Editors Note: This piece was inspired by a submission from a supporter located in Australia.

The public has been inundated with scenes from the Boston bombing by means of cell phone videos, photos, and live media reports.  To some,  that information has come under scrutiny compared to the official reports.  What we know little about, are the allegations implicating Tamerlan and Jahar in a 2011 triple homicide.  As in the Boston bombing case, as in any case, suspects should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.

What has been released about the 2011 triple homicide:  Tamerlan was friends with one of the victims, Tamerlan disapproved of his friends lifestyle and drug use, Tamerlan’s and Jahar’s cell phone pinged in the area and time by which the crime was committed, the victims throats were slit, a large amount of money and marijuana was covering the bodies, there was no forced entry and at least one of the victims had a history of drug use and distribution.  A recent connection to the triple homicide unfolded when an FBI agent fatally shot Ibragim Todashev, a suspect they were questioning with regard to the Boston Bombings but later stated confessed to the homicides.  
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Photograph: NY Daily News
While much of what we know at this time can be interpreted as circumstantial, many cases have been won based solely on circumstantial evidence but it is important to note that typically in that scenario said evidence is abundant.  

Breaking down what we do know; arguments can be made, without the benefit of forensic evidence or further information:

  • Tamerlan being friends with and allegedly condemning the drug use of one of the victims, as motive, is contradictory to reports that Tamerlan’s own brother, Jahar, was a heavy marijuana user.  
  • Access to cell phone location records in the use of criminal investigations without  probable cause warrants is a highly controversial topic amongst civil liberties activists,  nonetheless, what implications does cell phone data placing the brothers in the area at the time of the murders have on their guilt or innocence?  Without delving too far into the technological facets of pinging; we can do a substratal analysis based on information available. Multiple residents, with no association to Tamerlan or Jahar,  have reported receiving deliveries from them from Gerry’s Italian Kitchen in Watertown, MA,  although Gerry’s Italian Kitchen denies their employment.  Waltham, where the murders were committed, is less than 2 miles from Gerry’s Italian Kitchen.  If the brothers did in fact work for the pizzeria, would it be suspicious for them to be in the area?  With Waltham’s and Watertown’s combined population being over 90,000, is it fair to conclude that any number of people could be placed in the area of the murders based on cell phone location and ping data?
  • It has been theorized, that due to the abounding amount of cash and marijuana found on the bodies of the victims, that this would indicate a botched drug deal.  Although it does not seem logical that a dealer seeking to collect owed money would leave money behind, some have speculated that this could have been a drug distributor “leaving a message”.  In the context of Tamerlan committing this crime, would it not be just as illogical for a young man with a wife and child, and on welfare to leave this generous amount of money behind?  In addition, would it be just as illogical for Jahar, an alleged user and dealer, to leave these findings behind?
  • The reports that there was no forced entry added to reports that one of the victims was involved in distribution, simply indicates that at least one of the victims knew their attacker.  It is not uncommon for police to first focus on those closest to the victims.  At this time, nothing further can fairly be implied.
  • It is historically thought that the use of a knife, and more specifically, throat slitting, during the act of murder is not a “clean” method of operation due to blood transfer and the use of such a weapon insinuates that the crime was passionate and personal.  Applying that logic to both the “drug deal” theory and the “Tamerlan/Jahar” theory is inconclusive without forensic evidence as it simply implies that the crime was likely not random.

Some have found the reopening of the homicide investigation, just days after the bombing, suspect.  According to reports, friends and family of the victims recall Tamerlan exhibiting odd behavior after the 2011 homicide but this revelation came only after the bombings.  It bears to question why this odd behavior was not reported to police in 2011.   Regardless, it is not uncommon for suspects in one crime to be investigated as suspects in cold cases.

Reports state that Tamerlan and one of the victims were once roommates and trained together (boxing and martial arts).  In the advent of forthcoming forensic and DNA evidence, important questions will need to be asked:  Did Tamerlan live in the same apartment where the crime was committed?  If not, did Tamerlan and Jahar ever visit the apartment prior to the crime?  In short, would it have been reasonable for their DNA and fingerprints to be transferred to items in the apartment?  Again, no physical or forensic evidence has been released, so no conclusion can be made without further information.
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Photograph: NY Daily News
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Photograph: NY Daily News
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Photograph: NY Daily News
It would be remiss not to also discuss Tamerlan’s and Jahar’s behavior before, during, and after both the triple homicide and bombing.

Some have asserted that by the brothers not leaving the areas of the crimes, that they could not have possibly been responsible, it would have been too “sloppy”.  Statistics contradict this.  According to the National Institute of Justice, most crimes are committed close to an offender’s home.  This does not, however; implicate the brother’s in either crime nor does it exonerate other possible suspects.  Experts state that “these type” of killers generally do not have an exit strategy, they want to get caught, they want their message known, and most are suicidal (whether it be self inflicted suicide or police assisted suicide).  While Jahar not leaving Boston after both crimes is consistent with not “not having an exit strategy”, it is also the behavior of someone who did not commit a crime.  As for the rest; he was not a suicide bomber, he fled, he hid, when cornered he did not fire on police, and by all appearances, fought to stay alive. 

Much discussion has been made about  Tamerlan’s and Jahar’s wardrobe the day of the bombing.  Without knowing what their normal day to day style of dress was, it is hard to know whether what they were wearing that day could be interpreted as suspicious.  Some observations to consider:  scanning photos of the crowd, many people can be seen wearing sunglasses, baseball hats, and even carrying black backpacks; while it could be argued that Tamerlan was trying to conceal his identity, would it not be counterproductive to have his brother so easily identifiable?
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Photograph: ABC News
An even more compelling discussion would be the introduction of the proverbial “red flags”. While little is known about Tamerlan; friends, teachers, coaches, neighbors, acquaintances, and even Jahar's Twitter feed does not raise suspicion or the type of red flags we have seen in other cases.  Is it possible for a teenager to have a developed enough cognitive function to commit such crimes? Of course.  Is it possible for a teenager to have a developed enough cognitive function to not raise any red flags (even in hindsight) to commit such crimes?  

Studying other cases involving crimes committed by teenagers, not likely.  Drawing on previous cases involving teenagers committing (or intending to commit) mass casualty crimes, some of what we have observed:  suspect had a history of mental illness, suspect announced online his intent, suspect had been bullied, suspect released a manifesto, suspect released “dark” videos.   According to the Department of Justice’s crime statistics, only .01% of the population fall into the category of the “Black Swan” (rare and hard to detect).  This .01% include your mass murderers and serial killers.  Hindsight analysis provides insight into the lives of the .01%, some of the key personality traits include:  a loner, few friends, withdrawn, history of mental illness, often tortures animals, a history of childhood abuse, and multiple incidents of attempted suicide.  With what we know, do you think Jahar fits this profile?
Prudence
5/23/2013 05:06:09 am

Pardon my ignorance, but I'm curious as to how they pinged their cellphones from 2011. Do pings like this stay logged and they just now went back and checked for a ping or were they actively pinging them around the time of the crime?

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barkingatlions
5/23/2013 03:36:25 pm

I was curious about that as well. I did some research and found that most cell phone companies keep your location data for up to two years.

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anonymous
5/23/2013 09:30:24 am

Excellent post. I really want to see more discussion on this.

When the police stated that it appears the killer and the victims knew each other it clearly points to the drug deal underway rather than a friendly drop-in that turned into moral policing or a deadly dispute over lifestyle. This crime has hallmarks of a middleman perhaps someone who supplied marijuana in bulk (thousands of dollars) to the three men to then further deal within social circles. Weismann had a criminal record and in 2008 was caught in possession of huge quantities of marijuana with intent to sell. All three seem like such big, strong men with their professional backgrounds ... mixed martial arts, personal trainer and bodybuilder. It seems like a lot of work to tackle each of them and leave a killer’s mark (sliced throats) on each. Were they sedated first not just doped but to a point where they couldn’t put up a fight?

I have a feeling that apart from the three men maybe Tamerlan slept over some nights at the apartment or was a tenant (someone please confirm). I read an article written at the time of the murders, where a neighbor said up to five men lived in the apartment (only two or three were officially tenants) and one drove a Mercedes Benz. Tamerlan drove a white Mercedes. In the same article the police said a woman (Mess’s girlfriend?) called the police screaming on the morning of 12th Sep 11 screaming bloody murder and “two men who were earlier at the apartment” left before the police arrived. My guess would be Tamerlan and whoever else; Igrahim and mystery girl maybe found the three guys with their throats slit but left before the police arrived. If Tamerlan was in fact a tenant then he could be seen as distancing himself from the murders. I can’t imagine the authorities did not question him back in 2011 though … that’s just bizarre. The tenants’ identities are protected in the article I read so I can’t confirm anything.

Regarding Tamerlan’s reaction, I think if he knew Mess, disapproved of his lifestyle, his gruesome murder just removed that element of surprise. So when ppl comment he didn’t act grief stricken it could be because he was aware of the choices he was making, he was close to Brendan. Also as to why he didn’t attend the funeral, that just makes me think more that he was in fact a co/former tenant and probably fell out with Mess’ family like, I pointed out your son’s lifestyle and connections to him and yes I cooperated with the police and told them this is what your son does. As to why he didn’t intervene more with Dzhokhar’s marijuana use; It seems like he turned a blind eye on the one hand but also offered protection to Dzhokhar by being his older brother on the other, from the grey world of marijuana distributors. Tamerlan could have known who the distributor was and Dzhokhar’s protection from that world was quid pro quo. Dzhokhar seems completely happy go lucky before the ground fell beneath his feet … I can’t connect him to a grey world. His brother was his protection in my opinion.

Something about Tamerlan’s collected demeanor and depth just screams police informant to me. And I just though of something else, he was strict with himself (no alcohol, no smoking/pot) but indulgent of his younger brother, one can argue his puritanical take on morality was reactionary, in response to his environment; (look what happened to Brendan, must protect Jahar, ‘self-flagellation’) rather than as a result of indoctrination. This is all very subjective of course. I did read your theory on Gerry’s Italian kitchen I just wanted to explore another possibility. Also I don’t think the date was significant. It was just another Sunday although it does make for a fancy headline now in retrospect.

Now why the hell would they (the authorities) kill Igrahim Todashev just as he was about to write a confession? This just seems like gross incompetence to me. Like the authorities can’t seem to get themselves straight. Ibragim’s friend, the one who gave interviews seemed genuinely convinced that his friend did not do anything wrong. He also said he was “nervous”, “had a feeling he would be setup”. I’m still going with the theory that back in 2011 if these two (Tamerlan and Todashev) were in and out of Mess’ apartment, they were questioned over the killings and Tamerlan handled the situation with the authorities, Ibragim re-located to Florida. But now that Tamerlan has fallen in disfavor with the authorities (to say the least) and is dead (mistakenly perhaps, overzealous police force) the prosecutors are pulling at straws to avoid looking like fools.

I can’t see Tamerlan’s direct involvement in the murders and definitely not Jahar’s.

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Shelley
5/25/2013 02:22:28 am

Very interesting article. A few comments:
I can't help but think that people might be over-analyzing Tamerlan's decision to cut off ties with someone that he knew had substance abuse issues. I have had to do this twice - one with a long-time friend and once with a friend I hadn't known as long (about a year). Both of these individuals behaved in ways that were increasingly dangerous and destructive both to themselves and those around them. Being around these 2 individuals put me in danger as well in numerous ways, not least of which was coming into contact with highly shady characters that I would never otherwise choose to be around. If, God forbid, one of these 2 former friends of mine had died as a result of their activities - and, I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, but it looks like these three men in Waltham did or they wouldn't have been found with drugs sprinkled on them - I understand that there would have been some truly shady characters at their funeral. If a person is anti-drug (like I am), it is essential to separate themselves from people that live in a drug life. Otherwise, you will be coming into contact with a lot of shady characters - it's the nature of the beast. The associates of substance abusers was one huge reason I had to end the friendships.
Regarding the cellphone pings in the area of the murders, they need to be more specific about what it means to be 'in the area' because all of these towns in Mass. are very close to one another so it would not be unusual for them to be 'in the area.' This is not precise, like saying that the 3 victims died on Sept 11. I believe the coroner actually stated that they died on Sept 12, but the Sept 11th date adds more intrigue to the story.
Lastly, the story by the authorities of the killing of Todashev in Florida does not make any sense to me. They are desperately trying to push the idea of Tamerlan being involved in the triple murders. The killing of someone and then claiming that they made a full confession and implicated the man authorities are trying to tie to those murders is very, very convenient for authorities to say the least.

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John Baxter
5/28/2013 12:52:15 pm

The story that this was a drug deal gone wrong, yet still linked to Tamerlane tsarnaev just doesn't make sense. Drugs and money left in the apartment and the violent killing says revenge. A better motive would be a relative that these men were dealing to. Yes this could have been Tamerlane in relation to his brother. But a drug dealer would hardly leave the money and drugs. This was either a message that drug dealers needed to die but I do wonder also if the drugs and money may have been just a decoy. That's why it would have been imperative to keep ibragim todyshev alive in case he could have given some insight into that period if time.
Whatever the outcome the motive that is being reported as being from the investigators does not make sense. They should have done a bit better with their investigations back in 2011.

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