Skip to main content

Second autopsy awaits Boston bombing suspect

By Ben Brumfield, CNN
updated 9:41 PM EDT, Sat May 4, 2013
  • NEW: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's laptop was turned over the night of an FBI raid, attorney says
  • Tamerlan Tsarnaev's death certificate says he was DOA, "dead on arrival"
  • Source: Investigators find explosives residue in three places at one suspect's home
  • Source: Brothers considered a suicide attack on July Fourth, the suspect told investigators

(CNN) -- For nearly two weeks, Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body lay unclaimed at the Boston medical examiner's office. A funeral home now has the remains and a quest is underway to find him a resting place in Massachusetts.

But first, he will undergo a second "independent" autopsy demanded by his relatives, a family spokeswoman said.

Other hurdles remain.

His death certificate has yet to be filed with the Boston city clerk, and there is no burial plot yet, according to the funeral home holding the remains.

If no grave site is found after the second autopsy, Peter Stefan, the owner of the funeral home, plans to ask the government to find a grave.

Three cemeteries that Stefan contacted said they feared reprisals, but the funeral home owner said you can't pick and choose when it comes to a burial.

"This is what we do in a civilized society, regardless of the circumstances," Stefan said. "As I told some of them, at the immediate moment you may fear (reprisal), but later on, when things calm down, people are going to resent you because you didn't do it."

Dias Kadyrbayev, left, with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsamaev in a picture taken from the social media site Kadyrbayev is expected to plead guilty August 21 to charges in connection with removing a backpack and computer from Tsamaev's dorm room after the April 2013 bombing, according to a defense lawyer. Dias Kadyrbayev, left, with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsamaev in a picture taken from the social media site Kadyrbayev is expected to plead guilty August 21 to charges in connection with removing a backpack and computer from Tsamaev's dorm room after the April 2013 bombing, according to a defense lawyer.
Suspects tied to Boston bombings
Photos: Suspects tied to Boston bombings Photos: Suspects tied to Boston bombings
Boston bomb survivor: I am blessed
Explosive residue at bomb suspect's home
First security change after Boston

Tsarnaev died on April 19 after he and his brother shot a university police officer to death, carjacked an SUV and hurled bombs at officers pursuing them, according to authorities.

A few days earlier -- April 15 -- he and his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon, killing three and wounding more than 260.

CNN obtained a copy of Tamerlan Tsarnaev 's death certificate, which lists the cause of death as "gunshot wounds of torso and extremities" and "blunt trauma to head and torso."

The document notes that Tsarnaev was shot by police and run over and dragged by a car. It lists the manner of death as homicide, and denotes that he was "DOA," or dead on arrival.

Authorities have said his younger brother may have run him over as they resisted arrest days after the marathon attacks.

Separately, 12 people remained hospitalized with bombing-related injuries on Saturday, according to a count by CNN. None were in serious condition.

Also, the frantic manhunt two weeks ago for the surviving bombing suspect drew the attention of gun rights advocates at their convention in Houston.

National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said residents were "imprisoned" in their homes with no means to protect themselves while police searched for the younger Tsarnaev.

"How many Bostonians wished they had a gun two weeks ago?" he asked.

"Boston proves it. When brave law enforcement officers did their job in that city so courageously, good guys with guns stopped terrorists with guns," he said.

'Everyone deserves to be buried'

Tsarnaev's body remained unclaimed until Thursday, when an uncle, who had previously publicly condemned his alleged attacks, had a funeral parlor pick up the body.

The uncle, Maryland resident Ruslan Tsarni, had decried the alleged bombers as "losers" after the attacks.

Their parents in Dagestan have said they will not fly his body back to Russia for burial, spokeswoman Heda Saratova said.

CNN affiliate WCVB reported that the hearse that picked up Tsarnaev's body ferried it to a funeral home 30 miles away from Boston, near the Rhode Island state line.

Residents of North Attleboro, Massachusetts, took to the streets to boo Tsarnaev, when they heard about the presence of the corpse in their town, The Sun Chronicle reported.

Others took to social media to vent anger at the funeral home for accepting the body. It was later transported to Stefan's funeral home, Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester.

"Everyone deserves to be buried," he said.

CNN obtained these images from Andrew Kitzenberg of the gunbattle early Friday, April 19, between police and the suspects in the Boston bombings. View more photos related to the terror attack in Boston. CNN obtained these images from Andrew Kitzenberg of the gunbattle early Friday, April 19, between police and the suspects in the Boston bombings. View more photos related to the terror attack in Boston.
Images of Watertown shootout
Gallery: Watertown shootout Gallery: Watertown shootout
Source: Suspects targeted July 4th event
Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body claimed
Brain development's role in Boston attack

The marathon bombings

Authorities say the brothers carried out the Boston Marathon bombings using explosive devices made of pressure cookers.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, is being held at a federal Bureau of Prisons medical facility in Devens, Massachusetts, charged with using a weapon of mass destruction, which carries the death penalty.

He is being treated for gunshot wounds to the head, neck, legs and hands that he received in the shootout with police that led to his brother's death.

Investigators found explosives residue in the apartment that the elder Tsarnaev shared with his wife and young daughter, a source briefed on the investigation said Friday.

It has turned up in at least three places at the small apartment in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the source said: the kitchen table, the kitchen sink and the bathtub.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has said they built the bombs there, U.S. law enforcement officials briefed on the progress of the investigation said.

Other target, a cover-up

The marathon was not the original target, the officials said. The brothers had set their sights on a suicide attack on the city's massive Independence Day celebration, which draws about 500,000 people and is televised nationally.

But the bombs were ready sooner than anticipated and a day or two before the Boston Marathon, they changed their plans, the officials said.

They spoke on the condition that their names not be used because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

One key question involves whether intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security agencies could have done more in their investigation of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in recent years before the attack and whether they shared information effectively enough. An independent government review is underway.

In an interview with Univision published on its website on Saturday, President Barack Obama said cooperation among agencies can always get better. But he again defended U.S. efforts.

"I think we can continue to improve and refine how we're engaging and countering terrorist activity," Obama said. "I don't think it's fair to say though that law enforcement dropped the ball."

It is very difficult to prevent attacks when dealing with individuals who are self-radicalized and not part of a massive conspiracy or network, he said about the current belief of investigators looking at the origins of the Boston bombing.

Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell, has remained largely out of view since her husband's death, staying in her parents' Rhode Island home.

Her attorney, Amato DeLuca, says the 24-year-old knew nothing about plans to bomb the race, and reports of her husband's involvement came as an "absolute shock" to Russell and her family.

Three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends have been accused of covering for the bombing suspects.

Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, both from Kazakhstan, were charged Wednesday with conspiring to discard potentially incriminating items from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's dorm room. Robel Phillipos, a U.S. citizen, was charged with making false statements to investigators.

All three are accused of removing items from Tsarnaev's dorm room after the bombings. According to FBI affidavits released this week, they left with the backpack and Vaseline -- which Tazhayakov believed could be used to make bombs -- and Tsarnaev's laptop.

Investigators found the backpack, fireworks and Vaseline in a landfill last week after a two-day search.

The laptop was turned over by Kadyrbayev on April 19, the same day the FBI raided the apartment he shared with Tazhayakov, Kadyrbayev's attorney Robert Stahl said.

The FBI is examining the laptop, two federal law enforcement officials told CNN.

Authorities have said they believe the Tsarnaev brothers acted alone, but are investigating whether they could have learned from or have been aided by terror groups, including groups overseas.

CNN's Chelsea J. Carter, Susan Candiotti, Eric Feigel, Carol Cratty, Marina Carver and Deborah Feyerick contributed to this report.

Part of complete coverage on
Boston Marathon Bombings
Survivors of three earlier bombings describe their journeys forward — and offer poignant words for those just one year away from the day that changed their lives.
updated 2:15 AM EDT, Wed April 16, 2014
"United, we will always persevere." That was the message Massachusetts shared on the anniversary of twin bombings that turned last year's Boston Marathon from a celebration into a day of horror.
updated 2:47 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
I'm running it to make a simple statement: Acts of cowardice will not stop me from exercising my rights as an athlete and a human.
updated 3:40 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
Many of those whose lives were shattered are still struggling to put the pieces back together. Here are some of the victims, as well as larger funds, who continue to need your support.
updated 11:22 AM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
As April 15 approaches, the fact that we tell time in circles brings us to remember the attack on the Boston Marathon one year ago.
updated 10:47 PM EDT, Mon April 14, 2014
CNN's Bill Weir talks to Carlos Arredondo about helping those injured immediately after the Boston Marathon bombing.
updated 10:39 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
By running in response to the tragedy, we weren't attempting to negate the irreparable harm done to the people of Boston last year. We wanted to do something, anything, to try to process it.
updated 7:24 AM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
All of our assumptions have turned out to be wrong. Here are four things we've learned since then:
updated 4:17 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been frozen in the public mind by four images.
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Tue April 8, 2014
Adrianne Haslet-Davis' life as a dancer was shattered last year at the Boston Marathon bombings.
updated 7:40 AM EDT, Mon March 24, 2014
A man who lost both legs in the Boston Marathon attack is engaged to the woman he was waiting for at the finish line.
updated 10:21 AM EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
Mistaken identity in the hospital added to her family's grief.
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Wed April 24, 2013
The slain MIT cop "was born to be a police officer."
updated 10:37 PM EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
The graduate student from China followed her passion to Boston.
updated 1:10 AM EDT, Wed April 17, 2013
Almost a year ago, 8-year-old Martin Richard wrote four simple words on a sign at school: No more hurting people.
updated 12:37 PM EDT, Wed July 17, 2013
Mery Daniel couldn't wait for Marathon. It was one of the things the aspiring doctor and Haitian immigrant loved most about living in Boston.
updated 9:09 AM EDT, Thu May 2, 2013
After twin blasts shook Boston -- killing three and wounding more than 260 others -- investigators sprung into action looking for those responsible.
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Sun April 28, 2013
The black Mercedes SUV sped down Spruce Street going about 70 mph, the driver struggling to maintain control. The vehicle had a busted headlight and flat tire.
Click through our galleries of the Boston Marathon bombing, from perspectives on the attack to the suspects, as well as the manhunt and celebrations in Boston after both suspects were found.