BOSTON -- Even some of the worst criminals are claimed at their death by someone and given a proper burial.
Adam Lanza, who killed 26 people, including 20 children, in the shooting rampage last year at a school in Newtown, Conn., before shooting himself, was claimed by his father for a private burial at an undisclosed location. Albert DeSalvo, who was known as the Boston Strangler and linked to numerous murders and rapes in the 1960s, was buried in Peabody, Mass., after being stabbed to death in prison.
But Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings who died more than two weeks ago after a shootout with police -- he was also run over as his brother fled the scene -- was still above ground Monday.
His widow, Katherine Russell, who has expressed shock at the accusations against her husband, declined to claim the crushed and bullet-riddled body. Finally, an estranged uncle from Maryland, who had little love for Tsarnaev, claimed it a few days ago, saying he believed that his nephew deserved a proper burial. "A dead person needs to be buried," said the uncle, Ruslan Tsarni.
But by Monday evening, no cemetery had been found that would receive him. And officials at all levels of government spent the day tossing around responsibility for his burial like a hot potato.
Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said burying Tsarnaev was not up to the state or the federal government, but instead to the family. "And the family has some options," he told reporters. "I assume they will make a decision soon. I hope they do."
Mr. Patrick declined to say whether he opposed burying Tsarnaev in Massachusetts. But Rep. Edward J. Markey, the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Kerry when he became secretary of state, said he did oppose it. "I think that the body should be controlled by the federal government," Mr. Markey said. "But if the people of Massachusetts do not want that terrorist to be buried on our soil, then it should not be."
Tsarnaev, 26, is suspected, along with his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, of detonating explosive devices at the finish line of the marathon April 15, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been charged with the bombings and is being held in a federal medical detention facility outside Boston.
As the stalemate continued, Robel K. Phillipos, who went to school with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and has been charged with lying to federal authorities investigating the bombings, was released from federal custody Monday on $100,000 bond. He was placed under house arrest and ordered to wear an electronic bracelet.
And Kenneth Feinberg, who is overseeing distribution of $28 million that has been donated for bombing victims, said he hoped that checks could go out by June 30, although he cautioned that this might be too optimistic.
Protesters have staked out the funeral home in Worcester where the older brother's body lies, some carrying signs with such declarations as: "Bury this terrorist on U.S. soil, and we will unbury him."
Federal officials said they had no jurisdiction and no interest in getting involved. An FBI official said the body was no longer needed for the investigation, and that the burial was up to the family and local authorities.
Boston College Law School professor Ray D. Madoff, a specialist in what she calls the law of the dead, said she had never seen such a case. "There is no precedent for this type of thing," she said. "It is a legal no-man's land."
She suggested that the body be sent back to Russia, where Tsarnaev, an ethnic Chechen who turned to conservative Islam, had lived in the republic of Dagestan -- and that option may be gaining currency.
Peter A. Stefan, owner of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, which is holding the body, endorsed the idea Monday. He had dismissed it earlier, saying there was no guarantee that Russia would accept Tsarnaev's body.
Mr. Stefan said he had spoken with Tsarnaev's mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, by phone Sunday, and that she had said she would like her son's body to return to his home country. "She'd love to have him back there, obviously," he said. But Mr. Stefan said he needed to make sure that Russian authorities would agree to accept the body and inter it. He said he might seek help from Mr. Kerry in making burial arrangements with Russian authorities. "If we could engineer that, that would be great, but we can't just send the body over like we're dumping it," he said.