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Burr Oak Update: One Suspect Out Of Jail, Jesse Jackson Calls For Tighter Cemetery Regulation

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CHICAGO (AP) -- Black funeral directors, along with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pushed for cemetery regulation Thursday at the first meeting of an Illinois panel formed after allegations of grave desecration at a historic black graveyard in suburban Chicago.

The Illinois Cemetery Oversight Task Force held its first meeting as one of the four suspects accused of digging up and dumping bodies at Burr Oak Cemetery posted bail and left Cook County Jail.

Maurice Dailey, 61, emerged Thursday evening and hurried to his car without speaking to reporters. The Cook County Sheriff's Department says his wife arrived earlier in the day with $20,000 - the necessary 10 percent of his $200,000 bond - to secure his release. A sheriff's spokesman said there were no other conditions to his release.

At the state panel meeting, Chicago funeral director Charles Childs Jr. of A.A. Rayner & Sons suggested visual inspections of graveyards.

"Had the auditors gone out to Burr Oak Cemetery on a more recent basis maybe some of this would have been discovered sooner or maybe it would have prevented it from happening," Childs said.

Gov. Pat Quinn created the task force after reports of the alleged scheme to dig up and resell burial plots surfaced at the Alsip cemetery. The panel is responsible for examining operations at all Illinois cemeteries and making recommendations on industry regulation by Sept. 15. Cemeteries in the state are largely unregulated.

Jackson said black funeral home directors have had to hire more staff and pay overtime to help families of loved ones buried at Burr Oak who are looking for burial records. In the days after the desecration was discovered, family members flocked to Burr Oak trying to check on graves.

"The black funeral homes are taking a big hit on Burr Oak," Jackson said. "These funeral directors need right-now relief. (They) buried the most persons buried at Burr Oak."

Funeral director Spencer Leak Jr. of Leak and Sons Funeral Home in Chicago said he wants to help families, but it's been overwhelming.

"Many hundreds of people have come to our funeral home lobby trying to get information on their loved ones," Leak said.

Jackson also says funeral directors are storing bodies that were to be buried at Burr Oak because the cemetery has been closed. The Chicago-based civil rights leader said he worries about what might happen if a health emergency arises with multiple deaths.

"Some have already paid their fees to Burr Oak and some people are too poor to go anyplace else," Jackson said.

Harvey Lapin, attorney for the Illinois Cemetery and Funeral Home Association, also testified before the panel Thursday. Lapin told members that his group was open to cemetery regulations considering what happened at Burr Oak, which he called a "rare" occurrence.

"I can't believe this would occur again," Lapin said. "It's beyond my comprehension how this occurred."

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Associated Press reporters Deanna Bellandi and Rupa Shenoy contributed to this report.

-ASSOCIATED PRESS

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