Boston bombing suspect's body in limbo

USA Today/May 6, 2013

Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body lies in a Worcester, Mass., funeral home, rejected by cemeteries. His mother wants the body home in Russia.

There is no standard practice for this situation.

As Boston bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body lies in a Worcester, Mass., funeral home, the question looms: What to do with the corpse of a person suspected of a crime that horrified and terrorized a nation?

Tsarnaev, 26, suspected in the April 15 bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260, died four days later in a shootout with police. His brother, Dzhokhar, is in jail, charged with the bombings.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body was rejected by several funeral homes until Graham Putnam & Mahoney agreed to handle the service.

"We take an oath to do this," funeral director Peter Stefan said. "Can I pick and choose? No. Can I separate the sins from the sinners? No."

Protesters gather outside the funeral home.

Stefan has been unable to find a cemetery that would allow the burial. He wants government officials to help.

No, said Gov. Deval Patrick. He said dealing with the body is a "family issue."

City Manager Robert Healy has advised against a burial in the area. He said the city "would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests and widespread media presence at such an interment."

Cremation is not an option for a Muslim. The body must be buried underground, said Council on American-Islamic Relations spokeswoman Yasmin Nouh.

Stefan said Monday that Tsarnaev's mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, wants the body returned to Russia, where Tamerlan Tsarnaev was born and where his parents returned after the family lived in Massachusetts.

A Worcester man, William Breault, is trying to raise money to send the body to Russia.

Tsarnaev's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, has said his nephew should be buried in Massachusetts, where he lived for the past decade.

The situation is particularly heated because Tsarnaev is not thought of as sick or mentally ill like some killers, said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston.

People think he's "evil," Fox said, and society "doesn't forgive or forget."

Families of people who committed very public crimes often keep a grave site unmarked to prevent desecration as well as have private ceremonies, he said.

There were private arrangements for Adam Lanza, who killed his mother, 20 Newtown, Conn., schoolchildren and six school staffers, then fatally shot himself, on Dec. 14.

Similarly, Eric Harris, one of the two students who killed 12 classmates and a teacher at Columbine High School in 1999, was buried in a place his parents have not revealed. The other Columbine killer, Dylan Klebold, was cremated.

Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was buried at sea, his body treated according to Islamic custom, after he was killed in a 2011 raid.

But there are some killers who are in plots with family names, and even some - such as Patrick Henry Sherrill, a U.S. Postal Service employee who killed 14 people in 1986 -- in a grave with their own name on the gravestone, says Fox.

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