WEST NEW YORK, N.J, (PIX11) – Three women close to the two accused Boston Marathon bombers — their sister, the older suspect’s wife and the men’s aunt — provide insight into the investigation federal agents are engaged in now. Profiles of the three women also show how elemental broadcast news coverage of the bombing and its aftermath were to the suspects’ families’ understanding of the crimes of which the two men were accused.
Alina Tsarnaev, the sister of Tamerlan and Dhokhar Tsarnaev, 26 and 19, respectively, lives in the top floor apartment of a walk-up building in West New York, N.J. Her home is exactly three-quarters of a mile from Manhattan, and West New York police stand guard outside of her home around the clock, protecting her privacy.
She has remained indoors ever since federal agents came calling last Friday, and spoke with her and her family. As for Monday of this week, “Listen, it’s a very difficult time for the family,” said Joseph Ginarte. The well-known North Jersey personal injury attorney has been retained by the accused terrorists’ sister. “They have a baby,” he said about Alina Tsarnaev and her spouse. “It’s a very difficult time,” Ginarte re-emphasized about his client, promising that there would be a public statement from her forthcoming, possibly on Tuesday.
In the meantime, it’s unclear when Alina Tsarnaev’s sister-in-law will speak with investigators, let alone the public. Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, known to her family as Katy, lives in her parents’ home in Rhode Island, more than an hour’s drive away from Tamerlan and their 3 year-old daughter, who lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts with him.
Katy Russell Tsarnaev works 70-hour weeks as a home health aide, and, according to her attorney, only found out about the death of her husband and about the manhunt from her brother-in-law, Dhokhar, through broadcast television coverage.
Ms. Russell Tsarnaev was a Christian who converted to Islam in order to marry Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Her attorney has said that he is attempting to work out details for Russell Tsarnaev to speak with investigators.
Also closely watching broadcast coverage of the bombing investigation and the Watertown, Massachusetts, manhunt, was the Tsarnaev’s aunt, in Russia, where the bombing suspects were originally from, even though they are of Chechen ethnicity.
According to sources as varied as Reuters, The Atlantic Wire and the White House Press Corps, PIX11 News was the primary outlet worldwide for coverage of the suspects’ shootout in Watertown, which killed the older of the two brothers. PIX11 was also the leading source of coverage of the manhunt for the younger of the two. Their father and their aunt, along with at least one other relative, watched in Russia, where they live, and the father was in disbelief.
“[A relative] grabs the TV screen and starts screaming, ‘It can’t be, it can’t be happening, I don’t believe it. Children are dead!’” Pateimat Suleimanova told CNN, through a translator, about realizing that their two loved ones were the main suspects in an act of mass destruction. “I would have shouted myself,” she said.
The investigation now looks closely at Tamerlan’s last visit to Russia, last year, where he may have closely encountered Islamic insurgent propaganda, and possibly undergone some sort of terrorist training, or taught himself bomb making techniques in the name of Chechen Islamist extremism. His aunt said that her nephew was unique from the rest of the family in his strict Islamic views.
“They [the two brothers] hadn’t prayed before they went to America. Nobody taught him [Tamerlan]. He learned everything himself,” Suleimova said, adding, “At the same time, we were happy about it because he didn’t start doing drugs or alchohol and adopted the path to Islam.”