Attorneys for the company overseeing Burr Oak Cemetery say conditions at the cemetery are not as bad as they're being portrayed.
Earlier this week, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said a new report from an archaeological group showed more human remains had been found at a portion of the cemetery thought to be available for new burials. Dart said the cemetery is at capacity.
But attorneys for Perpetua Holdings, the company running Burr Oak, say in a statement released Wednesday the archaeologists' findings aren't new.
In the statement, the attorneys write, "In the case of a cemetery as old as Burr Oak Cemetery, it is not uncommon for such an area to contain some human and wooden coffin remains. Prior to the use of concrete vaults, these wooden coffins deteriorated very quickly."
They say the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago have overseen 400 burials at the cemetery since 2009, when Dart investigated the cemetery for dumping bodies and re-selling plots.
On Monday, Dart told reporters taht bones and pieces of burnt coffins have been found in an area of the graveyard originally thought to be available for new graves. He said there could be up to 600 bodies improperly buried in that section - double what he originally estimated.
"That area, as we had said, frankly, a year and a half ago, needs to be treated as a memorial," Dart said Monday. "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.
The cemetery has been going through bankruptcy court proceedings to find a new owner.
Four former Burr Oak employees face criminal charges. All four remain free on bond while awaiting trial.
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