BOSTON — A mortuary familiar with Muslim services will handle funeral arrangements for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a gunbattle with police after an intense manhunt, a funeral director said Friday.
Peter Stefan, owner of Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, confirmed his facility will handle Tsarnaev's arrangements, but he could not say whether he has possession of the body.
Stefan said everybody deserves a dignified burial service no matter the circumstances of their death and he is prepared for protests. He added that arrangements have yet to be worked out.
Meanwhile, two U.S. officials said the surviving suspected Boston bomber told interrogators that he and his brother initially considered setting off their bombs on July Fourth. And, in the first security change by the U.S. government directly related to the Boston bombings, Customs officials were ordered to verify that every arriving foreign student has a valid visa.
On Thursday night, several protesters showed up outside a North Attleborough funeral home where Tsarnaev's body was taken following its release by the state medical examiner.
Timothy Nay of the Dyer-Lake Funeral Home said he is no longer in possession of the body.
Authorities are now closer to being able to make public Tsarnaev's cause of death.
The medical examiner determined Tsarnaev's cause of death on Monday, but officials said it wouldn't be disclosed until his remains were released and a death certificate was filed. It was unclear whether the death certificate had been filed.
Tsarnaev's widow, Katherine Russell, who has been living with her parents in North Kingstown, R.I., learned this week that the medical examiner was ready to release his body and wanted it turned over to his side of the family, her attorney Amato DeLuca said days ago.
Tsarnaev's uncle Ruslan Tsarni, of Maryland, said Tuesday night the family would take the body.
"Of course, family members will take possession of the body," Tsarni said.
After a hearse believed to be carrying Tsarnaev's body departed Boston on Thursday, television stations reported that their helicopters followed it to the Dyer Lake Funeral Home in North Attleboro. About 20 protesters gathered outside the funeral home. An Associated Press photographer later saw a hearse leaving the home escorted by two police cars.
Tsarnaev, who had appeared in surveillance photos wearing a black cap and was identified as Suspect No. 1, died three days after the bombing.
The April 15 bombing, using pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, ball bearings and metal shards near the marathon's finish line, killed three people and injured more than 260 others. Authorities said Tsarnaev and his younger brother later killed a Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus police officer and carjacked a driver, who later escaped.
Authorities said that during the gunbattle with police, the Tsarnaev brothers, ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago, set off another pressure cooker bomb and tossed grenades before the older brother ran out of ammunition.
Police said they tackled the older brother and began to handcuff him but had to dive out of the way at the last second when the younger brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, drove a stolen car at them. They said the younger brother ran over his brother's body as he drove away from the scene to escape.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured later, wounded and bloody, hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a suburban Boston backyard. He is in a federal prison and faces a charge of using a weapon of mass destruction to kill.
The brothers considered setting off their bombs on July Fourth, the surviving suspect told interrogators after he was arrested, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. But when they finished assembling the bombs, they decided to carry out the attack sooner and settled on the Boston Marathon, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation.
Investigators believe some of the explosives used in the attack were assembled in Tamerlan Tsarnaev's home, though there may have been some assembly elsewhere, one of the officials said. At this point, it does not appear that the brothers ever had big, definitive plans, the official said.
The brothers' mother insists the allegations against them are lies.
Three of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's friends, college classmates, were arrested Wednesday and accused of helping after the marathon bombing to remove a laptop and backpack from his dormitory room before the FBI searched it.
A top Republican senator on Thursday asked President Barack Obama's administration to explain how one of the students entered the United States without a valid student visa.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, of Iowa, asked for additional details about the student visa applications for Azamat Tazhayakov and Dias Kadyrbayev, college roommates from Kazakhstan charged with obstruction of justice, and how Tazhayakov was allowed to re-enter the United States in January.
Tazhayakov was a student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth when he left the U.S. in December. In early January, his student visa status was terminated because he was academically dismissed by the university.
The student visa for Azamat Tazhayakov had been terminated when he arrived in New York on Jan. 20. But the border agent in the airport did not have access to the information about it in the Homeland Security Department's Student and Exchange Visitor Information System.
According to an internal memorandum obtained by The Associated Press on Friday, the Homeland Security Department is now telling officials to verify that every international student has a non-immigrant student visa before being allowed into the U.S. The new procedure is the government's first security change directly related to the Boston bombings.
A spokesman for the department, Peter Boogaard, said earlier this week that the government was working to fix the problem, which allowed Tazhayakov to be admitted into the country when he returned to the U.S.
The third student arrested, Robel Phillipos, was charged with willfully making materially false statements to federal law enforcement officials during a terrorism investigation.
All three men charged in connection with the case began attending UMass Dartmouth with Tsarnaev in 2011, according to the FBI.
If convicted, Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov could get up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Phillipos faces a maximum of eight years behind bars and a $250,000 fine.
The lawyers for the Kazakh students said their clients had nothing to do with the bombing and were just as shocked by it as everyone else. Phillipos' attorney said the only allegation against him was "he made a misrepresentation."
In other developments:
Federal, state and local authorities on Friday searched the woods near the UMass-Dartmouth campus as part of the marathon investigation of the Boston Marathon bombing. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, says could not say what investigators were looking for but said residents should know there is no threat to public safety.
Police and politicians across the U.S. are pointing to the example of surveillance video that was used to help identify the Boston Marathon bombing suspects as a reason to get more electronic eyes on their streets. They want to gain police access to cameras used to monitor traffic, expand surveillance networks in some major cities and enable officers to get regular access to security footage at businesses.
At an interfaith service Thursday night, a member of the executive board of the mosque where the bombing suspects prayed condemned the attacks. Anwar Kazmi said the bombings were a "grotesque perversion of the teaching of our faith."
Associated Press writers Pete Yost, Eileen Sullivan and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington; Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles; and Rodrique Ngowi in Boston contributed to this report.