And so four workers at historic Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip plundered them, smashing open the concrete liners and hauling away the human remains inside to a weedy dump site, Cook County investigators say.
If bones clattered off the dump truck along the way, they were left on the side of the cemetery roads, investigators say.
As many as 300 bodies were unearthed and dumped in a mass grave as part of a scam that netted the workers about $300,000, authorities said Thursday.
The empty graves were resold to unsuspecting families for cash -- off the books, authorities said.
Identifying the bodies is going to prove to be a daunting task as well, according to anthropologist Clyde Snow:
Even to a scientist known worldwide for his expertise in skeletal remains and mass grave sites, there was something unusually cruel about the unearthing of perhaps hundreds of people at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip.
On June 30, the Cook County medical examiner's office called on Clyde Snow, 81, a noted forensic anthropologist from Oklahoma, to examine a small collection of human bone fragments that authorities had recovered from Burr Oak.
Snow -- who has worked on some of the most famous forensic cases in the world, including John Wayne Gacy, King Tutankhamen and others -- discovered that the pieces of skull, arm, leg and vertebrae belonged to several people who likely had been buried within the last 50 years.
Snow determined that the brittle bones had cracked during the excavation process, but that their outer shells did not show the typical wear and tear or embedded bits of soil commonly seen in bones buried for more than five decades.
"Everything was consistent with what you would see when you disturb coffin burials," Snow said from his home in Norman, Okla. "I had no idea then how enormous and complex a case this was."
Four people have been arrested in the Burr Oaks case and may they rot in hell for what they have done.