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Mass. funeral director chasing burial offers

Tuesday - 5/7/2013, 2:42am  ET

Paul Keane of Braintree, Mass., asks a question about means testing at The One Fund town hall meeting at the Boston Public Library, in Boston, Monday, May 6, 2013. The One Fund town hall solicited feedback from the public and outlined how initial funds would be distributed at the end of June. (AP Photo/The Boston Globe, Yoon S. Byun, Pool)

DENISE LAVOIE
Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- A Massachusetts funeral director said Monday he has received burial offers for more than 100 out-of-state graves for the body of a Boston Marathon bombing suspect who was killed in a gun battle with police but none are panning out, even as Tamerlan Tsarnaev's mother told him she wants the body returned to Russia.

Worcester funeral home director Peter Stefan said none of the 120 grave offers from the U.S. and Canada, have worked out because, when he calls officials of the cities or towns involved, nobody wants the body.

Stefan also said that, despite the request by Tsarnaev's mother, he doesn't think Russia will take the 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.

Meanwhile, 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 was under strict house arrest and only allowed to leave his home to meet with lawyers and for true emergencies. Also, the administrator of the One Fund Boston released the protocol for payouts of the fund, with the families of those who lost loved ones and individuals who suffered double amputations or permanent brain damage in the bombings receiving the highest payments.

The question of where Tamerlan Tsarnaev will be buried dragged on for another day Monday, and the issue seemed far from resolved.

Stefan said he made follow-up calls on all the grave offers, but faced 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 has asked him not to do so.

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 Sunday.

Stefan said he does not regret taking on the body.

"We're just burying a dead body," he said late Monday. "We're not buying a cause. We're not doing anything else. ... The guy is a terrorist, whatever he is. Still dead."

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. Cambridge's appeal to the family not to ask it to bury the body is likely a way to set up its defense if the family goes to court to try to force the burial, Marsh said.

Such a case would be unprecedented in Massachusetts, she said. She added that even in a country that's had its share of notorious accused killers, this kind of opposition to a burial is unheard of and is exposing holes in the law, Marsh said.

"It's a mess," she said. "We're really sort of in uncharted territory."

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.

He declined to say whether he thought it would be appropriate for the body to be buried in Massachusetts.

"We showed the world in the immediate aftermath of the attacks what a civilization looks like, and I'm proud of what we showed, and I think we continue to do that by stepping back and let the family make their decisions," the governor told reporters.

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