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Bones just heaped together
BUR OAK CEMETERY | Remains may never be identified, say investigators

Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Chicago Sun-Times
by Natasha Korecki

When corpses were illegally unearthed from burial plots in Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, bones from different bodies were indiscriminately heaped together in a back portion of the property, making it now "beyond possible" to make out who is who, investigators said Tuesday.

"This is not as if someone was dug up and gently placed in a location," Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said. "That did not occur. Things are scattered, co-mingled, different sizes, all of the above."

Since the FBI began the laborious task last week of searching an area that stretches four city blocks for above-ground human remains, agents recovered more than 200 bones or bone fragments.

And more bones -- as well as indications that more than 300 bodies were displaced -- are expected to be discovered in an area cordoned off as a crime scene at the cemetery where the ground is suspiciously elevated.

Investigators were tipped that they may find additional mass graves involving commingled bones within those mounds, sources say.

The FBI is bringing in thermal imaging devices that can look beneath the surface for anomalies underground.

"Anomalies that might be evidence of remains and maybe those remains were evidence of where there shouldn't be remains," FBI Special Agent in Charge Robert Grant said.

Authorities have also found that while headstones are evenly spaced above ground, below ground there's indication of vaults buried right up against one another without any visible markings.

The FBI began a comprehensive search of the cemetery last week after Dart's office found evidence that upwards of 300 bodies were dug up from burial plots and dumped in a mass grave as part of an off-the-books grave-reselling scheme that has brought human dismemberment charges against four former cemetery workers.

"We've found no intact human remains," Grant said, adding that identifying the bones is "probably beyond possible," because investigators don't know what to match them up against.

Dart said his office will soon launch online a public headstone search, after deputies photographed every headstone in the cemetery to help families locate loved ones.

Law enforcement officials continue to look for answers in the so-called "Babyland" portion of the cemetery, where infants and children are buried. While more than 10 families have complained their children's headstones are missing, investigators now say they found new maps showing Babyland might exist in a different area than previously thought, Sheriff's spokesman Steve Patterson said.

The cemetery is expected to stay closed past Aug. 1.

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