Daily archives: July 11th, 2008

Man Keeps Human Bones in Box for 26 Years

This one is just too strange to pass up.

According to a report in the Southtown Star, a man in Park Forest, IL, has kept “a disorganized heap of crusty human bones” in a box for 26 years.

According to the report, John Ray claims he bought the box of human remains in 1982:

It was the year Ray said he bought the grisly collection, albeit accidentally, at an estate auction in Shipshewana, Ind. There he bought a tattered, 150-year-old book titled “The History of the American Indian.” Packaged with the book was a cardboard box layered in duct tape.

“The dealer said, ‘Wait till you get home to open it up,’ ” Ray said of the box. “He said, ‘You’ll really be pleased with it. It’s like a little gift from Santa Claus.’ ”

But Ray said he didn’t wait until he got home. When he got to his car, Ray split the box open with a pocketknife. To his shock, the book was packaged with the bones. He marched back to the dealer, who refused to take back the “gift.” The dealer claimed to have bought the remains at a separate estate auction earlier in the year.

But Ray never called the police, until recently.  According to the story, he waited to call the police to avoid trouble.  “I did put it off,” Ray said. “I was a teacher, I was afraid.”

Ray claims he called the police after he retired from teaching in 2001, but they never called back — a claim Park Forest Police dispute:

Park Forest Deputy Chief Mike McNamara said he doesn’t know whether Ray phoned the department but that people who do find bones should call police.

“We would probably contact the crime lab, and they would take it,” McNamara said. “It depends if it was an ancient skeleton – sometimes they take them to an archaeologist to examine.”

Ray may be in for more trouble, according to Bob Nale, former president of the South Suburban Archaeological Society:

“There are some fairly stringent laws, and some of them are being enforced with some big-size penalties,” Nale said. “Then there’s the other option – take them out in a field and bury them deep.”

The Illinois Human Skeletal Remains Protection Act instructs anyone who discovers human remains to report the incident to the coroner within 48 hours or face misdemeanor charges.

The Illinois attorney general’s office points to state statute prohibiting the sale of body parts.

Under the law, anyone who buys or sells a human body or any part of a human body is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for the first conviction and a Class 4 felony for subsequent convictions.

According to a second report, a local funeral home has offered to bury the remains, but Ray is “weighing the option.”

Ray said the estate auction dealer told him the bones belonged to a boy who claimed to be one of the last Delaware Indians. The boy was beaten to death at a bar, Ray said the dealer told him while refusing to take back the bones. Ray said he does not know the dealer’s name.

McNamara suggested Thursday that Ray turn the bones over to Shipshewana police.

“If this was a homicide, and the bones are 40 to 50 years old, they would have an open case on it, and they’d have evidence to solve the case,” McNamara said.

Who keeps a box of human bones for 26 years?


Mayor Daley: The Buck Stops There

Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley is an impressive and formidable politician. The man has incredible support in the city and elsewhere throughout the Chicagoland area.

The secret to his success? Govern-by-Whining. And it’s never his fault.

The latest incidents that have left Daley bewildered are the gang-related shootings last week at the Taste of Chicago. From the Sun-Times:

Mayor Daley and a ranking alderman were demanding answers for the gang-related shootings that left one dead and three wounded Thursday night.

And the department itself now acknowledges it needs to do a better job next year.

“I don’t know if he blew it, but I can tell you that there was unprecedented violence at the Taste of Chicago, and it was on his watch,” Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th), chairman of the Police and Fire Committee, said of police Supt. Jody Weis.

Alderman Carothers wants to blame someone for gun violence in Chicago. He and Mayor Daley are “demanding answers.”

Pols love to point fingers. Somebody has to take the fall.  Daley is pointing the finger at Police Supt. Jody Weis.  The Sun-Times again:

The mayor held a heated one-on-one meeting with his new superintendent Monday — followed by at least two sessions that included other agency chiefs — to find out why police were apparently overwhelmed by gangs and crowds at Taste of Chicago.

“It wasn’t quiet,” a mayoral confidante said of Daley’s tone.

It was clear, even to the rookie superintendent, that “things didn’t go as planned” after the shooting of four people — one fatally — as the crowd from the city’s July 3 fireworks and concert was dispersing.

But, Weis was “searching for reasons other than police work” for the violence and, what patrons have called, an “intimidating atmosphere” at this year’s Taste that threatens to destroy a marquee event and burst Daley’s Olympic bubble.

“He was trying to say, ‘We did everything we could’ to control the problems. The response [from Daley] was, ‘Like hell,'” the source said.

“Why weren’t large groups dispersed more quickly? Why did it get to a point where people felt intimidated? In years past, the same groups came to the Taste. But police work was such that the bad guys didn’t get a chance to act out. Why did it get to that point this time?”

When Daley is at his best, he makes it clear there are no easy answers, and there are no easy answers here.  Sadly, Daley’s focus is on the 2016 Olympics, not the underlying problems that contribute to violence.  Why else would he be so upset about shootings at the Taste when this kind of thing happens every day in neighborhoods south of the Loop?  Where has his outrage been hiding?

The police are the first line  of defense, and, all too often, the last line.  But what can we do to lessen the need for this defense?

The problem of violence in America is much more complex than a lack of police. We can’t solve the excessive violence in this country by passing more laws, and we can’t blame the men and women in blue because there are bad guys and gals on our streets. As I’ve said before, we have serious problems with guns in this country. I will not be naive and suggest that we ban guns. That discussion will go nowhere, and I don’t believe it will ever happen.

Rather, we must explore the reasons we shoot each other. We can talk about poverty. We can talk about drugs. We can talk about domestic violence, and gangs, and lack of family values. We can talk about gangs, why people join gangs.

And we should. We should seriously have numerous discussions about all of these things. We have to realize that we all are part of the gang. Gang members are not the nebulous “others” from Lost. Many leaders of gangs already live among us in the suburbs, outside of Chicago. They take care of their lawns, feed the dog, and run a gang. They are already our neighbors, and we don’t even know it.

We are all part of the problem. We are all part of the solution. The buck stops here, with all of us.

Blaming the police for gang violence is, well, a copout.