Exhumation of gangster John Dillinger is no-go for next week

CHICAGO (WLS) -- After worldwide publicity, the planned exhumation of notorious American outlaw John Dillinger from an Indiana grave has hit a hard spot: the law.

Some of Dillinger's kin had obtained an Indiana state permit to exhume the gangster's body, part of a made-for-TV plan to run DNA tests and verify whether the remains are actually his.

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The exhumation had been set with great fanfare for September 16, in exactly one week.

Now, though, the ABC7 I-Team has learned that a lawsuit won't establish legal authority for that exhumation until after next Monday, putting the plan on ice.

Officials at the Indiana State Department of Health, which approved and issued the exhumation permit, told the I-Team that, "Per the approved application, if the exhumation does occur, it must occur on Sept. 16."

The lawsuit, lodged last month by Dillinger relative Michael Thompson, challenged Crown Hill Cemetery's plan to halt the exhumation. Last Wednesday Thompson's attorneys filed a motion to allow the exhumation to move forward on Sept. 16.

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However, on Monday, Marion County Superior Court Judge Timothy Oakes set a hearing date for October 1, more than two weeks after what state officials said is the only permitted exhumation date.

Dillinger was gunned down by federal agents more than 85 years ago outside Chicago's Biograph Theatre. For decades the gangland rumor mill had spit out conspiracy theories, suggesting it really wasn't Dillinger killed on July 22, 1934. According to the conspiracy theorists, and now a faction of the Dillinger family, DNA tests will reveal that an impostor has been buried under the gangster's tombstone.

RELATED: FBI in Chicago has been battling Dillinger rumors for decades

Attorneys for Dillinger relatives, for Crown Hill Cemetery have not responded to messages left by the I-Team. Dan Silberman, a spokesman for the History Channel, said late Monday, "There are no plans for an exhumation on Sept. 16. As of now, there is nothing planned."

The History Channel is partially owned by Disney, which also owns ABC7 Chicago.

Indiana public health officials have not offered further guidance as to what happens next.

"We have not received any other applications for another date of exhumation," said Megan Wade-Taxter, spokesperson for ISDH.

The Dillinger family motion states that the body "be disinterred from its grave in Crown Hill Cemetery on or before September 16, 2019, or within reasonable time thereafter, before the ground becomes frozen in late 2019." However, state officials contend there is no wiggle room in the permit date-regardless of the court calendar or the weather.
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