Four Illinois Cemetery Workers Charged With Digging Up Graves and Dismembering Bodies

The Rev. Jesse Jackson lambasted the four alleged "graveyard robbers" charged with digging up graves and dismembering bodies buried at a suburban Chicago cemetery in a moneymaking scheme.

The four cemetery workers are accused of taking cash payments from unsuspecting clients for plots of land, falsifying deeds, excavating existing graves and dumping the bones and remains in the back of the cemetery, authorities said at a news conference.

They would then allegedly bury the new corpses in the already-used graves at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Ill. Police called conditions at the historic cemetery "startling and revolting."

"The human degradation is immeasurable," Jackson told reporters. "There should be no bail for these graveyard thieves. They deserve a special place in hell."

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said workers at Burr Oak allegedly tampered with about 300 graves, digging them up, dumping the bodies and reselling the plots to unsuspecting members of the public.

The three men and one woman were charged Thursday with one count each of dismembering a human body.

Dart said the woman was the cemetery's office manager and was at the center of the operation.

"This was not done in a delicate way," he told reporters. "They would excavate the grave and the entire site and then dump the remains wherever they found a place to do it in the back of the cemetery."

He says in other cases the graves were "pounded down" and another person was buried on top.

Burr Oak is the final resting place of many famous African-Americans, including lynching victim Emmett Till, blues singers Willie Dixon, Dinah Washington and Otis Spann, as well as Harlem Globetrotter Inman Jackson.

Hundreds of confused and angry family members are looking for answers after the arrests.

Authorities in the southern Chicago suburb of Alsip were directing crowds at Burr Oak Cemetery Thursday and taking reports from families.

Among the family members is 54-year-old Ralph Gunn, whose father and nephew were buried at Burr Oak but whose bodies are missing.

Gunn says their headstones are gone. And he says he can't fathom why anyone would want to dig up bodies.

Authorities say most of the problems are from a secluded area of the cemetery that contains older plots.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.