Cemetery owners still no show at Burr Oak

Threat at 2nd Perpetua cemetery unfounded, police said
July 15, 2009 3:02:02 PM PDT
A judge has transferred control of Burr Oak Cemetery to a third party as detectives work to ID the remains. Also on Wednesday, police are investigating a possible threat against Perpetua Holdings, the owner of the maligned Alsip, Ill. cemetery where workers allegedly dug up hundreds of bodies to resell the plots.

Perpetua Holdings no longer has control over the operations at Burr Oak Cemetery. For the second day in a row, as a dozen lawyers petitioned a judge on cemetery matters and not a single representative of Perpetua showed-up to defend the company's Alsip operations.

"We know there's no one there or running the show. And it is a very critical situation that's occurring there with no one running it," said Blake Horwitz, attorney for Families Buried at Burr Oak

The Cook County Sheriff's Office told a judge that Perpetua has not show the ability or desire to help identify who is buried where in there a cemetery. A single attorney representing the company is the only Perpetua representative on-site -- and the sheriff said she is more of an "observer."

Reporters caught-up to the president of Burr Oak Cemetery outside of his Texas home Tuesday. He answered no questions, choosing instead to read a statement.

"The criminal conduct was absolutely despicable. I extend my heart-felt sympathies to all those who have loved ones buried at Burr Oaks Cemetery. Neither I, nor its investors, now owners have benefited from the criminal conduct," Said Melvin Bryant, Burr Oak president and CEO.

Judge Stuart Palmer temporarily turned over control of day-to-day operations at Burr Oak to RoMan Szabelski, who currently runs cemeteries for Catholic Cemeteries. It'll be his task to work with police and relatives of those buried at the cemetery. The ultimate goal is a thorough accounting of all 100,000 graves.

"This is a start for the families to get some answers. It will be a while before the receiver is able to identify all of the remains, all of the grave sites," said Deidre Bauman Attorney for Families Buried at Burr Oak

Also on Wednesday, there was police activity at Perpetua's only other Chicago-area cemetery: Cedar Park. The Sheriff's Bomb team - including a specially trained dog - combed the grounds after someone e-mailed a threat directed at Perpetua.

A sheriff's spokesman says they discovered no evidence that the threat against Perpetua was founded.


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