Tombstones uncovered on Oakbrook Terrace construction site raise questions

ABC7 I-Team Investigation

Jason Knowles Image
Thursday, January 21, 2016
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The ABC7 I-Team is investigating after suburban neighbors called with a mystery on a construction site: tombstones and grave markers discovered in mounds of dirt.

OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. (WLS) -- The ABC7 I-Team is investigating after Oakbrook Terrace neighbors called with a mystery on a construction site - tombstones and grave markers discovered in mounds of dirt.

The construction site in question had old tombstones and broken up wooden materials, which look like caskets, sticking out of dirt piles.

One man was so disturbed by the scene that he sent pictures to the I-Team. The photos show marked tombstones for John Engman, 1866-1925, and Rudolph Yaeche, 1863-1936.

According to websites which keep track of obituaries, the dates and names match up.

Condos are being built on the construction site, right next to Chapel Hill Gardens Cemetery.

ABC7's Jason Knowles: "How many head stones have you seen here?

"Four I think," said William Jefferies, a construction contractor.

Jefferies says he and other workers dug them up when excavating the site.

A day later, the I-Team's camera captured a similar scene from the public sidewalk.

It is hard to tell exactly what some of these stones are - but one is definitely a square block, like a carved stone. Another is clearly a grave marker that appears to have been dug up during construction.

All of the materials were mixed with piles of dirt.

Knowles: "What did you think when you saw those headstones in the construction site?"

Jefferies: "I was just worried about bodies - finding dead bodies."

Knowles: "Did you find any, did you see any?"

Jefferies: "No we didn't see any."

So the I-Team called the developers who own the site - the cemetery - and the mayor of Oakbrook Terrace.

All of them said that no bodies were buried here, in the former cemetery property, which sits alongside a current graveyard.

The company that owns Chapel Hill Gardens said in a statement: "We sold the property approximately 15 years ago and were not involved with the excavation process. However, our records indicate that the two men you identified are laid to rest in our cemetery and their gravesites are clearly marked."

But spokespeople would not show us those "other" sites where they say Engman and Yaeche really are buried, saying it was, "out of respect for the privacy of all the families we serve."

According to Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci, the property was first annexed by the city before being sold to the developers. He says he was told these wooden objects are pieces of empty caskets and the headstones are "duplicate grave markers" from a maintenance area which was housed here.

A spokesperson for the developers again said its workers never discovered remains on that property.

But the question remains - exactly how and why did those tombstones and caskets become rooted in the mounds of dirt and materials?

The I-Team attempted to contact distant relatives of the two men on the tombstones, but did not hear back.