Marathon bombing: Elder Tsarnaev a suspect in triple slaying, documents show (+video)(Read article summary)
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was involved in a triple homicide outside Boston in 2011, an acquaintance told investigators before being fatally shot, say court documents in the Boston Marathon bombing case against his younger brother.
Court documents filed this week in the case against alleged Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev provide the first official confirmation that authorities consider his older brother Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed while fleeing law enforcement officials days after the deadly April bombing, a suspect in a triple homicide outside Boston on Sept. 11, 2011.
According to the documents, Ibragim Todashev, an acquaintance of Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was fatally shot at his Orlando home in May while being questioned by an FBI agent and two Massachusetts state troopers, said Tamerlan took part in the 2011 killings in Waltham, a Boston suburb. Authorities said Mr. Todashev became violent during questioning.
Todashev was a mixed martial arts fighter who had become acquainted with Tamerlan Tsarnaev through the sport.
The three men killed in the Waltham slayings – Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken – were found in an apartment with their necks slit and their bodies covered with marijuana. One of the three men, Mr. Mess, was a boxer, and Tsarnaev’s friend, according to the New York Times.
Monday’s court filing was an attempt by the prosecution to block Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team from getting certain information from authorities, including investigative documents on the Waltham murders, according to the Associated Press.
"Any benefit to [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev of knowing more about the precise 'nature and extent' of his brother's involvement does not outweigh the potential harm of exposing details of an ongoing investigation into an extremely serious crime, especially at this stage of the proceeding," prosecutors wrote in the filing.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers have been seeking to force the government to share investigative materials pertaining to the 2011 Waltham murders with the defense. Mr. Tsarnaev’s lawyers say the elder Tsarnaev’s role in the murders might be a mitigating factor in the case against Dzhokhar, according to Reuters.
Prosecutors countered this, saying the disclosure of the materials could jeopardize the ongoing investigation of the triple homicide. Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s criminal history will be relevant, if at all, only at a possible future sentencing hearing, the prosecution said, according to AP reports.
The Tsarnaev brothers are suspected of planning and carrying out the twin bombings near the Boston Marathon finish line on April 15 that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.
Three days after the bombings, the Tsarnaev brothers allegedly killed Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier.
The pair then went on to engage in a gun battle with police in Watertown, Mass., which resulted in Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s death, and Dzhokhar’s escape.
Police captured the younger Tsarnaev brother after a daylong manhunt, during which most of Boston was on lockdown.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev faces 30 federal charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction – two homemade pressure cooker bombs – and 16 other charges. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at his arraignment on July 10.
US Attorney General Eric Holder is set to rule in January if Dzhokhar Tsarnaev will face the death penalty, if found guilty.
The Tsarnaevs were ethnic Chechens. Authorities found Dzhokhar, seriously wounded, in a boat into which he scrawled a note: "We Muslims are one body, you hurt one you hurt us all," according to a report by the AP. Authorities say he also wrote several phrases accusing the US government of "killing our innocent civilians."
Media reports have said the younger Tsarnaev came under the influence of his elder brother, who described himself as "very religious" and felt ill at ease in the United States.
"I don't have a single American friend," Tamerlan Tsarnaev reportedly told photographer Johannes Hirn, who was taking his picture during his boxing training. "I don't understand them."