$300K Grave-Recycling Scam In Chicago

Historically, it’s not unheard of to dig up graves, move bones to a different site, and re-use those graves. It only becomes problematic when cemetery staff take it upon themselves to re-use cemetery plots already bought, paid for, and occupied, and dump the occupants in a pile of weeds out back. That’s what employees of a historic black cemetery in Chicago did.

Three gravediggers and a manager at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip are accused of unearthing hundreds of corpses and either dumping some in a weeded, desolate area near the cemetery or double-stacking others in graves. The cemetery is the burial place of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmett Till and blues singers Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington.

While Till’s grave site was not disturbed, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said investigators found his original iconic glass-topped casket rusting in a shack at the cemetery.

It’s a shameful scam even if famous people hadn’t been buried there.

Cemetey workers made $300K in gravedigging scheme [AP] (Photo: jaredrubinsky)


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  1. amberlink says:

    Sometimes even the depravity of some acts leaves you speechless. They’re dead. Let ’em be. Sheesh.

  2. Darrone says:

    if famous people hadn’t been buried there.

    Let’s be honest, we wouldn’t even know about the scam.

    • youbastid says:

      @Darrone: Famous people? A lynching victim and a couple of blues singers from the 50’s does not an issue of Us Weekly make.

      • 2 replies says:

        @youbastid: Should also be noted:
        Being featured in Us Weekly does not a famous person make.

        (Just saying, fame is a very relative term.)

      • CumaeanSibyl says:

        @youbastid: Till isn’t just “a lynching victim,” he’s THE lynching victim. His case is taught in schools as representing all the tragedies and miscarriages of justice in the Jim Crow South.

        At risk of a Godwin violation, Emmett Till is to lynching as Anne Frank is to the Holocaust.

    • Wubbytoes says:

      @Darrone: I seriously doubt that. This is the kind of bizarre story that the media absolutely loves.

    • K-Bo says:

      @Darrone: if we didn’t know about it, it wouldn’t be less shameful.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Darrone: Illinois is actually pretty hard-ass about prosecuting these things. We have strict laws that if you have to dig up a body for any reason, there’s a whole process of identification and reburial, and if you can’t ID them, they go to the state to hold in a sort of dead-body-historic-warehouse, just in case. It’s at your expense (and it’s expensive), there are state archaeologists who basically do JUST THIS, and the felony charges and fines for violating those laws are massive.

      That they did this for monetary gain will just be double extra charges on top of the existing felonies for disturbing gravesites.

    • Chongo says:

      @Darrone: Its HUGE in the news in Chicago right now. Front page of papers, Primetime news, etc. The thing is, I didn’t even know it was full of famous people. It’s known here as one of the first and longest african american run business’s in Chicago.

    • HiPwr says:

      @Darrone: Jesse Jackson was holding a press conference yesterday. He’s looking for a white person to blame.

    • TheAlarmist says:

      Emmett Till is pretty famous.

  3. militarydave says:

    I concur…..!


  4. henrygates says:

    Cemeteries have always been a strange concept to me. At some point, the bodies will have to be removed or all the land will be covered by corpses buried in metal boxes.

  5. MadColombian says:

    I’m sorry to break it to you guys, but the Chicago Sun Times this morning reported that Emmette Tills gravesite was one of those disturbed. They found his caskett in those bushes where they were just throwing away the dug up bodies.

    • Smashville says:

      @MadColombian: Yeah…I’m trying to figure out how his grave couldn’t have been disturbed if they found his casket.

      • starrion says:


        He was legally exhumed for a re-autopsy. He was buried in a new casket. They found his original casket.

        His grave was not illegally disturbed. Which is good. The kid suffered enough indignities for one existance.

        • trujunglist says:


          One thing that makes me worry a bit after reading this is that they don’t really seem all that certain that he was reburied. Even if it just the casket though, it’s still kind of sad because it was a specially made casket so that people could view the terrible things that they did to him. It was profoundly effective and changed a lot of people for the better. It’s an important historical item for civil rights that has been discarded to rust and become a home for rats. It really belongs in a museum at least, not a rundown shack. Very sad.

          • juri squared says:

            @trujunglist: It seems that that’s precisely where the casket is headed, after all this stuff.

          • Vanilla5 says:

            @trujunglist: Well, he was dug up by the authorities so I’m pretty sure they saw to it that he was re-buried properly. There may have been family present at the re-burial, as well.

            However, that first casket was supposed to be part of a historical museum-type thing that the cemetery folks “never got around” to doing. His original casket was found in a shed – not in the woods. Although this doesn’t make it any better since a family of possums was living in it when they found it. (I got all this info from CNN)

    • trujunglist says:


      Wow, even many years later Till gets a raw deal…

  6. the_gank says:

    I’m afraid of dying… any one got any other alternatives?

  7. econobiker says:

    This makes the 2002 Tri-State Crematory scandal in North Georgia look better as these people are truly ghouls digging up the dead to resell the plots. Ray Brent Marsh was just a sorry tail, lazy guy who let his work get behind versus these blatant criminals…

  8. TacoChuck says:

    I live in Switzerland, here for the most part everyone who is buried is only buried for 25 years and then they are dug up and cremated. The family gets a notice when the 25 years are up.

    It’s a tiny country with not a lot of land. I am sure there are exceptions, but not for most folks in modern times. A lot of people are just cremated at the time of the death instead of buried at all.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @TacoChuck: Can’t they simply go green and recycle them into chocolates or something?

    • bohemian says:

      @TacoChuck: I have never understood the logic of burial in the modern age. We have already reached that finite amount of land in most countries. You can’t bury every person who ever died and keep a place for them for eternity. You will run out of land.

      As for what the cemetery did, disgusting and horrible.

    • GreatWhiteNorth says:

      @TacoChuck: …Soylent Green may be the answer…

  9. ramenite says:

    Well..how ELSE are they supposed to get all those dead people to the voting booth in Chicago?

    • HiPwr says:

      @ramenite: Being that they dismembered the bodies, I guess a person’s left hand, right & left feet, and torso could all vote for Daley and Stroger.

  10. Spero says:

    It’s okay, the vengeful spirits of all those disturbed graves will make sure things are set right. You think a blues singer is discontent in life, you ain’t seen nothing compared to a pissed off blues ghost.

  11. I Love New Jersey says:

    Don’t worry they are still voting.

  12. El_Fez says:

    Could be worse – they could have just moved the headstones and built suburban homes right over the top.

  13. HogwartsAlum says:

    There was a funeral home guy on an episode of Dr. G – Medical Examiner who stacked bodies all around the building and didn’t even embalm or bury them at all. Stacked them in closets, etc. He just took the money from the families and threw the bodies wherever he felt like it.

    Unfortunately, I saw the same thing (different guy) later in the newspaper. It happens more than you would think, apparently.

  14. erhudock says:

    You have to dig deep to find a low down dirty deed such as this. Good pick of noteworthy news! Until her finding this…don’t know if Laura found one as likely to rake in the comments as this one…

  15. bohemian says:

    I have noticed something. The most discussed post that shows up on the right side by the article on the main page. It almost always has someones lame or offensive troll post. Everyone responds to correct an offensive or possibly purposely flawed opinion. So that obnoxious statement ends up getting priority attention on the main page. It is sort of a reward for some of the people who repeatedly post things just to be obnoxious or know it will get under other people’s skin.

    Maybe rotate through the most current post instead?

  16. Kabukistar says:

    What is a “black cemetery”?

    • FrankReality says:


      Cemetaries were very much racially segregated at one time (some probably still are), just like there are cemetaries for the poor and the affluent and there are Lutheran and Catholic cemetaries.

      Since cemetaries are supposed to be stable and not disrupted, the history of segregation hasn’t been erased.

    • nicolebuckingham says:

      @Kabukistar: Where are you from? I’m guessing another country or somewhere without a lot of black people. Most cememtaries used to be officially segregated until probably the 1980s or later (depending on whether the company that owned the cememtary would allow blacks to be buried there). In 1994, my uncle was the first person to integrate a cememtary in my city. There was still a lot of pushback, but my family is multiracial (my uncle passed as white during his life) and so the cemetary seemed to think that he wasn’t “too black” so letting him in would be okay. I could never figure out why he wanted to be buried in a cemetary that didn’t want him there, but it was his wish and it just sort of went with the theme of his life I guess.

      Anyway, the point is, yes, there are “black” and “white” cemetaries in the US, and for the most part, it still remains that way.

  17. FrankReality says:

    Apologies in advance for the acerbic witticism –

    I suspect none of those dead people who were dug up vote Republican.

    It is the “Chicago Way”.

  18. Smashville says:

    @CumaeanSibyl: Not a Godwin violation, considering the context. It’s a pretty apt comparison…they both brought the horrendous treatment of other human beings to light.