(updates with information from news conference)
BOWLING GREEN – Caroline County will seek to “undo” the burial of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a private Muslim cemetery in the Dawn community, officials said at an afternoon news conference on Friday.
Officials have not yet confirmed that Tsarnaev was buried at the Al-Barzakh Cemetery, located on Sadie Lane near the intersection of U.S. 301 and Route 30, said Caroline County Sheriff Tony Lippa. He called the owners of the cemetery and left a voice mail, and his call has not been returned, said Lippa.
Officials also will look into whether any laws were broken in bringing Tsarnaev’s remains to Caroline and interring them in the private Muslim cemetery, indicated Caroline Supervisor Floyd Thomas, chairman of the county’s Board of Supervisors.
If any laws were violated in the process, “We would try to undo what has been done,” said Thomas.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office also is looking into the burial of the terror suspect, said Lippa.
“We will cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Lippa.
County officials were not apprised of the burial ahead of time and were completely caught off guard by the news, said Thomas and Lippa.
“We had no say in this at all,” said Thomas.
He learned of it after sheriff’s dispatchers were swamped with telephone calls about the news and he read a news report of the Boston Globe, said Lippa. When Thomas began receiving reports about the burial this morning he immediately concluded they were mistaken, he said.
“This was a horrific act,” said Thomas, referring to the April bombings that killed three and wounded more than 260. “This was a terrible crime.” Caroline County does not want to be remembered for being the final resting place for the bombing suspect, he added.
Responding to questions from reporters who flocked to the old county courthouse for the news conference, Lippa indicated that authorities had concerns that the cemetery and grave may be subject to vandalism. A deputy already had been stationed at the cemetery.
Defacing a burial plot is a felony, and trespassing in a cemetery after dark also is a crime, said Lippa.
First Sgt. Bill Blydenburgh of the Virginia State Police, who directs the Bowling Green area office, said State Police would augment sheriff’s deputies to provide security at the cemetery. However, Blydenburgh and Maj. Scott Moser of the sheriff’s office declined to disclose security measures.
The cemetery is located in the Reedy Church District. Supervisor Reggie Underwood, who represents the district, was out of town, said Thomas, but has been apprised of the development. Underwood was “to say the least, concerned,” said Thomas.
The Chechen-born Tsarnaev died April 19 after a shoot-out with police in Watertown, Mass. four days after the bombing. Tsarnaev, 26, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, were responsible for the bombing, according to prosecutors. The younger brother was wounded and later captured is facing federal charges that could bring the death penalty.
About 12 people are buried in the cemetery, according to its website.
Tsarnaev’s body arrived at a funeral home in Worcester, Mass. last week. Since then, officials in Boston, Cambridge, and cemetery officials in at least three other states refused to accept his remains.
Plans to bury him at a state prison in Massachusetts collapsed, and Worcester Police Chief Gary Gemme made a public appeal for someone to come forward and provide a burial site.
His burial was arranged by a Virginia woman identified as Martha Mullen, 48, who viewed news reports of protests outside the Worcester funeral home and decided to help.
Mullen told news media outlets that she had reached out to the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia, which is associated with the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond. The Islamic organization then secured a burial plot in the cemetery and coordinated the body’s transfer Wednesday night.