Family says Burr Oak Cemetery 'disrupted' relative's gravesite

BySamantha Chatman via WLS logo
Wednesday, October 23, 2019
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A family is furious with Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip after visiting a relative's gravesite.

ALSIP, Ill. (WLS) -- A family is furious with Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip after visiting a relative's gravesite.

Burr Oak Cemetery has been faced with controversy over the year for its burial practices, so when the family saw their relative's headstone, they said they were angry and distraught.

"I was devastated," Palmer said. "I couldn't believe what I saw."

Loretta Palmer said most of her family is buried here at the Burr Oak cemetery. She's visited several times over the years, but earlier this month, she was shocked by what she saw at her brother's gravesite.

"There's no dirt underneath the headstone," she said. "It's like it's sitting in air.

RELATED: Group holds vigil, marks 10th anniversary of Burr Oak Cemetery scandal

Palmer brought other relatives to the cemetery so they too could see what she calls an act of negligence and disrespect.

"When I come out here, I'm already in an emotional state," Palmer said. "So, to come out here and see something like this was even more devastating to me. I couldn't sleep at night."

Back in 2009, Burr Oak was at the center of a burial scandal. The Cook County Sheriff's Office discovered that cemetery employees were reselling graves to grieving families and pocketing the money. They would dig up remains and bury new bodies in their place or bury caskets on top of each other.

Palmer said the scandal instantly came to mind when she saw her brother's headstone like this.

"It was just traumatizing to me," she said. "I would have thought they have gotten their act together by now."

In a statement to the ABC7 I-Team, the new owner of Burr Oak says the dirt on Mr. Palmer's headstone was overflow from a recent burial.

"In this business, sometimes due to weather conditions or the wetness of the grounds, a recent burial cannot be immediately smoothed out or what we call in the industry as being tampered....The gaping hole is part of the settling of the earth and is an example of what could happen to the entire grave if it is not allowed to properly settle," the statement said.

The owner said it can sometimes take weeks for the ground to settle. But for the Palmer family they believe it's a sight that no grieving family should ever have to see.

"How would you like it if you came to Burr Oaks and your loved one's grave was disrupted like this?" Palmer said. "He couldn't even respond. He couldn't even respond."

The owner stressed that the grave site is not being ignored or forgotten and they are in no way trying to disrespect any family. The owner said he would check out the gravesite himself and will clean off the dirt if it's still there.

The owner says he realizes many families are scarred after the burial scandal and while they say it's not fair to the new owners they are prepared to support families to earn their trust.