Four arrested in scheme to dig up graves and resell plots in historic Illinois cemetary

July 9, 2009

(ChattahBox) — Three gravediggers and a manager were accused in a ghoulish scheme of digging up hundreds of corpses at a historic black cemetery near Chicago and dumping them in a weeded area or reburied with other bodies so that plots could be resold, authorities said. Keith Nicks, 45, Carolyn Towns, 49, and Terrence Nicks, 39, all of Chicago, and 61-year-old Maurice Dailey of Robbins, were charged Thursday with one count each of dismembering a human body, a felony.  While more people may yet be charged, the sheriff’s office said that Towns, the cemetery office manager, was the alleged ringleader of the scam.

Investigators suspect perhaps 300 bodies were dug up in the  the famed suburban Chicago Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, which is the final resting place of Civil Rights lynching victim Emmett Till and his mother, as well as jazz legend Dinah Washington and bluesman Willie Dixon. As frantic relatives of the deceased descended on the 150-acre cemetery, investigators said it could be months before they fully understand what took place. “There should be a special place in hell” for the perpetrators, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said during a press conference at the desecrated grave yard.  More than a dozen FBI agents have been called in to help sort through the evidence and identify bodies.

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