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Quinn Forms Cemetery Task Force In Wake Of Burr Oak (VIDEO)

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has formed an oversight task force for the state's cemeteries as authorities continue to investigate a historic black graveyard in suburban Chicago where bodies were allegedly dug up and the plots resold in a moneymaking scheme.

The task force's nine members will examine operations at all Illinois cemeteries and make recommendations about regulating the industry, Quinn said Thursday. They're expected to submit a report to Quinn by Sept. 15.

While the whole state will be covered, the task force will focus its efforts on the now-shuttered Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip and others that are for profit, Quinn said. Task force members come from state government, businesses and human services agencies.

"All of us in Illinois understand the importance of reverence and dignity when it comes to funerals," Quinn said.

Cemeteries in Illinois are largely unregulated, and only funeral directors and embalmers must be licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said Brent Adams, acting secretary of the department.

The task force will ask its licensed operators to turn over any communications about dealings with Burr Oak going back five years, Adams said.

Authorities say Burr Oak workers emptied graves and haphazardly dumped remains or stacked bodies in order to resell plots. Cemetery records don't exist, are incomplete or are unreadable, and the Cook County sheriff's office and FBI agents are working to determine how best to identify bodies.

Burr Oak, the burial place of civil rights-era lynching victim Emmett Till, has served generations of Chicago-area black families. Most of the task force's members are black, and several said they have relatives buried at Burr Oak.

William McNary, co-executive director of Citizen Action Illinois, said his wife is buried there.

"Our job here is not to uncover bodies that are buried," McNary said. "Our job here is to uncover the truth that is buried."

-ASSOCIATED PRESS

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