Christian Martha Mullen today revealed that she helped authorities coordinate the secret burial this week of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in a Muslim cemetery in Doswell, Virginia.
“Jesus says [to] love our enemies,” Martha Mullen, 48, told the Boston Globe’s Wesley Lowery in an exclusive interview.
“So I was sitting in Starbucks and thought, maybe I’m the one person who needs to do something.”
Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was buried under a shroud of secrecy Wednesday evening at the Al-Barzakh Cemetery in central Virginia, about 15 miles from Richmond.
Martha Mullen said she coordinated the clandestine burial with the help of the Islamic Society of Greater Richmond after a number of cemeteries refused to take his body.
Within an hour of contacting the group, she got a response saying a plot had been found. So Martha Mullen called the officials overseeing Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s burial and arranged to have the body, which was being held at a Worcester, Massachusetts funeral home, transported to Virginia to be buried Wednesday evening.
The development has infuriated some residents of the rural Virginia town as well as members of the area’s Islamic community who say they weren’t consulted in the decision.
“The whole Muslim community here is furious,” Imam Ammar Amonette of the Islamic Center of Virginia told the Associated Press.
“Frankly, we are furious that we were never given any information. It was all done secretly behind our backs.”
“Now everybody who’s buried in that cemetery, their loved ones are going to have to go to that place,” he added.
News of the burial comes several days after a Massachusetts police chief went on national television to plead for help in finding a plot for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as number of cemeteries and lawmakers in three states had turned down requests to bury his body.
Meanwhile, the funeral home where Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was being held had become the site of ongoing protests.
Martha Mullen, a professional counselor who has a degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, said she was disgusted by reports of the protests and decided to take action.
She later called the Boston Globe wanting to tell her story, according to the reporter who took the call.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his brother, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, are accused of carrying out the April 15 twin bombings that killed three people and injured more than 260. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a violent shootout with police on April 19 and his brother, who was injured in the gunfight, was captured in Watertown, Massachusetts after an 18-hour manhunt.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death certificate, which was released on Friday, showed that he was shot in the firefight and then run over and dragged by a vehicle. Police say it was Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s brother who mowed over his body as he was making a getaway.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body was claimed by his uncle, Ruslan Tsarni, who asked that the remains be placed in a municipal cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tsarnaev lived with his wife, Katherine Russell. But city officials would not allow that to happen.
Katherine Russell did not claim the body, which is why it was released to Ruslan Tsarni.
The public was not notified that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s body had been moved until after it was transported from the funeral home Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, police officials announced that: “A courageous and compassionate individual came forward to provide the assistance needed to properly bury the deceased.”
On average, burials cost $6,000 to $10,000, which covers basic services of a funeral director and staff, including the casket as well as embalming and sanitation of the body, according to the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society, a consumer advocacy group.
Typically, the person who claims the body – which in this case would be Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s uncle – pays these costs.