Friday 18 October 2019

Boston bombing suspect's family struggles to find burial site

Lisa Taurasi, Lucy Rodriguez and Luis Barbosa protest outside a funeral home in Worcester. Inset, Tamerlan Tsarnaev
Lisa Taurasi, Lucy Rodriguez and Luis Barbosa protest outside a funeral home in Worcester. Inset, Tamerlan Tsarnaev

Ross Kerber and Aaron Pressman

THE family of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev face a quandary over where to bury his body as cemeteries across Massachusetts refused to accept it.

Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gun battle with police on April 19, four days after bombs he is believed to have set with his younger brother killed three people and injured another 264 at the marathon.


Relatives have said they want to have him buried locally, but several cemeteries in Massachusetts said they would not accept the remains for burial. Governor Deval Patrick said on Monday he would not get involved.


Under Islamic law, the body cannot be cremated, a procedure used in some cases of notorious criminals such as Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.


"The whole situation is unprecedented," said David Walkinshaw, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association. The state of Massachusetts does not own its own cemeteries, he said, and the federal government has only cemeteries for veterans, thus excluding Tsarnaev.


"The challenge here is that there's no way to demand a cemetery allow for a burial to take place," Walkinshaw said.


Tsarnaev's body was taken to a funeral home, Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, in Worcester last week after spending more than a week at a medical examiner's office in Boston. Already several cemeteries including the Gardens at Gethsemane in West Roxbury have said they would not accept Tsarnaev's body for burial.


Funeral home owner Peter Stefan, who also chairs a board that oversees funeral services and embalming in Massachusetts, has faced protesters but has argued he has an obligation to accept the remains.


Stefan has said he would seek help from state officials if he could not find a resting place soon.


But Massachusetts Governor Patrick declined to get involved in the controversy on Monday.


"I don't have a comment about that or a point of view," Patrick said speaking to reporters in New Bedford on Monday. "This is a family issue, with due respect to all of you, and the family needs to make some decisions. I understand they have some options. They need to exercise one soon," Patrick said.


Tsarnaev's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said on Sunday that his nephew should be buried in Massachusetts, his home. Tsarnaev's parents, ethnic Chechens who returned to Russia several years ago, have suggested in various interviews and reports that their son should be buried in Cambridge, or returned to Russia.


But Cambridge officials urged the Tsarnaevs to look elsewhere.


"The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests and widespread media presence at such an interment," said Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy in a statement. "The families of loved ones interred in the Cambridge Cemetery also deserve to have their deceased family members rest in peace."

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