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Sheriff investigates 11 unburied bodies at Thornton cemetery

Saturday, April 14, 2012
Chicago Sun-Times

Investigators from the Cook County Sheriff’s office discovered 11 unburied bodies at a south suburban cemetery Friday afternoon.

The unburied bodies were found in a storage room behind a chapel at Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Thornton, said sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki. The bodies were in caskets.

Investigators were tipped off by a person who tried visiting a loved one who was supposedly buried at the cemetery, Bilecki said.

The tipster went to the cemetery and had a “gut feeling” something was wrong, so he walked into the storage room and found his loved one’s casket stacked with 10 others, Bilecki said.

The longest any body had been in the storage room was about a week, Bilecki said.

The manager of the cemetery told investigators that the bodies were not buried because a backhoe driver was recently fired, but Bilecki said the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office buried 19 indigent bodies since the time the driver was laid off.

“I think it’s pure laziness,” Bilecki said.

Officials at Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery did not immediately return calls for comment late Friday.

Bilecki said the sheriff’s office will continue its investigation. No charges have been filed.

Families have been notified that the bodies will be buried Saturday morning, Bilecki said.

“That’s the good part of the story,” he said.

All 11 bodies were public burials, Bilecki said, meaning that the state paid the cemetery $1,600 for each burial.

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation has been notified of the unburied bodies and will conduct its own investigation, Bilecki said.

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