Religious leaders get tour of Burr Oak

July 23, 2009 4:47:21 AM PDT
About 50 Chicago-area ministers toured Burr Oak Cemetery Wednesday. They also gathered for a prayer and a blessing of the grounds.The gates of Burr Oak were opened on Wednesday for several buses that carried dozens of ministers on a tour of the cemetery.

The event was orchestrated by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. He invited several members of the clergy from different faiths, including the Jewish, Greek Orthodox and Episcopal faiths. The purpose was to bring everybody inside so they can see firsthand that the investigation continues.

The religious leaders loaded sheriff's department county buses and took a tour of the specific area of the Burr Oak Cemetery that is a crime scene. Because it is a crime scene, the fifty or so ministers from all different faiths could only have a view from the distance.

"Naturally we could not walk among it but it is very disturbing what runs through your mind, the kinds of crimes that apparently have been committed here. But I think all of us are satisfied that the investigation is ongoing," said Rev, Marshall Hatch, New Mount Pilgrim Church, Chicago.

Ministers were not able to get close to the area where the F.B.I. have recovered about 200 bones and bone fragments since they began their search earlier last week.

Video taken by the Cook County sheriff's department shows holes in the ground with burial vaults visible below.

"We pray blessings on the 100,000 plus families that are represented out here," said Rev. Steve Jones, Cook County chaplain.

"There is a passage of scripture in the bible a question that asks, can these bones live? Well, out of this tragedy, we are going to bring life back to these bones," said Rev. Jones.

Others had a message for the living.

"It is vitally important that we as Christians care for the dead and care for the families and speak up for the whole society and say we must care for one another," said Rev. Rod Reinhart, St. Clement's Episcopal Church, Harvey.

The F.B.I. brought out thermal imaging crews for the first time on Wednesday.

"The technology, more or less, tells where there is more recently disturbed earth and so it gives us a little bit more of an idea of areas to go to," said Sheriff Dart.

While four employees have been charged in the crime, it's been reported that gravedigger Willie Esper reported the crimes. He had no comment on Wednesday.

The cemetery remains closed to the public. Officials have mentioned August 1 as a date to reopen the cemetery to the public but Sheriff Dart says at this point that looks unrealistic.

Towns out of psych unit

Former Burr Oak Cemetery Manager Carolyn Towns has been transferred out of the Cook County Jail's psychiatric unit.

A spokesman for the Sheriff says Towns was "distraught" when she first arrived, and there was concern that she could do harm to herself. Now, jail administrators no longer view her as a potential threat to her own safety. Towns has been transferred into the main women's jail, but is still in protective custody.


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