Remains from Burr Oak Cemetery scandal reburied

Special ceremony gives closure to surviving relatives

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REMAINS THAT WERE exumed as part of a grave-reselling scandal at Burr Oak Cemetery were reburied during a special ceremony at the cemetery in Alsip.

Chicago Crusader staff report

The human remains of corpses that were ripped from their graves as part of a scandal at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip on Tuesday, May 17, were reburied in a ceremony that gave closure to surviving relatives.

Officials from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department were on hand as two white caskets were buried in fresh graves in the rear of the historic cemetery. The caskets contained the remains of 29 people whose bodies were unearthed during a grave-selling scheme that FBI and the Cook County Sheriff’s Department uncovered in 2009.

During a month-long investigation, law enforcement officials discovered at least 200 desecrated graves. Prosecutors alleged the cemetery manager, Carolyn Towns, ordered gravediggers to remove remains from plots and resell them to grieving families. They said multiple bodies were also found on top of one another in graves. Human remains were also found unearthed in various parts of the cemetery at 4400 W. 127th St.

The discovery led officials to temporarily close the cemetery during an extensive investigation and cleanup. During this time many Blacks who were concerned about their loved ones, visited the cemetery, but were not allowed to enter the cemetery until the investigation was completed.

Towns was convicted after she was accused of pocketing the money from the resold plots. Three other cemetery workers, backhoe operator Maurice Dailey, foreman Keith Nicks and dump-truck operator Terrence Nicks were also charged and convicted for their role in the scheme.

Today, Burr Oak is in good shape. Some damaged monuments have been replaced and the cemetery office has a new record-keeping system. The cemetery is the final resting place of jazz legend Dinah Washington and Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy who was murdered in Mississippi by two white men in 1955. His mother, Mamie Till-Mobley is also buried at Burr Oak Cemetery.

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