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Cemetery President 'Surprised' by Sheriff’s Mass Graves Accusation

Homewood Memorial Gardens President Tom Flynn responds to the Cook County sheriff's criticism of burial procedures.

The president of Homewood Memorial Gardens said he was surprised by the allegations Sheriff Tom Dart made regarding burial procedures at the cemetery off Ridge Road.

In drawing attention to new legislation that would require DNA samples from unidentified corpses going into paupers' graves, and said bodies were layered on top of each other eight feet high in some places. Dart also said the cemetery could not map the location of the bodies.

Cemetery president Tom Flynn said the sheriff’s perception of procedure is different than his own.

“We bury people, fill in the area. We come back, probe the ground and bury more at a higher level, like layers,” said Flynn who claimed most layers are created years apart. “We’ve been in total compliance (with procedure). It was a surprise to see (the news) this morning.”

The cemetery holds the county contract for burying unclaimed bodies and has since 1980.

Flynn says  Homewood Memorial Gardens has had an excellent relationship with the Medical Examiner’s Office during those 26 years.

Dart also criticized poor record keeping at the cemetery. Flynn countered that he has personally shown Dart documentation.

“We have as good of records as anybody in the state,” Flynn said. "We are surrounded by records. We have maps, burial books—we have everything. I don’t know where (Dart) comes up with this stuff.”

The sheriff's department issued a response to Flynn's comments:

"Through multiple visits by sheriff's investigators, when owner Thomas Flynn was asked for a grid system for indigent burials, he said he could only provide a general map of the cemetery, with the indigent areas shaded. He said he had the names of those delivered to his cemetery by the medical examiner, but no positive way to identify their location. He said the only indigent graves he could positively locate were those done in 1980, the only year he buried indigents in a single row. Since then, he told investigators, he has stacked the bodies atop each other, some as much as eight high."

The medical examiner has agreed that the cemetery is in violation of its agreement with the county.

“We have done nothing wrong,” Homewood Memorial Gardens family counsel Kelly McCarthy said. “We do our burials and we respect everybody who comes out here and we take the best care we can with them.”

Not only would the new legislation sponsored by State Rep. William Cunningham require coroners and medical examiners to take a DNA sample from an indigent or unidentified person's remains for future reference, the bill would limit the stacking of caskets in a graves and ban the burial of multiple remains in a single grave.

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