CHICAGO | In a bankruptcy court hearing Tuesday, Judge Pamela S. Hollis gave permission for Perpetua-Burr Oak Holdings of Illinois, L.L.C., owner of Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip, to sell the cemetery that became infamous this summer for a grave desecration scandal.
Perpetua filed for bankruptcy protection in September in the wake of a criminal investigation. The company told Hollis it had hired American Cemetery/Mortuary Consultants Inc. as a consultant to assist in selling the cemetery.
Attorney Robert Fishman, of Shaw Gussis Fishman Glantz Wolfson, in Chicago, said Perpetua doesn’t yet know of any buyers but hired a consultant with expertise in cemeteries.
“All the pressure of the world is on us,” said Fishman during the hearing, when Paul J. Gaynor, chief of the Illinois attorney general’s Public Interest Division, expressed concern too much money is being spent on court costs.
Gaynor said he wants to ensure “as much as possible for victims. The state is concerned about people and families.”
Burr Oak Cemetery opened its gates at 9 a.m. Monday to more than 50 lawyers representing claimants in the grave desecration scandal. The cemetery has been closed to the public since the scandal broke this summer.
Attorney Larry Rogers Sr. of Chicago firm Power Rogers Smith, representing claimants, said the goal of opening up the cemetery for legal counsel was to provide the opportunity to locate family gravesites for his clients.
He lamented it was difficult to find anything useful because many graves are unmarked and a database being compiled by the sheriff’s office is not yet complete.
The cemetery has a primarily black clientele. Among prominent Chicagoans buried there are Emmett Till, Dinah Washington along with Negro League baseball players Jimmie Crutchfield and John Donaldson.