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Boston bombing suspect buried in Virginia; county looking into legality

Luis Alvarez / AP

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's uncle Ruslan Tsarni said Tsarnaev was buried in this burial plot in Doswell, near Richmond Va.

Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Virginia after a Christian woman spearheaded an interfaith effort to find a resting place for his remains, she said in a statement.

The donation of a plot by Al-Barzakh Cemetery in Doswell, Va., quickly sparked new controversy, with Virginia officials complaining they were not notified and questioning whether any laws were broken that might allow them to "undo" the burial.

"I wouldn't have done it this way," said Peter Stefan, the Worcester, Mass., funeral director who had spent a week trying to find someone to take the body off his hands.

"Not telling the town has created a total nightmare."


Stefan accepted Tsarnaev's remains from the medical examiner and prepared them for burial, but cemeteries in several cities refused to take the body for fear of protests, desecration and notoriety.

As a Muslim, the 26-year-old could not be cremated. Efforts to send his body back to Russia, where his parents live, also failed.

Monitoring the impasse from a distance, Richmond, Va., resident Martha Mullen said she decided to send out emails to local religious leaders and received an offer from Al-Barzakh to donate a plot.

"Jesus tells us 'love your enemies,'" she said in a statement. "Not to hate them even after they are dead."

In an interview with NBC station WWBT-TV, Mullen said she was appalled by the furor over burying Tsarnaev, who was killed in a firefight with police after being identified as a suspect in the April 15 bombing that killed three and wounded 200.

Cambridge Police Dept. file

Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body was buried in Virginia, his uncle says.

"Fundamentally, it struck me as wrong," she said. "We've buried other bad people, so the difference only that seemed to me that difference was the fact he was Muslim."

Mullen, a seminary graduate and licensed counselor who attends a United Methodist church, said her pastor blessed her efforts to find a plot for the accused bomber.

On Thursday, officials in Worcester made the surprise announcement that Tsarnaev's body had been moved and entombed. Stefan said he turned over the body to Tsarnaev's uncle "who made all the arrangements."

"I buried him with my own hands," the uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, told NBCWashington.com. "It's over."

Maybe not.

Hours after Mullen revealed where the grave is, officials in Caroline County asked the state to investigate whether the burial was done by the books, although they conceded there's no indication any rules were broken.

"If there were, I think we'd try to undo what's been done," Floyd Thomas, chairman of the county board of supervisors, said at a press conference.

As police posted an officer to watch for vandals or protests, some neighbors expressed outrage. The imam of the Islamic Center of Virginia told The Associated Press that his community was upset and that Mullen had only consulted a local Muslim group.

Bukhari Abdel-Alim of Islamic Funeral Services, which manages the 47-plot cemetery, defended the move, saying that while he and his colleagues "strongly disagree" with Tsarnaev's actions, "that does not release us from our obligation to return his body to the earth."

"He can't bury himself," Abdel-Alim said.

NBC News' Alexandra Moe contributed to this report

 

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