Families Sue Cemetery Charged With Digging Up Bodies

"She found a mound of fresh dirt and a completely different gravestone," said Cairo. He said the client realized this week that her mother had likely fallen victim to the grave digging scheme.

Cook County authorities said today that they believe at least 300 graves were disrupted by the four individuals who have since been arrested and charged in connection with the crime. The workers may have made as much as $300,000 off their scheme.

The suspects besides Towns include 45-year-old Keith Nicks, 39-year-old Terrence Nicks and 61-year-old Maurice Dailey are all being held in protective custody at the Cook County Jail.

Each are charged with one felony count of dismembering a body and if convicted could face up to 30 years in prison. Bond was set at $250,000 for Towns, the cemetery's manager, and at $200,000 for the other three.

Hart said that Towns is suspected of being the ringleader in the elaborate operation.

"Individuals who worked at this cemetery had an arrangement where an individual in the front office would take cash payments and then give an unsuspecting individual a deed for a plot," Hart said.

"After they did that they'd get a gravedigger to disinter a grave and take the remains from that grave and dump them in a back area of the cemetery," said Hart. "Then they'd use the grave, and the person would be none the wiser that it was a used grave."

Hart said that the he was "horrifically" sorry for families whose relatives had been treated horribly by cemetery employees.

"This was not done in a very, very delicate way, folks," said Hart. "They would excavate a grave and an entire site, then they'd proceed to dump the remains wherever they found a place to do it in the back of the ground."

FBI Special Agent Tom Troutman said Thursday that his agency is working to map out the cemetery and will use thermal imaging to find relocated bodies.

"Right now we don't know what we have," said Troutman. "We don't know if these people were all dumped together and co-mingled."

"We don't know what we have back there," he said.

Blues singers Willie Dixon and Dinah Washington are also buried at the cemetery.

Several families with scheduled burials Thursday showed up to the cemetery only to find that the plot they had anticipated using for their family members was already taken.

Diane Eewbru was hoping to bury her aunt at Burr Oak Cemetery, but when she was taken to a plot different from the one she was promised, she knew something was wrong.

"When we first arrived ... we were taken to a backup cemetery to a different plot, and I immediately jumped out of the car and said this is not the spot. And they told me about the situation, and they wanted to bury her there. And I said no," Eewbru told WLS.

Eewbru was reportedly told that the plot she had purchased was unavailable because someone was already buried there.

"This is unreal. I get out here, and I can't bury my aunt," said Eewbru.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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