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Boston bombing suspect's family struggles to find burial site

By Ross Kerber and Aaron Pressman

BOSTON (Reuters) - The body of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev remained in limbo on Monday as his family searched for a cemetery that would accept the remains.

Several Massachusetts cemeteries have refused to bury Tsarnaev, and protesters have staked out the Worcester funeral home holding the body. Despite a plea from the funeral home director, Governor Deval Patrick said on Monday he would not get involved.

The controversy marked a rare period of discord in a state that was largely united after the attacks on one of its marquee events.

Tsarnaev, 26, died in a gun battle with police on April 19, four days after bombs he is believed to have set with his younger brother Dzhokhar killed three people and injured another 264 near the finish line of the world-famous marathon.

Relatives have said they want him buried nearby. Under Islamic law, the body cannot be cremated, a procedure used for criminals including Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.

"The whole situation is unprecedented," said David Walkinshaw, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Funeral Directors Association. The state of Massachusetts does not own its own cemeteries, he said, and the federal government has only cemeteries for war veterans.

"The challenge here is that there's no way to demand a cemetery allow for a burial to take place," Walkinshaw said.

Some Massachusetts residents want the body sent back to Tsarnaev's native Russia. William Breault of Worcester told reporters on Monday he had set up a bank account to raise funds to ship the remains.

"I not only don't want to see him buried in Worcester, Massachusetts. ... I don't think he should be buried in the state," Breault told CNN.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said he was not aware that anyone from Russia or Massachusetts had contacted the department about it. "We're unaware of any efforts to coordinate sending his remains to Russia," he said.

Gabriel Gomez, a Massachusetts Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, suggested disposing of Tsarnaev's body in the ocean as was done after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011.

"Bureaucrats worried about where to bury Boston Marathon terrorist #1. To me, it's simple: he should be buried at sea with Bin Laden," he wrote on his official Twitter account.

UNWILLING TO ACCEPT BODY

Tsarnaev's body was taken to Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester last week after spending more than a week at a medical examiner's office in Boston. Several cemeteries have said they would not accept Tsarnaev's body for burial.

Graham Putnam funeral home owner Peter Stefan, chairman of a board that oversees funeral services and embalming in Massachusetts, said he has an obligation to accept the remains.

Stefan has said he would seek help from state officials if he could not find a resting place soon. His work has drawn support from other funeral directors, including Morgan Mitchell, another member of the state board.

"There are funeral directors in Massachusetts who have buried people who have been murderers or child molesters. As professionals, we need to put these things to one side," Mitchell said.

Tsarnaev's uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, said on Sunday that his nephew should be buried in Massachusetts, where he lived. Tsarnaev's parents, ethnic Chechens who returned to southern Russia several years ago, have suggested in various interviews and reports that their son should be buried in Cambridge or returned to Russia.

The Massachusetts governor declined on Monday to get involved.

"This is a family issue ... and the family needs to make some decisions. I understand they have some options. They need to exercise one soon," Patrick told reporters.

Cambridge officials urged the Tsarnaevs to look elsewhere.

"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 widespread media presence at such an interment," said Cambridge City Manager Robert Healy in a statement Sunday.

"The families of loved ones interred in the Cambridge Cemetery also deserve to have their deceased family members rest in peace."

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Editing by Cynthia Osterman, Doina Chiacu and Philip Barbara)

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