(RNS) Officials and local residents of a rural Virginia county say they’re surprised and angered that the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was buried in a local cemetery.
Tsarnaev, 26, died following an April 19 getaway attempt after a gun battle with police. His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was captured and remains in custody and is charged with the April 15 bombings that killed three and wounded more than 260 near the finish line of the race.
Their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni of Maryland, took responsibility for the body after Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife, Katherine Russell, said she wanted it released to her in-laws. He said his nephew was buried in a cemetery in Doswell, Va., with the help of a faith coalition.
“The body’s buried,” Tsarni said. “That’s it.”
The Islamic cemetery is in a community in rural Caroline County about 30 miles north of Richmond. It contains only 47 graves. All were covered with reddish-brown mulch except for two that appeared newly dug, neither with any kind of marking and one of them presumably Tsarnaev’s.
Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa Jr. and Floyd Thomas, chair of the county’s Board of Supervisors, said they learned of the burial through the media. Lippa said his department would provide security at the cemetery to protect the gravesite from being vandalized. “It’s become a public safety issue now,” Lippa said.
Thomas said he would have preferred the body be buried elsewhere, given the nature of the bombings. “We feel the same way most of America feels,” Thomas said. “We’re very angry over the bombings.”
“We do not wish to be the home of the remains of one of those perpetrators,” Thomas said.
The burial ended a frustrating search for a community willing to take the body, which had been kept at a funeral parlor in Worcester, Mass., as cemeteries in Massachusetts and several other states refused to accept the remains, fearful about gravesite vandalism and backlash from the public.
Worcester police said Thursday that “as a result of our public appeal for help, a courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased.”
Martha Mullen, of Richmond, told The Associated Press that she offered to help after seeing news reports about towns and cemeteries refusing to allow burial. She said she is not the only person who helped with arrangements. “It was an interfaith effort,” she said. “Basically because Jesus says love your enemies.”
Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center of Virginia said that his group was never consulted and that Mullen reached out to a separate group, the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond.
“The whole Muslim community here is furious. Frankly, we are furious that we were never given any information. It was all done secretly behind our backs,” Amonette said, adding it “makes no sense whatsoever” that Tsarnaev’s body was buried in Virginia.
“Now everybody who’s buried in that cemetery, their loved ones are going to have to go to that place,” he said.
At least one neighbor was unaware the cemetery was even there.
Jaquese Goodall, who lives less than a quarter-mile away down a winding country lane, said a rope usually blocks the gravel road leading to the cemetery. She had no idea when the body was buried and never saw hearses enter or leave the property.
“If they didn’t want him in Boston, why did they bring him all the way down here against our wishes?” said Goodall, 21, who has lived in the area all her life.
“I am worried because his people may come down here to visit and there will be a whole lot of problems from him being here,” said Goodall, a Baptist.
(Gary Strauss writes for USA Today.)