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Despite Protests, Worcester Funeral Home Intent On Burying Bombing Suspect

A protester holds a sign with "Bury the garbage in the landfill," referring to the body of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

On Saturday,  a protester demonstrates outside the Worcester funeral home that is holding Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

WORCESTER, Mass. — The owner of the Worcester funeral home holding the body of accused marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev expects to find a cemetery to bury Tsarnaev by Monday. But as of Saturday afternoon, he had no takers and protesters and police remained outside his funeral home.

About a half dozen protesters stood in front of the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester on Saturday morning after learning that the body of accused bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was brought there Friday.

Pat Hildreth of New Hampshire protests, holding a sign that reads, "Shame on u Mr. Stefan," referring to the director of the funeral home that has Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Pat Hildreth of New Hampshire protests outside the funeral home that has Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body on Saturday. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Pat Hildreth drove about an hour from her home in Rindge, N.H., to demonstrate against Tsarnaev being buried in the United States.

“What does that say about this city? What does that say about our country?” Hildreth asked. “We’re going bury a dead terrorist? It’s so wrong on so many levels.”

But Peter Stefan, owner of the Worcester funeral home, says his job is to bury people, not to judge them.

“You can’t pick and choose. If you come to me and say your Uncle Freddy murdered 10 members of your family what do I say to you? ‘I can’t help you because I don’t do murderers’ funerals?’” Stefan said. “The only difference is this has more notoriety. Also I can’t separate the sins from the sinners — it doesn’t work.”

“I’d bury Adolf Hitler if they asked me to,” Stefan added. “I’m not burying what he stood for; I’m just burying the body.”

Stefan has a long history of not being afraid of controversy and helping to bury the disenfranchised. He is also one of few Massachusetts funeral homes that performs Muslim burials.

He said Tsarnaev’s uncle contacted him through the local Muslim community about taking the body. Stefan believes that Tsarnaev’s widow was also making arrangements for the body and that’s why there was initial confusion about the body briefly going to a North Attleboro funeral home Thursday night.

Stefan has been in the funeral business for more than three decades and was among the first to help bury those who died of AIDS.

Peter Stefan, director of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, which will be taking care of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's funeral arrangements. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

Peter Stefan, director of Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors, which will be taking care of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s funeral arrangements. (Deborah Becker/WBUR)

But in this case, many cemeteries are reluctant to get involved. Stefan says the four cemeteries he usually deals with have said no.

“So far there’s been basically a response that they would prefer not to handle it. That could change,” Stefan said.

Along with those opposed to Stefan’s handling the funeral are those who support Stefan – some are even offering donations. He’s says he’s directing them to The One Fund Boston to help the bombing victims

“It has swung around some that now 90 percent of the calls we get are from people who are in favor of what we’ve done. In fact, we’ve had quite a few people who want to make contributions to us,” he said. “We said to send it to that One Fund in Boston.”

Stefan hopes to find a cemetery by Monday, when the second autopsy, requested by Tsarnaev’s family, should be complete.

Tsarnaev’s death certificate now lists the cause of death as gunshot wounds and trauma as he was shot and dragged by a motor vehicle. It says he was dead on arrival at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center on April 19, the morning of a dramatic chase and shootout with police in Watertown as they searched for those responsible for the marathon bombings.

His younger brother, Dhokhar Tsarnaev, is charged in the bombings and remains at a prison medical facility in Fort Devens.

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