Funeral home searches for place to bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev
WORCESTER — Unclaimed for nearly two weeks, the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was delivered Friday to a stately Worcester funeral home, where an angry crowd gathered to protest.
“It’s not right for him to be laying in there like that; it’s not right that we’ve got to take him,” said 21-year-old Ryan Madelle. Other protesters waved signs and chanted, “Send him back!” and “USA!”
According to the death certificate, which was shown Friday to the Globe, Tsarnaev, 26, died of gunshot wounds to his torso and extremities and blunt trauma to his head and torso. The document, dated April 25, adds that he was “shot by police and then run over and dragged by motor vehicle.”
Tsarnaev was pronounced dead at 1:35 a.m. April 19, at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, shortly after a chaotic shoot-out with police in Watertown. His brother, Dzhokhar, struck him with a stolen vehicle while fleeing the scene before being captured later that day, authorities said.
The brothers, ethnic Chechens who immigrated to the United States a decade ago and lived in Cambridge, are suspected in the twin explosions April 15 that killed three people and wounded 264 on Boylston Street.
As Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body lay at the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, his family made plans Friday for a second autopsy, and the funeral director searched in three states for a cemetery that would accept the remains.
By Friday evening, funeral director Peter Stefan said, he had been rejected by four cemeteries: two in Boston, one in Connecticut, and one in New Jersey. The family’s wish is that he be buried in Boston, he said.
“This is what we do,” he said, medical papers protruding from the breast pocket of his shirt. “I am burying someone who is dead. Everyone who is dead deserves to be buried.”
The body was released Thursday from the state medical examiner’s office in Boston to an uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland, according to a family adviser in Russia. Tsarnaev’s wife, Katherine Russell, had said earlier in the week that other family members could claim the remains.
Initially, the body was brought to the Dyer-Lake Funeral Home in North Attleborough amid protests from residents. Stefan said that destination had been selected by someone acting on behalf of Tsarnaev’s wife, but that the body was transferred to Worcester at the family’s request. “There were so many people involved with this, that there was a miscommunication,” Stefan said.
As word spread that the body had been brought to Worcester, about two dozen spectators and protesters assembled across the street. Police stood guard outside the home throughout the day.
Wearing a T-shirt with “Boston” scrawled across the front in black marker, Sandra Garcia of Worcester held a sign that read, “Send the pig back to Boston.” Accompanied by her mother and two young children, Garcia, 30, said the body should be taken to Russia or, at the least, to Boston.
Stefan said he would continue to contact cemeteries to find a plot. If a plot cannot be found, Stefan said, he will ask the federal government for help.
“This body needs to be buried, period,” said Stefan, who has experience with Muslim funeral rituals.
After the second autopsy, which is expected this weekend, the body will be washed and prepared for burial according to Muslim tradition, Stefan said. The funeral director Stefan said he will cover the costs if the family cannot afford the funeral.
David Boyle, president of the Massachusetts Cemetery Association, said cemeteries are barred by state law from discriminating because of a person’s crimes or allegations of crimes. However, Boyle noted, cemeteries have differing regulations: Private cemeteries might restrict plots to members of a certain religion, while municipal cemeteries might accept bodies only from their communities.
In other developments Friday, law-enforcement teams using dogs and a helicopter began searching in Dartmouth as part of the bombing investigation. State Police did not disclose what their officers, federal agents, and local police were seeking. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, plus three friends charged with obstructing the inquiry, had attended the University of Massachusetts campus there.
Officers searched a wooded area off Smith Neck Road, said a woman who lives on the street but asked not to be identified.
Another Dartmouth resident, who lives a few miles away on Gulf Road, said that in the weeks before the Marathon bombing, he heard an explosion in a secluded, wooded area near his home.
“I just heard, boom!” said John Arruda, 41. “It was windows rattling, that type of crazy, what was that? It made me go outside and look. . . . I thought, honestly, I was going to hear that some factory blew up in Fall River.”
Arruda said he forgot about the explosion until April 19, when news reports surfaced that one of the alleged bombers had attended UMass Dartmouth. He called Dartmouth police that day, and the FBI on Wednesday.
“When you start to think about it,” Arruda said, “would they test it up around Boston, or would they test it out in the woods here?”
The Tsarnaevs originally had planned to attack the July Fourth celebration on the Esplanade in Boston, according to officials briefed on the investigation. On Friday, Governor Deval Patrick said that authorities will do “everything humanly possible” to make the event safe and that law-enforcement officials will review security measures for the annual concert and fireworks display, which attract about 500,000 people.
At a Dorchester mosque on Friday, the imam who married Tsarnaev and Russell in June 2010 said he was startled to learn that the groom had been linked to the Marathon bombings. What Taalib Mahdee recalled, he said, was a simple, unremarkable, 15-minute service conducted before two witnesses.
“They seemed happy,” Mahdee said.
The imam, who has led the congregation at Masjid Al-Quran since 1992, said he had not known the couple before he received a phone call from Russell, shortly before the ceremony, asking if he would marry them.
Mahdee said he had not seen them since then, does not know the identity of the witnesses, and had not connected Tsarnaev to the bombings until a reporter showed him a copy of the marriage license with Tsarnaev’s name.
Mahdee said he told Russell that he “could marry them as long as they had a license.”
The imam said the newlyweds did not discuss their faith with him and left quickly after the service.
“They were just a couple in front of me getting married,” Mahdee said.