CHICAGO
08/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Emmett Till Memorial Fund Scam Part Of Burr Oak Cemetery Scheme

The woman behind a long-running scheme to dig up bodies and resell the grave sites in a historic African American cemetery also embezzled funds from an Emmett Till memorial foundation, authorities said.

Carolyn Towns, 49, the former manager of Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, was charged along with three others Tuesday with dismembering a human body, a Class X felony. At an afternoon news conference at the cemetery, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said that Towns, of the 7500 block of S. Yates in Chicago, also pocketed money from a private foundation ostensibly set up to build a memorial to the lynched civil rights icon.

Till was a 14-year-old Chicagoan whose 1955 lynching in Mississippi helped propel the civil rights movement. He was buried in Burr Oak. His body was exhumed in 2005, as part of the investigation into his murder, before being re-buried in the same location.

Dart said that Till's remains were not disturbed in the scheme, which disinterred at least 300 bodies.

Authorities urged anyone who donated money to the Till fund or has family members at Burr Oak to contact the Sheriff's office by phone: 1-800-942-1950, option #4; or email: BURROAKCEMETERYINVESTIGATION@GMAIL.COM.

Read complete coverage of the Burr Oak Cemetery case here.

Mugshots of the accused: