, but she did not know the attorney's name. The Cook County public defender's office said it had not yet assigned attorneys to the other three cases.





http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090710/ap_on_re_us/us_cemetery_desecration;_ylt=AkXOJ_i9kRSY2renQoVwBnwDW7oF

***ETA: MORE BONES FOUND, CEMETERY NW CLOSED TO PUBLIC:

More bones found, Ill. cemetery closed to public
By DON BABWIN, Associated Press Writer
38 mins ago


ALSIP, Ill. – Some horrified relatives who searched Friday for loved ones' plots at the historic black cemetery at the center of a gravedigging scheme near Chicago instead found more bones on the grounds, prompting authorities to close the cemetery and treat it as a crime scene.

Families still will be able file inquires at the cemetery, which is the burial place of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmett Till, and Dart said he hoped it would reopen to visitors in five to seven days.

Hundreds of families have visited and thousands more have inquired about the fate of graves since four former Burr Oak workers were accused earlier this week of dumping hundreds of unearthed corpses in scheme to resell plots.

Shareese McLemore, 36, of Kankakee, Ill. said she fears her mother's grave was tampered with after she saw that the normally green grass around the plot was damaged and burnt.

"I have a sadness. It's bringing back memories," McLemore said. "I feel betrayed by the people who worked there. I thought they had my best interests."

The cemetery is the final resting place for Till, as well as blues singers Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington. While Till's grave site was not disturbed, police said investigators found his original iconic glass-topped casket rusting in a shack at the cemetery. The inside of the casket was shredded by wild animals that were living in it, police said.

Till was killed in 1955 after reportedly whistling at a white woman during a visit to his uncle's house in Mississippi. Nearly 100,000 people visited the casket during a four-day public viewing in Chicago, and images of the 14-year-old's battered body helped spark the civil rights movement.

When Till was exhumed in 2005 during an investigation of his death, he was reburied in a new casket. The original casket was supposed to be kept for a planned memorial to Till.

One of Till's cousin's said she was appalled that the casket was found in such poor condition.

"It's part of history, it's part of our trying to put a family to rest," Ollie Gordon said Friday during a visit to the cemetery.

Authorities said four former cemetery employees — three gravediggers and a manager — made about $300,000 in the scheme that stretched back at least four years. The four sold existing deeds and plots to unsuspecting members of the public for cash, authorities said. They then allegedly dug up hundreds of corpses and either dumped in a weeded, vacant area of the cemetery or double-stacked them in graves.

Hundreds of relatives, some clutching maps of the 150-acre site, walked through rows of graves at the cemetery on Friday hoping to find the their family members' plots undisturbed. Dart said thousands have flooded the cemetery since Thursday. Several, including McLemore, have reported the plots appeared to have been tampered, with some saying headstones were missing.

Dart said the investigation would take months because records had been destroyed, lost or altered. Illinois Comptroller Daniel Hynes said he had started the process of revoking Burr Oak's license, and authorities said at least one lawsuit against the cemetery has been filed on behalf of the families.

Dart said two funerals at the cemetery on Thursday also went wrong. One person was initially buried in the wrong plot and another body was sent back to the funeral home because the plot was already occupied by another body, he said.

The suspects, who were being held on bond, were former cemetery manager Carolyn Towns, 49, Keith Nicks, 45, and Terrence Nicks, 39 — all of Chicago — and Maurice Dailey, 61, of Robbins. Each was charged with one count of dismembering a human body, a felony.

Towns also alleged pocketed donations she elicited for a Till memorial museum, authorities allege, though she has not been charged in connection with those accusations. Court documents show she was fired from the cemetery in late May amid allegations of financial wrongdoing.

Hynes said the cemetery's Arizona-based owner, Perpetua Inc., is cooperating with authorities. Perpetua started the investigation by calling Cook County authorities to report alleged financial wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office said Towns is being represented by a private attorney, but she didn't know the attorney's name. The Cook County public defender's office said Friday it was representing the three other defendants but did not yet have the attorneys' names. Attempts to reach family members were unsuccessful.

___

Associated Press Writers Karen Hawkins, Sophia Tareen and Michael Tarm in Chicago contributed to this report.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090711/ap_on_re_us/us_cemetery_desecration





"I found bones out there, I found individuals wandering aimlessly around" who also found bones, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said Friday night in announcing that Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip would be closed to the public.
Tags: civil rights
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