CHICAGO, Illinois -- The convicted ringleader of the macabre Burr Oak Cemetery burial plot-reselling scheme turned herself in today to begin serving her 12-year prison sentence, authorities said.
Carolyn Towns, 51, of Blue Island, pleaded guilty in July to six charges, including desecration of human remains, removal of the remains of multiple deceased people from a burial ground and conspiracy to dismember multiple human bodies. She was then sentenced to 12 years in state prison.
She appeared today at the Bridgeview courthouse and surrendered, said Cook County state's attorney's office spokesman Andy Conklin.
Towns was given the past few months to make personal arrangements at the request of her attorney.
She was one of four cemetery employees charged two years ago when the grave-digging scheme was exposed.
Backhoe operator Maurice Dailey, 61, of Robbins; foreman Keith Nicks, 47 and dump-truck operator Terrence Nicks, 41, both of Chicago were also charged. Their cases are pending.
In July 2009, authorities revealed that workers at Burr Oak were reselling graves and dumping hundreds of old remains in an abandoned, weed-covered lot, Dart said.
The discovery shocked the region's black community because of the cemetery's special significance to African-Americans. Burr Oak was the area's first cemetery to allow blacks to be interred there, and countless African-American families would bury relatives there over the years.
Towns was accused of stealing more than $100,000 from the corporation that operated the cemetery, officials with the Cook County state's attorney's office said.
Prosecutors said Towns would accept cash payments from grieving families and keep the money. She would then instruct the gravediggers to bury the bodies in plots that were already occupied. In some cases, the diggers would stack new coffins on top of old ones, authorities said. Or they would remove the old remains and bury the new ones there.