The bodies of San Bernardino, California, shooting suspects Syed Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, are still in the possession of the San Bernardino County Coroner's Office, while arrangements for their final resting place and any religious services remain unknown. The coroner's office confirmed Monday that it is holding the two bodies but could not say when they would be released.
It is unclear if relatives will claim the remains. Several family members have condemned the coordinated attacks at Inland Regional Center that killed 14 people last Wednesday. Local cemeteries said they had not been contacted about the burial of the suspects, who were killed in a confrontation with police hours after the shooting.
Burials for those charged with high-profile cases of terrorism or gun violence can be a precarious matter: Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's burial was fraught with controversy. For days, his body remained in limbo as local cemeteries declined to bury him. Officials in Cambridge, Massachusetts, refused to allow the body to be buried within city limits.
“The difficult and stressful efforts of the citizens of the City of Cambridge to return to a peaceful life would be adversely impacted by the turmoil, protests, and widespread media presence at such an interment,” City Manager Robert W. Healy said in a statement.
It was not until a Virginia woman intervened that Tsarnaev was buried in an interfaith cemetery near Richmond, Virginia. Martha Mullen, 48, a devout Christian, contacted the Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia after learning about protests to his burial in Boston and Cambridge.
“It portrayed America at its worst,” Mullen told the Boston Globe. “The fact that people were picketing this poor man [funeral director Peter Stefan] who was just trying to help really upset me.”
Officials waited until after Tsarnaev was buried in an unmarked grave at the Al-Barzakh Cemetery, in Doswell, Virginia, to make the news of his final resting place public. The Islamic Funeral Services organization owns the cemetery.
“What Tsarnaev did is between him and God. We strongly disagree with his violent actions, but that does not release us from our obligation to return his body to the earth,” an Islamic Funeral Services of Virginia official told the Boston Globe in a statement.
Bukhari Abdel-Alim, who works with the organization, stood by the decision to transport the body to Virginia.
"It's not a political thing [but] he can't bury himself," said Abdel-Alim, who told CNN that his only regret was that Tsarnaev "wasn't buried sooner."
Islamic tradition holds that a body should be buried as soon as possible, with families often putting loved ones to rest within 24 hours. Due to this time constraint, it is preferable for bodies not to be transported to another location for burial.
Recent instances suggest that U.S. officials will follow Muslim burial practices with the San Bernardino suspects, who investigators believe were radicalized. After Osama bin Laden was killed in a 2011 raid, the White House insisted that the al Qaeda leader's burial was held in accordance with Islamic rituals. White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan claimed the burial was "in strict conformance with Islamic precepts and practices." The Obama administration said the terrorist's body was washed and wrapped in a shroud; Islamic prayers were recited and he was then buried at sea.
"There is a requirement in Islamic law that an individual be buried within 24 hours," Brennan said. "There were certain steps that had to be taken because of the nature of the operation. We wanted to make sure we were able to do that in the time period allotted for it."
It's not yet known if family members have identified Farook's and Malik's bodies, if the corpses have been washed, shrouded or prayed over and when and where they might be taken to their final rest.