The body of a West Rogers Park, Illinois, man who died of cyanide poisoning last summer after winning a million-dollar lottery was laid to rest again Monday, three days after his remains were exhumed for an autopsy as part of a homicide investigation.
The scene at Rosehill Cemetery on Monday afternoon was in sharp contrast to Friday morning, when a throng of reporters and TV cameramen had massed outside an entrance gate as numerous Chicago police, Cook County medical examiner officials and cemetery workers surrounded the gravesite while Urooj Khan's remains were unearthed.
About half a dozen people — two in light blue coveralls — wheeled a gurney carrying Khan's body Monday from the back of an unmarked white minivan to under a tent at his gravesite in the Far North Side cemetery. The body was then lowered into the ground while two of Khan's relatives stood at the gravesite in the bitter cold.
Haroon Firdausi, a funeral director and imam, gave a brief prayer during the reburial.
The entire reburial took about 20 minutes.
Shortly before the reburial, one of Khan's relatives, Mohammed Zaman, talked briefly at the cemetery about the family's discomfort with his body being exhumed for the police investigation.
"The sad part is that he wasn't resting in peace," Zaman said of the exhumation. "... Now we have to bury him back again. For any religion, it's hard."
As the Tribune first revealed earlier this month, the medical examiner's office initially ruled that Khan's death in July was from hardening of the arteries, after no signs of trauma were found on the body and a preliminary blood test did not raise any questions. But the investigation was reopened about a week later after a relative raised concerns that Khan may have been poisoned.
Chicago police were notified in September after tests showed cyanide in Khan's blood. By late November, more comprehensive testing showed lethal levels of the toxic chemical, leading the medical examiner's office to declare the death a homicide.
After Khan's body was exhumed Friday, an autopsy was performed for evidence that could aid in the homicide investigation. At the time, Chief Medical Examiner Stephen Cina said it could take several weeks for the tests to be completed. The medical examiner's office hopes samples taken from Khan's organs will show whether he ingested or inhaled the cyanide.
Although a motive has not been determined, police have not ruled out that Khan was killed because of his lottery win a few weeks before his death, a law enforcement source has told the Tribune. At the time of his death, he hadn't collected his winnings — a lump-sum payment of about $425,000 after taxes.
Zaman said he hopes the autopsy sheds more light on his brother-in-law's death.
"It's very hard for the family," Zaman said of the exhumation and reburial. "But it's the only way to find out what happened to him."