WORCESTER — The frustrated effort to bury Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev showed mounting strain Wednesday, as Worcester Police Chief Gary J. Gemme pleaded for an end to the lingering dispute that has cost his department more than $30,000 in security expenses.
‘‘We are not barbarians; we bury the dead,” Gemme said grimly outside the funeral home, guarded by police, where Tsarnaev’s body has been held since Friday. “I am publicly appealing to those with authority to provide a burial site. Do so, and do so quickly.”
Gemme said that an offer had been made Monday to bury Tsarnaev at a state Department of Correction facility, but that the proposal “evaporated” on Tuesday. Efforts to find answers afterward were ignored, the chief said.
“A number of attempts to contact state officials . . . for explanation went unanswered, and no telephone calls were returned,” Gemme said.
The chief’s account appears at odds with a statement released Wednesday night by the Department of Correction, which said the agency “did not make any offer of a location where this body could be laid to rest. DOC’s burial facilities have been reserved for the bodies of inmates who pass away while in state custody.”
Earlier in the day, two employees at Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors also said that a plan to move Tsarnaev’s body to a Massachusetts correctional facility was reached Monday but fell apart Tuesday.
The employees, who asked not to be identified because they are not authorized to speak publicly, said there was a meeting Tuesday between police from the community where the prison is located and funeral home officials. However, they said, the plan dissolved when correction officials did not arrive for a later meeting to discuss details.
As a result, Gemme said, the continued presence of Tsarnaev’s body in Worcester “has created significant local public safety challenges and unnecessary costs” because of protests and increased traffic outside the funeral home.
“While finding a burial site for the deceased is a family matter,” the chief said, “the current costs associated with providing security at the funeral parlor has forced the Worcester Police Department into the unwanted position of having to assist the family” with trying to find a place to bury the body.
Tsarnaev, 26, died April 19 after a shoot-out with police in Watertown, four days after he and his brother, Dzhokhar, allegedly detonated two bombs that killed three people and injured 265 near the Marathon finish line. Dzhokhar, 19, fled the scene but was captured that night.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow, Katherine Russell, will continue to cooperate with authorities, her attorney, Amato DeLuca of Providence, said Wednesday. DeLuca announced that Joshua Dratel, a New York criminal defense lawyer, has been added to her legal team. Dratel specializes in terrorism and national security cases.
In Worcester, Gemme met Wednesday for the second time with Tsarnaev’s uncle and funeral director Peter Stefan in a bid to find a burial plot. The city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived with his wife and 3-year-old daughter, has refused to accept the body. Mayor Thomas M. Menino of Boston made a similar declaration on Tuesday.
Governor Deval Patrick urged the Tsarnaev family to resolve the issue, which he called “a little absurd,” as quickly as possible.
“I don’t think that the people of the Commonwealth, despite our righteous outrage, are prepared to say that we should continue that beyond the man’s life,” Patrick said. “We have other things that we’re focused on, certainly that I am focused on. The family, like any family, has some decisions to make.”
Gemme said that returning the body to Russia “is not an option” for the suspect’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who has taken responsibility for the body and lives in Maryland. Tsarnaev’s mother had requested that his remains be returned to Russia, where she lives in the southern republic of Dagestan.
In Chechnya, Tsarnaev’s neighboring ancestral homeland, the leader of that semiautonomous region said he does not intend to help the family. “Tamerlan and Dzhokhar are plain and simple devils, the worst possible devils, so I don’t plan to intercede for them or say a single word in their defense,” Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov was quoted as saying by Interfax, the Russian state-run news agency. “It’s a good thing they weren’t able to carry out more ambitious terrorist acts.”
According to a report in Thursday’s New York Times, Russian authorities have taken into custody a distant cousin of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The cousin was recently detained after taking part in a wedding procession that flew Islamic flags.
The Times reported that Russian security agents visited the man in a detention center to ask about his relationship with Tsarnaev, focusing on whether the men shared extremist beliefs. The cousin’s lawyer insisted that her client is not an extremist.
The agents’ questioning of the cousin is part of a broader investigation into contacts Tsarnaev made last year during a six-month visit to the Russian republic of Dagestan, according to the Times.
Despite the difficulties in burying Tsarnaev, US Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, said he is confident a solution will be found soon.
“This issue will be resolved,” McGovern said. “I am continuing to work with everyone I can think of in an attempt to help resolve it. It may take a bit of time, because it’s very complicated, but it will be resolved.”
Until then, McGovern said, “I would urge everyone to get on with their lives. I understand that emotions are still raw. But we should redirect our energies and our passions away from a dead body in a funeral parlor and back toward helping the living survivors of this terrible crime to heal.”
One offer has come from M.T. Liggett, 82, a folk artist in Mullinville, Kan., who said he would donate space in his plot and help the family with the costs of shipping the body.
“The man should be buried in a place a long way from where this happened, in a sea of grass in Kansas,” Liggett said. “You can’t hold anything against a dead man. People don’t understand that. Somebody else is judging him, not humans.”