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National News

May 7, 2013

Body of bombing suspect remains without burial spot

BOSTON — Despite more than 100 offers, a Massachusetts funeral director is striking out in his search for a burial location for the body of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect who was killed in a gun battle with police.

On Monday, Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan said he’d received 120 burial offers from the United States and Canada for the body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev. But he said when he talked to officials in the cities and towns where the graves are located, nobody wanted the body there.

Tsarnaev’s mother said she wants her son’s remains returned to Russia. Stefan, however, said he doesn’t think Russia will take Tsarnaev’s body. He said he made calls to Russia, but that it was hard to get anyone to respond. He said he is working on other arrangements, but declined to be more specific.

The wrangling over Tsarnaev’s body came as a friend of the surviving suspect in the bombings was released from federal custody Monday amid a swell of support from family and friends, but remained under strict house arrest.

And Monday evening victims of the bombing met with the administrator of the One Fund Boston charity, which has already taken in more than $28 million in donations to help those injured in the bombing.

Kenneth Feinberg, who will hold a second public meeting Tuesday morning, said the families of those who lost loved ones and individuals who suffered double amputations or permanent brain damage would receive the highest payments.

Those who received physical injuries and suffered the amputation of a single limb will be the next highest priority followed by those who were physically injured and hospitalized for one or more nights.

“Money is a pretty poor substitute for what you are going through,” Feinberg told those who attended the meeting. “If you had a billion dollars you could not have enough money to deal with all of the problems that ought to be addressed by these attacks.”

Feinberg said he deliberately did not include specific dollar amounts for specific types of injuries because there isn’t a secure tally yet of the injuries and in part because the fund could still grow. But he did say the families of those killed or those who had limbs amputated could end up receiving as much as $1 million or more.

The question of where Tsarnaev will be buried dragged on for another day.

Stefan said when he made follow-up calls on all the grave offers, he got the same result each time.

“It’s not only Massachusetts that doesn’t want him,” Stefan said. “Nobody wants him. And all these people who have donated graves, I’ve made some calls and said to somebody in the cities and towns where the graves were, ‘Hey, we would like to bury the guy there that was part of the marathon bombing.”’

He said the response was often the same: “You’re not gonna do that here.”

He said he received an offer from a Texas truck driver who didn’t want anybody to know that the body would be in the plot he’d be donating, but the outcome was the same.

Stefan said he plans to ask for a burial in the city of Cambridge, where Tsarnaev lived.

Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy urged the Tsarnaev family not to make a request.

“The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests, and wide spread media presence at such an interment,” Healy said in a statement on Sunday.

The founder of the organization that built Colorado’s largest mosque, Sheikh Abu-Omar Almubarac, operating independently, is offering to bury Tsarnaev in the Denver area. He didn’t say where he would bury the body. Stefan said he was not aware of that offer, but said he might pursue it.

If Russia refuses to accept the body, Cambridge may be forced to take it, said Wake Forest University professor Tanya Marsh, an expert in U.S. law on the disposal of human remains.

Massachusetts law requires every community to provide a suitable place to bury its residents, she said.

Gov. Deval Patrick said the question of what to do with the body is a “family issue” that should not be decided by the state or federal government. He said family members had “options” and he hoped they would make a decision soon.

Tsarnaev’s uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, of Montgomery Village, Md., and three of his friends met with Stefan on Sunday to wash and shroud Tsarnaev’s body according to Muslim tradition.

Tsarni told reporters that he was arranging for Tsarnaev’s burial because religion and tradition call for his nephew to be buried. He would like him buried in Massachusetts because he’s lived in the state for the last decade, he said.

As the fate of the body remained unclear, Robel Phillipos, a friend of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was released on $100,000 bond while he awaits trial for allegedly lying to federal investigators probing the April 15 bombings.

Phillipos, 19, who was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth with Tsarnaev, was charged last week with lying to investigators about visiting Tsarnaev’s dorm room three days after the bombings. He faces up to eight years in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors initially asked that Phillipos be held while he awaits trial, arguing that he poses a serious flight risk.

But prosecutors and Phillipos’ lawyers agreed in a joint motion filed Monday that Phillipos could be released under strict conditions, including home confinement, monitoring with an electronic bracelet and a $100,000 secured bond.

Magistrate Judge Marianne Bowler agreed to the request during a hearing, saying he would be under “strict house arrest,” and only allowed to leave his home to meet with his lawyer and for true emergencies.

“We are confident that in the end we will be able to clear his name,” defense attorney Derege Demissie said.

Assistant U.S .Attorney John Capin said the government “stands by its allegations.”

The Tsarnaev brothers are accused of carrying out the bombings using pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, ball bearings and metal shards. The attack killed three people and injured more than 260 others near the marathon’s finish line.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured and remains in a prison hospital. He has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction and faces a potential death sentence if convicted.

Feinberg said compensation for those who were injured but not hospitalized, or those who suffered mental trauma is still an open question, as is compensation for business owners who had to shut their doors for days during the investigation.

Feinberg said his goal is to get the money from the fund to victims as quickly as possible. He set a May 15 deadline to get final claim forms into the hands all those who are eligible. They will then have one month to file.

Feinberg said that after June 15, when all claims are submitted, he and his team will work out who gets how much from the fund over the following ten days.

He said he hopes to send out checks by July 1.

Liz Norden, whose two adult sons each lost a leg in the bombing, attended the meeting with Feinberg. One of her sons in still hospitalized and the other is in rehab.

Norden said she is focused on caring for her sons.

“This is new to me,” she said after the meeting. “I don’t know what questions I’m supposed to be asking or not asking.”

 

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