Saga of Boston Marathon suspect's body drags on

Thursday - 5/9/2013, 1:44am EDT

One Fund Boston administrator Kenneth R. Feinberg leads a town hall meeting held to discuss how victims of the Boston Marathon bombing will be compensated, Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. (AP Photo/Boston Herald, Angela Rowlings, Pool)

JAY LINDSAY
Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- 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.

The widow, Katherine Russell, has hired New York criminal lawyer Joshua Dratel, who has experience defending terrorism cases, as she continues to face questions from federal authorities investigating the bombing. Her attorney Amato DeLuca said Dratel's "specialized experience" will help ensure she can assist in the ongoing investigation.

Russell, who lived with Tsarnaev and their young daughter in Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston, has been staying in Rhode Island with her family and has not been charged with any crime. She will continue to meet with investigators and answer questions, DeLuca said.

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.

The state Department of Correction said Wednesday it did not offer a burial site and its burial facilities have been reserved for inmates who die in state custody, but Gemme stood by his earlier statement.

Gov. Deval Patrick said Wednesday night Tsarnaev's burial is an issue for his family.

"It's overwhelming that facility and that community and to some extent even the police chief's resources, but that doesn't turn it into something other than a family matter," Patrick said. "It is still a family matter, and this family has some decisions they've got to make and they need to make them soon."

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." Though Tsarnaev lived in Cambridge, he 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.