Suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev is ready to be buried, but so far no one has been able to figure out how. His widow has rejected the body, and his parents, currently living in Russia, were reluctant to claim it. That left the task to his estranged uncle, who despite his disgust over his nephews’ alleged crimes, has said that he deserves a proper burial.
However, the local cemetery in Tsarnaev’s residential town of Cambridge, and cemeteries in other parts of Boston, have rejected the body for burial, stating that they wish to respect the local victims of the bombings and to avoid having his gravesite become any sort of shrine or other political symbol. Even the undertaker who received his body has had his mortuary flanked by protesters in last few days.
No US government official has claimed responsibility for the body, and Tsarnaev’s Muslim religion does not permit a cremation. So far the best is one man from Worcester, MA, a community activist who is planning to raise money to send the body to Russia.
Is this an unprecedented situation? How have other infamous people’s bodies been dealt with in the past? Do cemeteries have a right to reject bodies, and what exactly are they trying to avoid by doing so?
David Sloane, Professor at USC’s Price School of Public Policy, and author of The Last Great Necessity: Cemeteries in American History