WORCESTER — The director of a Worcester funeral home who is looking for a place to bury the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev said today he had spoken to Tsarnaev’s mother and she had told him that she wanted the body returned to Russia.
Peter Stefan of the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors told reporters that Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, had telephoned him from Russia on Sunday. He said she was crying during their conversation, and told him that she wanted her son’s body sent to Russia for burial.
Stefan said he had reached out to the US State Department and Russian authorities, but had not had a conversation with anyone who had the authority to approve both the shipment of the body and a burial in Russia.
Stefan has repeatedly said he wouldn’t release Tsarnaev’s body for shipment to Russia unless he is assured that a burial site there is approved and ready to receive Tsarnaev’s remains, where it will be buried with respect and not be subjected to mutilation or paraded as a makeshift shrine by supporters.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was released by the medical examiner Thursday. It attracted protesters at a North Attleborough funeral home, where it was first sent, and now at the Worcester funeral home, where it has been since Friday. It’s been 17 days since he died after a confrontation with police in Watertown.
“The devil is waiting for him!” chanted Nelly Sanchez, 45, of Worcester, who was among a group of protesters gathered outside the funeral home this morning. “He needs to be fed to the sharks. I don’t think the sharks would want him, either.”
But Governor Deval Patrick said today that people should step back and let the Tsarnaev family make its own decisions about the body’s burial.
Asked if he would object to having Tsarnaev buried in Massachusetts, Patrick said, “I don’t have a comment about that or a point of view. Like I said, this is a family issue, with due respect to all of you, and the family needs to make some decisions. I understand they have some options. They need to exercise one soon.”
He also said that the fate of the body “isn’t a state or a federal issue; it’s the family’s issue.”
“I think everybody is feeling upset about what happened. But 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,” Patrick said at a media availability in New Bedford.
Other politicians commenting today on the situation that has left Tsarnaev’s body in limbo included the two candidates in the US Senate special election race.
Republican Gabriel E. Gomez tweeted this afternoon, “Bureaucrats worried about where to bury Boston Marathon terrorist #1. To me, it’s simple: he should be buried at sea with Bin Laden.”
Democratic US Representative Edward Markey “I think that the people of Massachusetts have a right to say that they do not want that terrorist to be buried on the soil of Massachusetts. I think that the body should be controlled by the federal government and that it should be returned to the family of the terrorist for disposal. But if the people of Massachusetts do not want that terrorist buried on our soil, then it should not be.”
Worcester activist William T. Breault said today that he was opening a bank account and donating $500 to it to “raise the necessary money to send him back to Russia.”
“We will appeal to residents of Worcester, Boston, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the nation to return his body to his Russian homeland,” Breault said.
Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, who is facing federal charges, allegedly planted the bombs that killed three and injured more than 260 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15. The state medical examiner says the cause of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death was gunshot wounds and blunt trauma to his head and torso. Police have said they were subduing Tsarnaev after a shootout when his younger brother ran him over in a desperate escape that bought him less than a day of additional freedom.
Cambridge officials said Sunday they would not allow the body to be buried in the city’s cemetery, despite Tsarnaev’s uncle’s statements that he believed the body should be buried there and that Tsarnaev’s “home country is Cambridge, Mass.”
The two brothers were ethnic Chechens, born in the former Soviet territory now known as Kyrgyzstan and transplanted to the working-class Inman Square neighborhood of Cambridge.
Meanwhile, outside the Worcester funeral home, Jennifer Merchand, 29, of Worcester said she had attended funerals at the funeral home before but would never go back.
“This is just awful,” she said.
“I will never step foot inside that funeral home again,” she said as she stood across the street protesting. “I don’t want to even live in this state if he is buried here.”
The protesters’ ire was apparently misdirected this afternoon when they yelled at a family, including a man on crutches, who had come to the funeral home to pick up the ashes of a loved one.
“Go back to Russia,’’ one man shouted at the family, adding an expletive. The family, however, had no connection to Tsarnaev.