Families Sue Cemetery Charged With Digging Up Bodies

The family of civil right's icon Emmett Till said today they are outraged that the casket was nearly ruined as part of a money making scheme that desecrated hundreds of graves in an historic Chicago cemetery.

"I did view the casket and it is appalling to see how much it has decayed," said Ollie Gordon, a cousin of Till's and a heir to the estate.

Till's casket is one of more than 300 that fell victim to a money-making scheme orchestrated by four cemetery employees who for more than four years dug up bodies and dumped them in the weeds so the plots in the historic Chicago graveyard could be resold.

Video: Chicago area cemetery digs up old graves in r
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Till, whose body was interred in the Burr Oak Cemetery, was exhumed in 2005. He was reburied in a different casket, but the original one was supposed to have been preserved by the cemetery.

Instead, Hart said Till's coffin was found "rusted and filled with wildlife in a dilapidated garage," according to ABC News' Chicago affiliate WLS.

The grave site where Till was reburied has not been disturbed, Hart said.

Till became a rallying point for the civil rights movement when he was brutally murdered at the age of 14 for allegedly whistling at a white woman in a Mississippi store.

Gordon, who said that family plans to move Till's original casket and have it restored "as much as possible," said that she had spoken frequently to Carolyn Towns, 49, the woman who is now suspected to be the ring-leader of the devastating scam.

"I worked and spoke with Miss Towns several times to make sure everything was in order," said Gordon. "It's [the casket] part of history. It's part of trying to put our family member to rest. When will Emmett finally be allowed to rest?"

"How could anybody allow this to happen to something that is so pertinent to history," said Gordon. "How can you disregard the family in such a way?"

In addition to not taking care of his original coffin, Hart said Towns set up a faux memorial fund for Till.

"[Towns] had also set up an Emmett Till Memorial Fund where she took money from that and apparently pocketed that money," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Hart.

He did not specify how much money had been collected before Town's arrest Thursday.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson was also on hand at a press conference today, and urged family's who are planning to bury their loved ones at the famed cemetery to boycott the grave site.

"This cemetery, it is not a secure place," said Jackson.

Comptroller Daniel Hynes, the state official responsible for regulating cemeteries, said that he was revoking the three licenses that cemetery has in order to perform so-called "pre-burial needs" for clients.

"While the owner apparently is cooperating with the investigation I also believe he has to be held responsible for what his employees did," said Hynes.

The cemetery's owners, Arizona-based Perpetua, Inc., did not return calls made by ABCNews.com.

Class Action Lawsuit Filed Over Alleged Cemetery Scam

ABCNews.com learned that a class action will be filed on behalf of at least eight families who claimed the bodies of their loved ones were wrong disinterred.

Attorney Louis C. Cairo told ABCNews.com that the lawsuit will be filed in the circuit court of Cook County, Ill., and is likely to grow in size as more families learn that the Burr Oak Cemetery gravesites have been tampered with or destroyed.

Cairo said that one of his client's, who declined to be named, went to visit her mother's grave site in February and could not find it.

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