Cook County Board passes indigent burial regulations

May 5, 2011

Burials for Cook County's poor could soon be more tightly regulated under a measure that has passed the county board.

The ordinance would limit the number of bodies per coffin to one. The county would also have to take DNA samples from unidentified bodies to help police with unsolved cases.

The rules come after the county sheriff uncovered some grisly burial practices at south suburban Homewood Memorial Gardens. Multiple coffins were buried in some gravesites, and some coffins contained the remains of multiple infants and animal parts.

Tom Flynn, the president of the Homewood cemetery, said he supports the ordinance.

"I think it's a wonderful thing for the process. I mean anything that could add dignity to the burial of the indigents, we are all for," he said.

Flynn says his cemetery merely buries the coffins, while the county is responsible for the contents. But he says they'll re-organize the cemetery to make it easier for law enforcement to locate un-identified bodies.

Cook County buried 137 indigents at Homewood Memorial Gardens in 2010, Flynn said.

A spokeswoman said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle will sign the measure into law.