Nineteen days after Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a gunbattle with police, cemeteries still refused to take his remains and government officials deflected questions about where he could be buried.
On Wednesday, police in Worcester, west of Boston, pleaded for a resolution, saying they were spending tens of thousands of dollars to protect the funeral home where his body is being kept amid protests.
“We are not barbarians,” police Chief Gary Gemme said. “We bury the dead.”
Tsarnaev was fatally wounded in Watertown, just outside Boston, after police confronted him in a stolen car. He was shot several times by police, then was run over with the car by his fleeing brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his accomplice in the deadly April 15 bombing, authorities have said.
The bombing, involving pressure cookers packed with explosives and shrapnel near the marathon’s finish line, killed three people and injured about 260 others.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was released by the state medical examiner May 1 and has been in limbo since. Tsarnaev’s widow had wanted his body turned over to his side of the family, which claimed it.
An expert in U.S. burial law said the resistance to Tsarnaev’s burial is unprecedented in a country that has always found a way to put to rest its notorious killers, from Lee Harvey Oswald to Adam Lanza, who gunned down 20 children and six educators at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school last year.
“It’s very unusual that people are so fixated on this,” said Tanya Marsh, a Wake University professor. “There are a lot of evil people buried in marked graves in the United States. Traditionally, in the United States, ... when somebody dies, that’s the end of their punishment.”
A deal had been struck Monday to bury the remains of Tsarnaev, a 26-year-old ethnic Chechen from southern Russia, at a state prison site, but it dissolved after state officials stopped cooperating Tuesday, Gemme said.
State correction officials didn’t return a phone message Wednesday.
Peter Stefan, whose funeral home accepted Tsarnaev’s body last week, said Tuesday that none of the 120 offers of graves from the U.S. and Canada has worked out because officials in those cities and towns don’t want the body.
In Russia, officials aren’t commenting after Tsarnaev’s mother said authorities won’t allow her son’s body into the country so she can bury him in her native Dagestan.
A solution may be found in Massachusetts law, which requires a community to provide a place to bury someone “dying within its limits.” Tsarnaev lived in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston, but was pronounced dead at a Boston hospital, meaning Boston would be obligated to bury him under a straight reading of the law.
But Marsh said there’s a better legal case to bury the body in Cambridge because, in practice, where a person lived has been the key factor in determining the place of burial.
Cambridge’s rules for buying a grave at the municipal cemetery require that “the deceased must be a Cambridge resident,” according to online guidelines of the Cambridge Department of Public Works.
Boston also makes residency the key requirement of its cemetery burial rules.
“It’s been the city’s contention that he was not a Boston resident and therefore should not be buried in the city of Boston,” said John Guilfoil, a spokesman for Mayor Thomas Menino.
But Cambridge’s city manager has urged the Tsarnaev family not to try to bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the city, citing the potential massive disruption. A city spokeswoman said Wednesday that nothing had changed.
As officials continued to try to bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the father of one of the friends charged with helping Dzhokhar Tsarnaev after the attack said Tuesday that his son told him the surviving bombing suspect is “not a human” if he’s responsible for it.
Amir Ismagulov is the father of Azamat Tazhayakov, who is charged with conspiracy in the Boston Marathon bombing. During an interview, Ismagulov said his son is not a terrorist.
“Azamat loves the United States and the people of the United States,” Ismagulov said as Arkady Bukh, his son’s new Russian-speaking lawyer, interpreted for him.
Tazhayakov is in a federal prison on charges that he conspired to destroy, conceal and cover up objects belonging to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a friend from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The FBI has alleged that on April 18, just hours after surveillance camera photos of the Tsarnaev brothers became public, Tazhayakov and two other students went to Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s dorm room and removed his backpack and laptop computer.
Authorities said one of them later threw the backpack in the garbage and it wound up in a landfill, where law enforcement officers found it containing fireworks that had been emptied of their gunpowder.
Ismagulov said his son told him he never intended to help Tsarnaev hide evidence.
The Tsarnaev brothers’ mother has said the allegations against them are lies.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow, Katherine Russell, hired a criminal lawyer with experience defending terrorism cases as she continued to face questions from federal authorities.
Attorney Amato DeLuca said Wednesday his client Katherine Russell had added New York lawyer Joshua Dratel to her legal team. He said Russell, who has been living in Rhode Island with her family, will continue to meet with investigators and answer questions.