Archaeologists find more improper burials at Burr Oak Cemetery

March 21, 2011

by Tony Arnold

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(WBEZ/Tony Arnold)
Dart on Monday told reporters archaeologists found bones and pieces of burnt coffins.

A new report finds conditions at a south suburban cemetery are worse than expected.
 
Archaeologists examined Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip. That’s where Cook County Sheriff’s officials in 2009 uncovered an alleged scheme in which workers dug up graves and resold the plots.

In a letter to the sheriff’s office, archaeologists report bodies were buried in a Burr Oak corner thought to be unused. Officials had thought the corner could be used for new burials, but Sheriff Tom Dart said Monday the archaeologists found bones and pieces of burnt coffins in an area of the graveyard thought to be available for new graves.

Dart said he thinks up to 600 bodies could be improperly buried in that section — double what he had estimated.

“That area, as we had said, frankly, a year and a half ago, needs to be treated as a memorial,” Dart told reporters. “That’s exactly what needs to be done here. No one in good conscious can go out there and attempt to bury people there.”

Dart said he doesn’t know why some of the coffin pieces were burnt.

He said Burr Oak is at capacity.

“It’s our hope that this report, once and for all, makes clear that if you dig at any level in these areas, you’re going to find human bones, pieces of coffins and God knows what else,” Dart said in a written statement.

The cemetery is going through bankruptcy and trying to find a new owner. A lawyer for the company overseeing Burr Oak said Dart’s claims were inaccurate, but he wouldn’t comment further.

Meanwhile, four Burr Oak workers face charges of criminal wrongdoing. All four remain free on bond while awaiting trial.