Alleged misconduct at another Ill. cemetery

August 28, 2009 4:31:54 PM PDT
Authorities are probing allegations of serious misconduct at Mount Hope.It's the third investigation into grave desecration at Chicago-area cemeteries.

Mount Hope is in unincorporated Cook County, on the border of Chicago's South Side.

In the aftermath of the Burr Oak scandal, there have been thousands of complaints about operations at cemeteries around the area. A special task force has been put together by the governor to look into many of the complaints and to work with what many consider to be a largely unregulated business.

But what's at issue at Mount Hope is an anonymous complaint. We don't know the credibility of the person making the allegation. But a state agency believes that the claim is a credible one.

As funeral processions continued on Friday, hundreds of people came to Mount Hope with questions about burial sites for their loved ones. Steven Brooks, for instance, wanted to know why another headstone has been placed, he says, so close to his brother's.

"I wonder that because that makes mess. I know my brother's grave was in that facility, but was it actually where we thought it was or where we saw it?" said Brooks.

Many of those coming to the cemetery with questions have heard that the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is investigating a claim from an anonymous source that it believes to be credible.

"We received a credible complaint from an individual who wishes to remain anonymous due to the volatility of the situation, that individuals were being buried, up to four individuals, in the same grade in body bags. And these were public aid burials," said Brent Adams, acting director Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

The cemetery are partially financed with tax dollars so IDFPR, the controller's office and the Department of Human Services are all beginning to ask questions.

ABC7's attempts to reach the cemetery owner have been unsuccessful and dozens of people who came to Mt. Hope with their own questions say they haven't been able to get answers.

"I want to know where she is," said Leola Britton whose daughter was buried at Mt. Hope.

Britton buried her daughter in the cemetery in June. When she arrived at the cemetery, the casket was placed on the side of the road on cemetery grounds. There was a brief service, but no burial plot had been dug and Leola hasn't been able to find where her daughter is buried.

"I expected to see a plot because I had never seen anything like that. I had never been to a funeral where there was no place dug for the casket," said Britton.

There may be an explanation for Leola Britton. Her daughter may have been properly buried, but she's not been able to get any answers from the cemetery or the funeral home.

The IDFPR director says he can't talk specifics of the larger investigation but says, "it won't take long to find out if something is awry." However, there is no criminal investigation underway at Mt. Hope now.


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