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Eleven bodies found in cemetery storage room laid to rest

Updated: April 14, 2012 8:14PM

The 11 bodies found in their caskets at a south suburban cemetery storage room Friday afternoon were all buried Saturday, as several family members watched their loved ones laid to rest.

“The individuals are now buried and now resting, as they should have been a week ago,” Cook County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Frank Bilecki said.

Investigators from the Cook County Sheriff’s office were tipped off by a person who tried visiting a loved one supposedly buried at the Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Thornton, Bilecki said. The tipster walked into a storage room behind a chapel and found his loved one’s casket stacked with 10 others, Bilecki said.

All 11 bodies were public burials, Bilecki said, meaning that the state paid the cemetery $1,600 for each burial. The manager of the cemetery told investigators that the bodies were not buried because a backhoe driver was recently fired.

However, the Cook County Medical Examiner’s office was able to bury 19 indigent bodies since the time the driver was laid off, Bilecki said.

The oldest body found in the storage room was from last Friday, according to Bilecki.

“I think it’s pure laziness,” Bilecki said. “It’s unprofessional conduct at minimum.”

Officials at Homewood Memorial Gardens Cemetery did not return repeated calls for comment.

State law does allow for delayed burials, but as a matter of courtesy, the deceased’s family should be notified of any delay, which was not done, Bilecki said. No charges have been filed.

Officials from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which oversees cemeteries, was on hand to observe the burials. The agency is conducting its own investigation.

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