Boston Bomber Suspect’s Wife: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Only a few years ago – Tamerlan Tsarnaev – the boxing-prodigy turned bombing-suspect told interviewers: ” I don’t have a single American friend. I don’t understand them.” But the 26-year-old, who was killed during a dramatic police shoot-out last Thursday, fell in love with and married one. The “all American” 24 year-old Katherine Russell dropped out of college to become Mrs. Tamerlan Tsarnaev and mother to 3-year-old daughter, Zahara after converting to Islam.

Reports from many sources reveal that Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s relationship with his widow was far from perfect. College roommates of Katherine Russell described the deceased bomber as as a “brutish, manipulative boyfriend who often hurled insults — and more — “at the woman he would eventually marry.

Now that the deceased Tamerlan Tsanraev was subject to one of the biggest man-hunts on U.S soil, his 24-year-old wife has been dragged along into the limelight.  Although Russell claims to have had no knowledge of her husband and brother-in-laws violent plans, law-enforcement and the media have been skeptical.

With her spouse dead,the law’s  spousal privilege that would have protected Russell from testifying against her husband, is no longer valid. The widow may be a key player into understanding and deconstructing the mystery surrounding Tamerlan Tsarnaev, his brother and the bloody Boston bombings.

Here’s is what we know about Katherine Russell.

1. Russell Was Raised in an Upper-Middle Class, Christian Household in Rhode Island


Katherine Russell was one of three daughters raised Christian in an upper middle class neighborhood in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Her father is a well-known, Yale-trained doctor and her mother a nurse. According to the Daily News, young Russell had dreams of joining the Peace Corps. In High School she was a member of the art club and dance team.

In her high school yearbook, she chose the quote, “Don’t take anything for granted.”

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2. Katherine Converted to Islam after Meeting Tamerlan in College

katherine russell boston bombing wife

Russell fleeing from the press

Russell was a communications major at Suffolk University in Boston when her friends introduced her to a young boxer named Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a local nightclub in 2008 or 2009.

Soon after they began dating, Russell apparently began wearing the traditional hijab. They dated “on and off,” her lawyer told The Associated Press, before she married him and started using his last name “in 2009 or 2010.” According to CBS News, “none of their old friends attended the wedding.” Russell did not receive  her degree.

3. She Dropped Out of School to Have a Child


Russell was 21 when she gave birth to her and Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s daughter.

Tamerlan and Russell apparently married in 2010, according to Russell’s parents:

Until the terrible events unfolded in Boston this week, for the Russell family of Rhode Island, the 26-year-old suspected Boston bomber was not a terrorist but the man who married their young daughter Katherine, then 21, converted her to Islam and fathered her a child.

“None of us would have dreamed that she would marry so young or drop out of college and have a baby or convert or be part of any of what’s happened,” a former classmate said to New York Daily News. “She’s just not the same person at all.”

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4. Tamerlan Was Charged with Domestic Violence Charges

Cambridge Police Department records indicate that in 2009 Tsarnaev was reportedly arrested for assaulting his girlfriend and was charged with domestic abuse and battering. It is unclear whether the woman in question was in fact Katherine Russell. According to the New York Times, this may have been one of the reasons why the Tsarnaev’s application for citizenship was still under review prior to the Boston bombings.

NPR as well as the New York Daily News have reported that according to Russell’s roommates, the deceased bomber “abused” Katherine Russell and called her a “slut” and “prostitute” during their relationship.

5. Russell Allegedly Had No Idea About Her Husband’s Terrorist Inclinations

tamerlan, boston bombing, katherine russell
A note placed on the Russell family’s door in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s widow says she found out about her husband and brother-in-law were the accused Boston Marathon bombers the same way as many Americans: on TV. Russell was working full-time seven days a week as a home health care aide while Tsarnaev cared for their child.

Katherine Russell’s lawyer claims she had no clue her husband allegedly plotted the bloodshed at last week’s Boston Marathon.

Federal investigators visited the 24-year-old widow Sunday at her parents’ home in North Kingstown, R.I.

Through her lawyers, Russell published the following statement:

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