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Bombing probe takes investigators into Mass. woods

Published: Friday, May 3, 2013 3:30 p.m. CST

BOSTON (AP) — The family of slain Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was making arrangements Friday for his funeral as investigators searched the woods near the college attended by his younger brother and alleged accomplice.

A funeral parlor in Worcester that is familiar with Muslim services said it will handle arrangements for Tsarnaev, whose body was released by the state medical examiner Thursday night.

The body was taken initially to a North Attleborough funeral home, where it was greeted by about 20 protesters. Peter Stefan, owner of Graham Putnam and Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, said everybody deserves a dignified burial service no matter the circumstances of their death and he is prepared for protests.

Tsarnaev, 26, died three days after the bombing in a furious getaway attempt in which authorities say he and his brother, ethnic Chechens from Russia who came to the United States about a decade ago, killed an MIT campus police officer and tossed home-made bombs and grenades at police. The younger brother, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, ran over his brother's body as he drove away from the scene to escape, authorities have said.

The medical examiner had yet to release the cause of death, pending the filing of a death certificate.

Relatives had said they would claim the body, but Stefan said Friday funeral arrangements had yet to be worked out and he could not say whether he has possession of the body.

Meanwhile, two U.S. officials said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev told interrogators that he and his brother initially considered setting off their bombs on July Fourth.

Boston police said they planned to review security procedures for the Independence Day Boston Pops concert and fireworks display, which draws a crowd of more than 500,000 annually and is broadcast to a national TV audience. Authorities plan to look at security procedures for large events held in other cities, notably the massive New Year's Eve celebration held each year in New York City's Times Square, said David Procopio, a spokesman for the Massachusetts State Police.

Gov. Deval Patrick said everything possible will be done to assure a safe event.

"I think the most important thing is that we got them, and there's investigation continuing about where the other leads may lead," he said. "I can tell you, having been thoroughly briefed, that the law enforcement at every level is pursuing everything."

As part of the bombing investigation, federal, state and local authorities were searching the woods near the UMass-Dartmouth campus, where Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student. Christina DiIorio-Sterling, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, could not say what investigators were looking for but said residents should know there is no threat to public safety.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who was found hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a suburban Boston backyard, faces a charge of using a weapon of mass destruction to kill. Three of his college classmates were arrested Wednesday and accused of helping after the bombing to remove a laptop and backpack from his dormitory room before the FBI searched it.

The April 15 bombing, using pressure cookers packed with explosives, nails, ball bearings and metal shards, killed three people and injured more than 260 others near the marathon's finish line.

The brothers considered setting off their bombs on July Fourth, but they decided to carry out the attack sooner when they finished assembling the bombs, the surviving suspect told interrogators after he was arrested, according to two U.S. officials briefed on the investigation. 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.

Meanwhile, the Homeland Security Department ordered border agents to immediately being verifying that every international student who arrives in the U.S. has a valid student visa, according to an internal memorandum obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The new procedure is the government's first security change directly related to the Boston bombings.

The order from a senior official at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, David J. Murphy, was circulated Thursday and came one day after the Obama administration acknowledged that one of the students accused of hiding evidence, Azamat Tazhayakov of Kazakhstan, was allowed to return to the U.S. in January without a valid student visa.

A benefit concert featuring Aerosmith, James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett is scheduled for May 30 at the TD Garden in Boston. The proceeds will go to The One Fund, which has taken in more than $28 million so far for those injured and the families of those who were killed.

Kenneth Feinberg, the fund's administrator, said Friday he plans to hold meetings with victims next week and begin cutting checks by the end of June.

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Associated Press writers Pete Yost, Eileen Sullivan and Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington contributed to this report.

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