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Illinois police swamped by cemetery inquiries

CHICAGO – With more than 7,000 families scrambling to get answers about their dead relatives at Burr Oak Cemetery, in Alsip, Ill., Cook County (Ill.) sheriff’s officials said Sunday the volume of requests are starting to overwhelm the investigation.

“We have found ourselves bogged down by the disastrous record keeping at the cemetery … we can’t make heads or tails out of many of these records and that is hampering our efforts to match names to information at the office,” said Steve Patterson, a spokesman for Sheriff Tom Dart, in a release.

Patterson said officials have only been able to process 400 out of more than 7,000 written requests for help from people seeking information. He said more than 100 employees are working 16-hour days to find information.

“We’re asking for patience. We’re a sheriff’s department suddenly thrust into the role of running a cemetery and trying to match decades-old records to family information,” Patterson said.

With the cemetery closed to the public and investigators going door-to-door to question residents of homes surrounding Burr Oak, hundreds of emotional relatives gathered today at a local high school to fill out forms detailing their loved ones’ burial dates.

Patterson said because of the large volume of requests, beginning this morning the department will no longer accept information in person and will only gather information by telephone or by e-mail.