Evidence gathering at Burr Oak complete

August 7, 2009 4:35:37 PM PDT
Burr Oak Cemetery will remain closed and authorities cannot predict when families will be able to visit their loved one's graves again, according to Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. The sheriff also said the evidence gathering process is over but the criminal investigation continues into what happened at Burr Oak.

The court-appointed receiver for Burr Oak says there is so much work to be done at the cemetery, he's hesitant to offer any time frame for the reopening, but he does say "it won't happen soon."

The evidence gathering - which has gone on for the past month - is now complete. Continued digging, the sheriff says, would keep the cemetery closed longer, and wouldn't add much to the criminal case.

The remains found at crime scene number one at Burr Oak, the so-called dumping ground, and elsewhere at Burr Oak, nearly 1,200 human bones and bone fragments, will remain unidentified.

"Even if we could have obtained the DNA profile from a bone or bones or fragments thereof, then we would have the problem of who we would confer that with, not knowing who these bones belong to," said Tom Troutman, FBI.

"There will never be completion. For those individuals who are looking for every part of the human remains that were disinterred to be recovered, that is not going to occur and cannot occur," said Sheriff Dart.

What will likely happen is that the recovered remains will be reburied as part of a monument at Burr Oak.

"Chicago Burr Oak Cemetery must be preserved and returned to its sanctuary of respect," said Tony Burroughs, Chicago Burr Oak Cemetery Historical Society.

A new nonprofit organization called the Chicago Burr Oak Cemetery Historical Society has been born with a mission of memorializing and preserving the cemetery and its rich history. But the organization's exact role has yet to be determined. In fact, there is some question as to how much longer Burr Oak can continue as an operating cemetery. Most of the plots are taken, though some have an expectation of being buried here next to loved ones.

"You have to think about being an ongoing cemetery. But at the same time you also have to realize what has taken place here and you need to memorialize that aspect of and to treat it as an historical site. So how do you blend the two, I don't know yet," said Troutman.

The receiver says many parts of the cemetery need to be surveyed just to find out where plots are. And he wants to be reasonably certain that when the cemetery reopens that relatives can be directed to gravesites with as little stress and aggravation as possible. Right now that is not possible.


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