Is Latest Cemetery Scandal at Historic Burr Oak The “Tip of The Iceberg?”

Last updated on: May 31, 2022

Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, IL is the final resting place of many famous African-Americans, including lynching victim Emmett Till. At the historic cemetery, a horrific scandal has recently been unearthed.

Four cemetery workers have been charged with dismembering bodies after police found what they called “startling and revolting” conditions. We extend our sympathy to those families whose loved ones graves have been desecrated.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart says workers at the Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip allegedly dug up more than 100 graves, dumped the bodies into unmarked mass graves and resold the plots to unsuspecting members of the public. These sordid and illegal practices had allegedly been going on for the last four years.

Prosecutors have charged 49-year-old Carolyn Towns, 45-year-old Keith Nicks and 39-year-old Terrence Nicks, all of Chicago. Also charged was 61-year-old Maurice Dailey of Robbins. Each was charged Thursday with one count each of dismembering a human body, a felony. The FBI is currently involved in an ongoing investigation.

As an attorney who litigates in the area of funeral home and mortuary negligence across the country, this latest scandal reminds us about how unscrupulous people can so easily abuse your trust and desecrate all you hold dear for a few measly dollars. While the vast majority of professionals and firms operating in the mortuary field are good, honest people who perform an unpopular but necessary service to the community, population growth, decentralization and corporate acquisitions have largely changed the mortuary trade from a personal, neighborhood ethnically based profession to an impersonal corporate business where there is less of a community bond to insure good and caring practices.

When you couple the foregoing sociological evolution with increasing numbers of deaths due to the “baby-boomer” generation reaching end of life, as well as an economy strained by declining profits and cuts to the labor force, it is inevitable that expected minimal levels of care will be violated and that horrific scandals such as what has occurred at Burr Oak will be revealed.

The real question is whether Burr Oak is but a sordid anomaly or merely a precursor to other scandals, yet to be revealed. Consider who it is that companies employ as cemetery and cremation workers? Consider the fact that much of the grimy, dirty work is done at odd hours and usually out of the public eye? Consider the level of trust and faith the public in general places in the process? For an unscrupulous person, consider the vast room for abuse such circumstances offer.

Those who have been victimized by such a scandal can never regain the peace and tranquility they have lost upon learning of the desecration of their loved one. Often the emotional distress will be permanent and unrelenting. Unfortunately, the law of many states can place difficult obstacles in the way of someone who has been victimized by such heinous acts. Although it may seem obvious that the perpetrators’ of such crimes be called to account in damages for the emotional distress they have caused the survivors of such atrocities, it is frequently a complex minefield that the Plaintiff’s attorney must negotiate, involving issues of intentional vs. negligent conduct; insurance coverage exclusions for intentional acts; attempting to obtain discovery where a police investigation has clamped down on all of the evidence; a frequent lack of eye-witness testimony; issues of psychiatric privilege and a reluctance on the part of the courts to expand coverage for those making emotional distress damage claims. When you overlay these issues with an attempt to class action these claims the cases become infinitely more complex.

If your loved one has been the victim of cemetery re-selling of their plot or grave please call an experienced cemetery lawyer. Charlip Law Group, LC has over 2 decades of experience in the area of Funeral Service/Mortuary Law and is infinitely qualified to answer your questions or help you in any way if you or a member of your family has been touched by this inexcusable event.

Charlip Law Group, LC is located at 999 Brickell Ave Ste. 840, Miami, FL 33131. The toll-free number is (888) 815-1418.

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