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Struggle to find grave site stymies Boston bombing suspect's burial

By Ross Kerber

BOSTON (Reuters) - A Massachusetts funeral home owner said he is struggling to find a graveyard willing to accept the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, killed in a shootout with police four days after an attack that left three dead and 264 injured.

Peter Stefan, owner of the funeral home in Worcester, Massachusetts, said he would turn to government officials for help if he cannot find a resting place for Tsarnaev soon.

"Everyone deserves a burial. It doesn't matter who it is," Stefan said in a telephone interview with Reuters on Friday. "I can't pick and choose."

Tamerlan and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, are suspected of planting and detonating two pressure-cooker bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15, killing three people and injuring 264. Ten people lost limbs.

The bombing was the worst attack on U.S. soil since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Stefan said he had faced criticism for his decision to accept the body of Tsarnaev, and was prepared for protests outside his business, the Graham, Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors.

Tamerlan's wife, Katherine Russell, declined to pick up Tsarnaev's body from the Massachusetts Medical Examiner's office, allowing his relatives to claim the remains and arrange for a funeral. His body, released on Thursday, was initially taken to another funeral home.

Stefan said Tsarnaev's family was put in touch with him because he has handled other Muslim funerals and is known in the community.

He declined to identify the graveyard officials he has spoken with thus far, saying he hopes to change their minds.

He compared his efforts on behalf of Tsarnaev to the doctors who treated him and the lawyers preparing to defend the ethnic Chechen's younger brother, Dzhokhar, who was wounded in the April 19 shootout and is being held in a nearby prison facility.

Stefan said he hopes to find a burial site soon.

"This is a situation that has to be dealt with. It has gone on way too long," Stefan said.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch, Edith Honan, Lisa Shumaker and Eric Walsh)

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