ALSIP, Ill. (CBS/AP) "What a mess!" That is was authorities must be thinking as they begin the daunting task of trying to identify remains in each of the approximately 100,000 graves at a suburban Chicago cemetery where four former workers allegedly dug up bodies in an elaborate scheme to resell the plots burial plots.
An FBI spokesman says about 20 agents have joined Cook County investigators at Burr Oak Cemetery in Alsip on Monday.
The cemetery has been closed and declared a crime scene.
Authorities allege the former workers dug up bodies and either dumped the remains in a vacant lot or stacked them in existing graves.
Many of the bodies were moved to a mass grave, but police are finding body parts in the woods and it's not yet clear where all the bodies have gone and how many are missing.
Carolyn Towns, Keith Nicks, Terrence Nicks, and Maurice Dailey have all been charged with dismembering a human body, a felony that carries up to 30 years in prison.
Some found apparently undisturbed plots, but others wandered, unable to locate loved ones. The Cook County Sheriff's Office says it has received more than 7,000 written inquiries about loved ones.
Towns, the former manager of the cemetery, allegedly took cash for new graves, then instructed the others—three gravediggers—to empty existing plots and move the remains inside to an unused part of the cemetery covered with chest-high grass and dotted with trees.
The Arizona-based owner of the cemetery, Perpetua Inc., said in a statement Thursday that the company is cooperating with investigators.
"We will make every attempt to insure and maintain the dignity of those that have been entrusted to our care," the company said.
PREVIOUSLY ON CRIMESIDER
07/10/09 - Body Count May Rise in Chicago Grave Robbing Scandal
July 10, 2009 - Grave Trouble for Alleged Grave Robbers
July 9, 2009 - 300 Bodies Dug Up for Profit, Say Police