New Charges For Burr Oak Defendants
(WGN-AM)- Additional charges were announced today against four former workers at Burr Oak Cemetery accused of digging up as many as 300 bodies, dumping the remains in an isolated area and reselling the grave sites.

Former cemetery manager Carolyn Towns, 49, foreman Keith Nicks, 45, and dump-truck operator Terrence Nicks, 39, all of Chicago, and back-hoe operator Maurice Dailey, 59, of Robbins, had previously each been charged with a single count of dismembering a human body.

At a hearing in Cook County Criminal Court today, prosecutors said the four have been indicted on the dismembering count, plus two counts of theft and single counts of removal of a gravestone, desecration of human remains, removal of remains of a deceased human from a burial ground and conspiracy to dismember a human body.

All four are scheduled to appear at an arraignment hearing on Aug. 26.

Prosecutors said investigators have found nearly 1,200 bones at the cemetery near Alsip and that the forensic work at the site has not yet been completed.

After the hearing, Jack Blakey, an assistant state's attorney and chief of the special prosecutions unit, said the investigation is ongoing and declined to say whether other people would be charged in connection with the cemetery scandal.

Dailey's attorney, Tom Needham, said his client never benefited from the alleged scheme, and was simply following long-standing orders when he disposed of unearthed remains.

"He didn't just decide on his own, 'Hey there's some bones -- let's go move these bones because that's what I want to do,'" Needham said outside court. "That idea is ridiculous. He did what he was told. As far as Burr Oak Cemetery is concerned, this guy was the lowest level employee with no capacity to do anything or make any decisions other than to do what he was told."

Many of the graves that were unearthed, he said, were purchased decades ago and were leased for periods of 50 years, a less expensive option for families with little financial means.

"This was just done, it was a concession to the fact that a lot of people that go to Burr Oak are low-income people," Needham said. "But my client wasn't making the decision about, 'We're going to dig here, or we're going to move theses bones.' He followed orders, and as I said, he's an employee."

Needham said that since his client began working at the cemetery in the early 1980s, any time he dug up human remains, he told cemetery officials and asked what to do.

"It wasn't in every case or even in most cases, but it was a fairly common occurrence," Needham said. "Whenever that happened, from the time my client started there until the time he stopped working there, he notified his supervisors and told them, and these people were checking what they claim were their records, and he was told it's okay to go ahead and move those bones."

Needham also alleged that the Alsip Police Department, cemetery owners Perpetua Inc. and the Illinois Comptroller's office knew of the practice years ago. He said that in 2005, ComEd workers unearthed bones while digging a trench on cemetery property.

"The Alsip Police Department came out, Perpetua sent their corporation counsel from out of town, flew them in to Chicago, where everyone had a confab or a big meeting," Needham said. "And the people that do the heavy lifting at Burr Oak were told that from now on, whenever you find these bones, just go ahead and put them in this part of the cemetery and put them in the ground. He was told that. This is not a decision that Maurice Dailey was making."

Needham said his client has no criminal record and has lived a law abiding life with his wife, whom he married when he was a teenager.

"The point is, the wrath and the emotion and the anger is understandable for some of these families," he said. "It should be directed at the people who directed and owned and managed and made the decisions at Burr Oak, not at people like Maurice Dailey."

(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this story)

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