4 Burr Oak employees indicted

August 6, 2009 4:48:19 PM PDT
Four former workers at Burr Oak Cemetery have now been indicted on felony charges for allegedly digging up bodies so grave plots could be resold. The charges include theft, desecrating human remains and conspiracy to dismember human bodies.

Before this new indictment, each of the four cemetery employees was facing a single felony charge. Now they each face seven more including charges that deal with theft in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Prosecutors say the grave-selling scam started as far back as 2003.

Roughly 1200 human bones have been recovered by investigators at Burr Oak, but they may never be able to fully match or identify, or determine precisely how many grave plots were improperly, illegally disturbed.

"The digging out of human remains without cause or court order and then dumping them in a burial area, that's certainly a criminal act in the state of Illinois," said Jack Blakey, Asst. Cook County state's attorney.

On Thursday, the four arrested cemetery workers - manager Carolyn Towns, Maurice Dailey, Keith and Terrence Nicks were all indicted on seven new charges, among them desecration of human remains, removal of remains from a burial ground, conspiracy and two counts of theft.

Determining the financial aspects of this case is difficult since records are alleged to have been destroyed. But the new charges say the grave selling scam bilked families out of anywhere between $100,000 and $500,000.

All four workers appeared briefly in court on Thursday. Towns and the Nicks brothers remain locked up. Maurice Dailey is free on bond.

"This facility is a screwed up, dysfunctional organization and a terribly run company. My client was an employee at the lowest possible rung," said Tom Needham, Dailey attorney.

His attorney says that Maurice Dailey - who left the courthouse without comment - was not part of, and knew nothing of the grave selling scam. He just followed orders.

As a long time employee, Dailey has said that as far back as the 80', he'd occasionally unearth human bones while digging with a back hoe, and when he always asked what to do with them, he says he was told to put them in a common burial area. That section of the cemetery has since become a crime scene.

"This investigation is ongoing. Rest assured we'll take it where ever it leads but beyond that I cant comment on indictments or targets," said Blakey.

If cemetery worker Maurice Dailey was unearthing human bones back in the 80s, they quite probably involved older graves - term plots - maybe even pine box burials. But re-burying remains in a common area, as Dailey says he was told to do, isn't supposed to happen without permits and adequate record-keeping.

The criminal indictment says that practice along with grave stacking took place from at least 2003 to its public revelation last month.

Most of the evidence gathering work at Burr oak appears to be over. The forensic work on the recovered bones - matching and, to the extent possible, identifying them - will continue.

No decision has been made yet on when Burr Oak will re-open to the public.


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