Finding place to bury alleged Boston Marathon bomber proving difficult
WORCESTER, Mass.-- The uncle of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev arrived in Massachusetts on Sunday to arrange for his burial, saying he understands that "no one wants to associate their names with such evil events."
Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with the Worcester funeral home director and prepared to wash and shroud Tsarnaev's body according to Muslim tradition. The 26-year-old died after a gunbattle with police on April 19.
Funeral director Peter Stefan said he hasn't been able to find a cemetery in Massachusetts willing to take the body. He said he plans to ask the city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived, to provide a burial plot, and if Cambridge turns him down, he will seek help from state officials.
But the Cambridge city manager, Robert W. Healy, pre-emptively issued a statement on Sunday urging Stefan and the family not to make such a request. "I have determined that it is not in the best interest of ‘peace within the city' to execute a cemetery deed for a plot within the Cambridge Cemetery for the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev," said Healy, who said that federal officials should handle it.
Tsarni told reporters that he is arranging for Tsarnaev's burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he's lived in the state for the last decade, he said.
"I'm dealing with logistics. A dead person must be buried," he said.
He said he was grateful to Stefan for agreeing to arrange the burial and to his friends for accompanying him to to aid with the funeral.
"These are my friends who feel for me ... as I do understand no one wants to associate their names with such evil events," he said.
Tsarni said he had had little contact with Tsarnaev's immediate family, although he had spoken to the brothers' father. "He's not really in a reasonable state of mind," Tsarni said. He had not spoken to Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's 24-year-old widow. "I wanted to," said Tsarni. "She's been the closest person to him."
Tsarnaev, who had appeared in surveilla died days after the April 15 bombing, which killed three people and injured more than 260 others. His 19-year-old brother, Dzhokhar, was captured.
The uncle said he planned to visit Dzhokhar, who is in a medical prison center at Fort Devens. "This is another person left all to himself," Tsarni said. "There's no one to be next to him."
Stefan said he has received calls from people criticizing him and calling him "un-American" for being willing to handle Tamerlan Tsarnaev's funeral.
"We take an oath to do this. Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No," he said. "We are burying a dead body. That's what we do."
A half dozen protesters gathered outside the funeral home Sunday holding signs and American flags and chanting "USA!" One sign read: "Do not bury him on U.S. soil." Several people drove by the funeral home earlier Sunday and yelled, including one man who shouted, "Throw him off a boat like Osama bin Laden!"
The state medical examiner ruled that Tsarnaev died from gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso, and authorities have said his brother ran him over in a chaotic getaway attempt. Stefan said Sunday that the family won't request that an independent medical examiner perform a second autopsy, but representatives from the family's legal team might photograph Tsarnaev's body before it's washed.
Tsarni has denounced the acts his nephews are accused of committing and has said they brought shame to the family and the entire Chechen ethnicity. The brothers are ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago with their parents. Both parents returned to Dagestan last year.
Also on Sunday, the FBI conducted a court-authorized search in Cambridge as part of its ongoing investigation into the bombings, said Jason Pack, a supervisory special agent in the FBI's press office. He declined to elaborate further.
The New York Times contributed to this story.