More discarded burial vaults found at Burr Oak

Estimate: 1,000 bones collected in 3 weeks
July 30, 2009 (ALSIP, Ill.) Officials said at the outset it would be a long investigation. Three weeks into it, human bones continue to be unearthed, and now some discarded burial vaults have been found hidden among weeds and debris in a little used section of Burr Oak Cemetery.

The work has been tedious. At one of the two designated crime scenes in Burr Oak Cemetery, topsoil is lightly pealed away and investigators with hand tools sift through the dirt looking for bones.

The sheriff's office says that since this all began three weeks ago, nearly 1,000 human bones have been recovered.

"We don't know if they're from 1,000 people or 100 people. That's part of the problem we've had in identifying them. They're just all mixed up," said Steve Patterson, Cook County Sheriff's spokesman.

And there is crime scene number two - a section of the cemetery that rises four to five feet above its surrounding.

"From what we've been able to find so far it appears that that was not a natural-made mound. That appears to be a man-made mound, and there are various levels of the mound," said Patterson.

The question then becomes, do you keep digging in a recovery effort, or do you stop when there's sufficient evidence to support a broader criminal case? That decision has not yet been made.

On Thursday night, workers clear headstones, and continue to examine everything in what has largely been a search without records. Earlier this week, roughly a dozen burial vaults were found in a section of the cemetery filled with foliage and debris.

"Some of them have names on them. Some of them have serial numbers on them. We're using those to match up against cemetery records to find out who those belong to," said Patterson.

That, however, would be followed by the question - where are the remains? The attorney for the cemetery operator said again today that Burr Oak is cooperating.

"I was at the cemetery late last night. I've been there...still continue to work with the receiver to do things that need to be done," said Trudi Foushee, Burr Oak attorney.

But when asked on Thursday by ABC7's Ben Bradley whether Burr Oak's cooperation would extend to paying some or all of the costs associated with the investigation at the cemetery, Ms. Foushee said she could not comment.

The four cemetery workers who've been charged each faces a single felony count at present, but building a larger criminal case is time-consuming, and as tedious as the work on the cemetery grounds.

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