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Boston bombing suspect buried in Virginia cemetery, much to locals' surprise

Boston bombing suspect buried in Virginia cemetery, much to locals' surprise
CNN
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Friday, May 10, 2013 - 7:00pm

(CNN) -- The body of one of the two men accused of pulling off the Boston Marathon attack has been buried in Virginia -- a development that local officials said caught them totally "off guard."

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's remains were accepted "by an inter-faith coalition in that community -- they responded to our calls," his uncle Ruslan Tsarni, of Maryland, told CNN. The body was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia, according to Tsarni.

"My tradition was that of a Muslim, and I have that tradition of burial, and people helped me with that," he said in a phone interview.

The death certificate released by Massachusetts authorities indicates that Tsarnaev, whose cause of death was listed as gunshot wounds and "blunt trauma to (his) head and torso," was interned at Al-Barzakh Muslim Cemetery in Doswell, which is about 25 minutes north of Richmond.

The news comes a day after police in Worcester, Massachusetts, announced that a "courageous and compassionate individual came forward" to take Tsarnaev's remains out of Worcester, where the body had been at a funeral home while Tsarni and officials tried to determine what to do with it.

The chairman of the Caroline County, Virginia, board of supervisors, Floyd W. Thomas, said later Friday that he can't confirm or deny that Tsarnaev is buried in his county and that he hadn't seen the death certificate. Still, he pointed out, "standard practice" is that local officials are not notified that a burial is taking place.

According to Thomas and county Sheriff Tony Lippa, neither they or any other officials in the county knew about plans to bury Tsarnaev in that area. Nor were they consulted or did they provide permission for such a burial to happen, said Thomas.

News of Tsarnaev's burial in the county has already upset some residents, said Thomas, who added "I understand how you feel, and I feel the same way." He said Caroline County does not want to be associated with such a "terrible crime" that took place more than 500 miles away.

"We do not wish to be the home of the remains of one of those perpetrators," he said.

Lippa, the county's sheriff, said members of Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli's office are also looking into the matter "to make sure all legalities were being followed." But unless something wasn't done right -- in which case, Thomas said, "we would look into undoing what happened" -- officials hands are tied, he said.

"As long as everything was done legally, there's really very little that we can do," Thomas said.

Officials were also concerned about securing the private cemetery against possible trespassing protesters or those who might attempt to deface the grave site.

While a sheriff's deputy was stationed there Friday, officials said the county does not have money set aside to provide security.

It's all a headache that Thomas, for one, never saw coming.

"Of all the localities in the United States, this was probably the last one we would have thought of," he said.

What would happen to the body of the man who, along with his younger brother, Dzhokhar, was accused of setting off two deadly explosions at the Boston Marathon on April 15 had been a nearly monthlong puzzle.

The body of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed in a police pursuit days after the bombings, went unclaimed for nearly two weeks. The funeral home in Worcester -- about 40 miles west of downtown Boston -- eventually accepted the remains.

But protesters in Worcester made it clear they didn't want the body buried there, with one holding a sign that read, "Bury the garbage in the landfill." And the city manager of Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tsarnaev lived, said he would not allow Tsarnaev to be buried in the city, asserting that possible protests and media coverage would disrupt the community.

It also appeared that sending the body overseas was an unlikely option -- Tamerlan Tsarnaev's parents in the Russian region of Dagestan said they would not fly his body back to Russia for burial, citing passport problems, spokeswoman Heda Saratova said.

In a press release issued Friday, the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond said that a "private Virginia citizen" and licensed counselor named Martha Mullen "quietly coordinated efforts to resolve the problem of where to bury Tsarnaev's remains."

That included e-mails exchanged with representatives of the church she belonged to, as well as local Muslim, Jewish and Hindu representatives. She contacted Worcester police "after receiving an offer of a burial plot from the administration of the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia," the society said.

Mullen also talked with her local pastor about the moral implications of her spearheading the effort.

"Jesus tells us, 'Love your enemies,' " she said, according to the Islamic Society. "Not to hate them, even after they are dead."

Administrators at the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia said, as quoted in the same news release, that they "strongly disagree with (Tsarnaev's) violent actions, but that does not release us from our obligation to return his body to the earth."

Tsarnaev's mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaev, appeared confused by Thursday's announcement from Worcester police. Speaking to CNN from Russia by phone Thursday evening, Zubeidat Tsarnaev said she didn't know whether her son was buried or where.

Tsarni said Friday that he called his nephew's father Thursday "to give him an update, but I did not tell him where he was buried."

"He didn't even ask me," Tsarni said.

Zubeidat Tsarnaev told CNN in late April that her husband couldn't travel to the United States, saying he was too ill. She said she eventually would be interested in heading to the United States to see her younger son, despite pending shoplifting charges against her in Massachusetts, where she once lived.

Tsarni said Friday he was "completely outraged that (the parents) have not been here for their children."

"My assumption is that they must be here, just to help with the investigation at least," Tsarni said.

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