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John Dillinger grave: Crown Hill Cemetery objects to exhumation proposal

Indianapolis Star logo Indianapolis Star 8/14/2019 Holly V. Hays


Crown Hill Cemetery said Wednesday that it objects to the proposed exhumation of notorious Hoosier bank robber John Dillinger, saying it has a duty to protect the integrity of the cemetery. 

Cemetery management announced its reservations in a statement Wednesday afternoon, in response to questions from IndyStar. 

"We also have concerns that the complex and commercial nature of this exhumation could cause disruption to the peaceful tranquility of the Cemetery and those who are visiting to remember their loved ones," the statement reads.

The statement didn't say whether the cemetery plans to try to halt the undertaking, which the History Channel confirmed would be for a forthcoming documentary. IndyStar has reached back out to cemetery management for more information.

IndyStar has reached out to a spokesperson for the History Channel for comment, as well as Dillinger's nephew, Michael C. Thompson, who applied for the permit to exhume the body. Dillinger's great-nephew, Travis Thompson, declined to comment. 

a person lying on the grass © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. A permit to exhume the body, which has been interred at the cemetery since 1934, was issued to family members by the Indiana State Department of Health in June. The History Channel has declined to specify the scope or production timeline. 

Although the permit issued by the Department of Health lists a re-interment date of 10 a.m. on Sept. 16, there has been no indication of when the exhumation might occur.

More: Why Dillinger’s family say they want to dig up his plot at Crown Hill

Retro Indy: The life and crimes of John Dillinger

John Dillinger wearing a suit and tie posing for a photo: John Dillinger (file photo) © STAR AND NEWS PHOTOGRAPHERS John Dillinger (file photo)

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However, affidavits filed by two of Dillinger's family members indicate the goal of the exhumation is to conduct testing on the body to definitively answer decades-old questions about the identity of the man buried in that grave.

"It is my belief and opinion that it is critical to learn whether Dillinger lived beyond his reported date of death of July 22, 1934," Dillinger's nephew, Michael C. Thompson, affirmed in the affidavit.

"If he was not killed on that date, I am interested in discovering what happened to him, where he lived, whether he had children, and whether any such children or grandchildren are living today."

But exhuming the body would likely take time and effort — it's said Dillinger's grave contains two and a half tons of concrete, requested by his family to prevent body-snatching

Here is the full statement from Crown Hill Cemetery management:

“Crown Hill objects to the exhumation of John Dillinger. We have a duty to the families we serve to ensure the safety and integrity of the Cemetery which is threatened by the proposed exhumation. We also have concerns that the complex and commercial nature of this exhumation could cause disruption to the peaceful tranquility of the Cemetery and those who are visiting to remember their loved ones. Additionally, we received notice that not all of Mr. Dillinger’s next of kin agree with the exhumation. We honor the trust placed in us to protect all individuals in our care, and to protect the interests of those who cannot speak for themselves.”

This story is developing and will be updated.

Call IndyStar reporter Holly Hays at 317-444-6156. Follow her on Twitter: @hollyvhays.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: John Dillinger grave: Crown Hill Cemetery objects to exhumation proposal

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