Bombing suspect’s family urged to settle on burial

Mother wants Tsarnaev’s body sent to Russia

A protester marched Monday near the Worcester funeral that is holding the suspect’s body.
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff
A protester marched Monday near the Worcester funeral home that is holding the suspect’s body.

Governor Deval Patrick on Monday urged the family of Tamerlan Tsarnaev to resolve the emotional question of where to bury the Boston Marathon bombing suspect, whose body lay washed and shrouded in a Worcester funeral home beset by protests.

“This isn’t a state or a federal issue; it’s the family’s issue,” Patrick told reporters in New Bedford. “And the family has some options. I assume they will make a decision soon. I hope they do.”

The search for a burial plot has brought rejections from several cemeteries in multiple states and prompted a plea for federal help to settle the matter.


Even the Tsarnaev family has offered conflicting solutions: His mother wants the body returned to Russia, according to the Worcester funeral director, while his uncle in Maryland has insisted Tsarnaev be buried in Cambridge, which has refused.

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“I think everybody is feeling upset about what happened,” Patrick said. “But we showed the world in the immediate aftermath of the attacks what a civilization looks like, and I’m proud of what we showed, and I think we continue to do that by stepping back and let the family make their decisions.”

The governor declined to suggest where Tsarnaev should be buried, but the candidates for US Senate soundly rejected Massachusetts as an option.

“The people of Massachusetts have a right to say that they do not want that terrorist to be buried on the soil of Massachusetts,” said US Representative Edward Markey, a Democrat. “I think that the body should be controlled by the federal government, and that it should be returned to the family of the terrorist for disposal.”

Gabriel Gomez, Markey’s Republican opponent and a former Navy SEAL, said on Twitter that Tsarnaev’s body should be buried at sea, like Osama bin Laden.


Peter Stefan, director of the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, said Tsarnaev’s mother had called him in tears on Sunday to ask that the body be shipped back to Russia, where she lives in the predominantly Muslim republic of Dagestan. “She was upset, you know, crying, very tearful,” Stefan said of the call from Zubeidat Tsarnaeva.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died following a wild shoot-out in Watertown on April 19, four days after twin bombings at the Marathon killed three people and wounded more than 260. His brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, fled the shooting scene but was captured later in the day. He is being treated and held at a federal prison hospital in Ayer.

In other developments Monday, a federal magistrate judge in Boston released a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s on $100,000 bail and confined him to house arrest in Cambridge as he awaits court hearings on charges that he lied to authorities in a terrorism investigation.

Robel Phillipos, 19, who attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, has been accused of misleading FBI agents as they searched for evidence in the days after the bombing.

Two Kazakh nationals, who also attended UMass Dartmouth, have been charged with discarding potential evidence and trying to cover up Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged involvement in the bombings.


Looking frail and nervous in an orange prison jumpsuit, Phillipos was released to the custody of his mother and ordered to wear an electronic monitoring bracelet. A probable cause hearing was scheduled for May 17.

Lawyers for Phillipos reiterated before US Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler that he is not charged in planning the bombing or throwing away evidence, and that he has cooperated with authorities.

“Just like all Americans, and all of the people from Boston, Robel is grieving at the tragedy of the lives lost forever and the people whose lives have been affected by this,” said Susan Church, one of his lawyers. “At no time did Robel have any prior knowledge of this Marathon bombing.”

Phillipos, who graduated with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2011, faces up to eight years in prison.

The teen allegedly gave conflicting accounts of his actions on April 18, when authorities released photos of the bombing suspects to the public. The two Kazakh nationals, friends of Phillipos and Tsarnaev, have been charged with disposing of a backpack with fireworks that belonged to Tsarnaev.

Phillipos received support in court from family members, friends, community advocates, and educators.

Tim Groves, a former principal at King Open School in Cambridge who knew Phillipos from kindergarten to eighth grade, called him trustworthy. “I’m confident, as we learn these details, this person will emerge in a public way,” he said.

However, Assistant US Attorney John Capin told Bowler that “the government stands by its allegations and is confident it can prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Phillipos committed the alleged crimes.

The father of one of the Kazakhs charged with covering up for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said in an interview with the Globe that his son, Azamat Tazhayakov, is “100 percent innocent.”

Amir Ismagulov, an oil executive and city councilor in Atyrau, Kazakhstan, said his son is from a loving, affluent family that taught him to be tolerant of all religions; the family is Muslim but only attends mosque for special holidays.

Ismagulov, who is in Boston, said he hopes to stay in the United States until he can clear his son’s name. He has placed flowers at the bombing memorial at Copley Square, he said.

“I want the people of Boston to know the truth. We are a secular family, we are not jihadists, we are not Islamists. We’re a normal family,” he said. “And I want people to know that Azamat has loved America since he was a child. I want them to understand that he would never do anything to hurt America.”

In Worcester, protesters demanded for a fourth day that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body be taken elsewhere.

About 1:30 p.m., a family who had visited the funeral home to pick up the ashes of a relative exited the front door. The protesters, believing them to be from Tsarnaev’s family, unleashed a series of chants and expletives.

Despite the ongoing protests, Patrick told reporters he does not believe a burial in Massachusetts would pose a public safety problem.

But near Worcester, a cemetery has been receiving calls from people in a panic. Each time, the message is the same: Please don’t let him be buried here. Not with my loved ones.

“You had to know this was going to be an issue,” said Brian Killelea, general manager of Worcester County Memorial Park. “Cemeteries shouldn’t be about one person.”

Many cemetery directors defended the highly unusual decision to refuse burial, saying that Tsarnaev’s gravesite would offend visitors and cause undue distraction at a solemn place. While Massachusetts law requires that towns provide one or more “suitable places” for burial, it does not require municipal cemeteries to accept a body for interment, officials said.

“The state has no jurisdiction,” said Amie Breton, spokeswoman for the office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation.

Others noted that local cemeteries often limit permits by residency, as well as by available space.

On Sunday, Cambridge officials said Tsarnaev’s burial in that city would bring “turmoil, protests, and widespread media presence.” Several private cemeteries also denied burial.

“I certainly understand that a cemetery wouldn’t want to be known as the cemetery that has the Boston bomber,” said David Walkinshaw, spokesman for the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association.

In a statement, the Massachusetts Cemetery Association said each cemetery has the right to establish its own policies.

But others said that although cemeteries have no legal obligation to bury Tsarnaev, they could not recall a time when a cemetery had refused a body for interment.

“We are obliged to serve the living while caring for the dead,” said Bob Biggins, owner of the Magoun-Biggins Funeral Home in Rockland and past president of the National Funeral Directors Association. “His family deserves the ability to lay their loved one to rest in keeping with their religious norms.”

Funeral home and cemetery directors noted that the remains of reviled figures — from Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh to Newtown, Conn., gunman Adam Lanza — are typically buried in private or are cremated, which avoids a debate over their resting place.

“Usually, the story ends at their death,” Walkinshaw said. “But in this case, it’s never left the media’s eye.”

Michael Levenson, Wesley Lowery, Joshua Miller, Leon Neyfakh, Dina Rudick, and Maria Sacchetti of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Brian MacQuarrie can be reached at