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Cemetery task force meets for 1st time

Thursday, July 23, 2009
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As the investigation at Burr Oak Cemetery continues, the effort to reform the industry begins.

Governor Pat Quinn put together the Cemetery Oversight Task Force after Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, Ill., came under fire for allegedly digging up bodies and reselling plots that were already in use.

The task force will review Illinois' regulations and laws regarding the cemetery and funeral industry, compare them to other states and then come up with a reform plan. The group wants to fix a broken system that was only revealed when the scandal at Burr Oak Cemetery came to light.

"What we're hoping is that through this tragedy this issue will never happen again," said Dalitso Sulamoyo, task force member.

The efforts to reform the state's cemetery industry began Thursday afternoon just a week after Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive order creating the nine member panel.

"There are loopholes in Illinois law; gaps that need to be filled," said Gov. Quinn.

The task force heard testimony from legislative appointees and an attorney representing the industry on Thursday.

"Our association is completely shocked and mortified at what occurred here is not the type of conduct our association members engage in," said Harvey Lapin, Illinois Cemetery & Funeral Home Assn.

"It's an awful, awful situation. I've never heard of it, never seen it in a movie, never read a book about it," said State Rep. Monique Davis, (D) 27th District.

In the past few weeks, thousands of families have flocked to the Alsip cemetery after authorities discovered a grave selling scheme that would not allow those buried there to rest in peace. Panel chairperson Patricia Brown Holmes understands the massive undertaking of her committee and the emotions felt by relatives of those whose graves were violated. She too has family buried at Burr Oak.

"Something clearly broke down and we don't know if it was merely something criminal, fraud, or a failure on our state's part," said Patricia Brown Holmes, task force chairperson.

Governor Quinn wants reform recommendations from his task force by September 15th.

Quinn's task force is not the only group looking into the cemetery and funeral industry. Congress is also getting involved. Congressman Bobby Rush plans to convene a subcommittee on commerce, trade, and consumer protection in Chicago next week.

1 suspect in cemetery scandal bailing out of jail

Officials say the wife of one of the four former cemetery employees accused of digging up and dumping hundreds of bodies in a scheme to resell plots has posted bail for her husband's release from jail.

The Cook County Sheriff's Department says the wife of Maurice Dailey arrived at the county jail with $20,000 -- the necessary 10 percent of his $200,000 bond -- to secure his release.

The 61-year-old Dailey is scheduled to leave jail at around 6 p.m. on Thursday. The other suspects remain in custody.

Dailey who is one of three former gravediggers at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip charged along with a former cemetery manager with dismembering a body.

They are accused of selling existing deeds and plots to unsuspecting customers, digging up hundreds of corpses and dumping in a weeded area or double-stacking them in graves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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