In an Aug. 7 press release announcing the close of the evidence-gathering phase of the Burr Oaks Cemetery criminal investigation, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart said his employees “went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to this case.”
They had a lot of company, including three Oak Park police evidence technicians who spent time at the South Side cemetery helping to gather evidence.
Forensic experts and evidence technicians (ETs) recovered more than a thousand pieces of evidence over four weeks at Burr Oak, including bones, personal effects, pieces of burial vaults and headstones. Some of that evidence was found by Oak Park ETs John Hummons, Michael Rallidis and Angelo Episcopo, who spent approximately two days each on site as part of the West Suburban Major Crimes Task Force.
Sheriff’s spokesperson Lisa Gordon said Dart was “very grateful for all the assistance from outside agencies.”
“We’re just happy the chief let us take part in this,” said Hummons. “It’s good training.”
Police Chief Rick Tanksley said he had no problem releasing the officers to work as needed in the investigation, calling the resource sharing a win-win situation.
“I’m sure they picked up some pointers regarding evidence collection,” said Tanksley, noting the village has relied on the county’s assistance numerous times in the past.
“We were able to return the favor,” he said.
Both Hummons and Episcopo said they were impressed with the organization, teamwork and level of expertise they witnessed at Burr Oaks by county investigators and the FBI. “They have an impressive understanding of the principles involved,” said Hummons.
The evidence gathering involved hot, sweaty work in dirt and muck by dozens of officers meticulously searching in grid patterns.
“It was almost like being in the military,” said Hummons. “It’s a different kind of thing when you’re working with ETs.”
Both officers said they now feel better prepared to perform their jobs, but they also had mixed feelings about what they found.
“It’s good to get the job done,” said Episcopo. “Then again you think, that’s someone’s family.
“Hopefully, we’ll never have to do that again,” he said.