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The challenges of burying a mass murderer

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An undated photo from a social media account of Omar Mateen, who Orlando Police have identified as the suspect in the mass shooting at a gay nighclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 12, 2016.

An undated photo from a social media account of Omar Mateen, who Orlando Police have identified as the suspect in the mass shooting at a gay nighclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 12, 2016.

Credit:

Reuters

Omar Mateen, the man who killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, has been buried in an unmarked grave in northwest Miami.

And those who have loved ones buried in the Muslim Cemetery of South Florida are not happy about it.

Andrew Wade, whose wife is buried there, told local media that he “really [doesn’t] want him here.” Others have voiced similar feelings.

That's not uncommon. The question of where to bury a mass murderer is a challenging one. Towns typically don't want to become a resting place for a person with such a dark past. Burials are kept low-key or even secret in order to reduce tensions.

Ann Neumann, a visiting scholar at the Center for Religion and Media at New York University, explains that often the location of burial is not disclosed because it could become a place for protesters or sympathizers to gather.

"In this so-called secular age, [we] forget that bodies have incredible power still," says Neumann, who is also the author of “The Good Death: An Exploration of Dying in America.”

She points to the case of Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik, the couple responsible for the terror attack in San Bernardino, California, last December. Their bodies were secretly buried at a cemetery in Antelope Valley, though the cemetery refused to confirm that. When the couple's death certificates were published in the media identifying the place, backlash followed.

It was also hard to find a spot for the body of Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, says Neumann.

"It took ages to find a place for his body. […] Cambridge said that ‘we’re not going to have that body here’ and so police were going out to various cemeteries to find a place that would take his body," she says.

Finally a woman in Virginia raised money, purchased a space and donated it to the family.

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