A new probe into the lives of the brothers accused of setting off bombs at the Boston Marathon earlier this year revealed that the elder brother may have been struggling with mental illness.
The Boston Globe’s five-month investigation sheds more light on the lives of Dzhokhar and the late Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the brothers who allegedly planted bombs made from pressure cookers that killed three and injured more than 260 at the Boston Marathon in April. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 20, could face the death penalty, while his 26-year-old brother was killed in a police standoff in the days following the explosion.
New details on the background of the Chechen family from Dagestan reveal that the motive behind the bombing may be more complex than just purported influence from Islamist radicals. Here are five takeaways from the in-depth look at the Tsarnaev family.
1. Tamerlan said he heard voices in his head.
Anna Nikaeva, a Chechen living in the Newtown area, said Tsarnaev’s mother ignored the possibility that her son suffered from mental illness. A friend who accompanied Tamerlan to mosque said he described the voices as “majestic mind control.” While both parents regularly saw a psychiatrist after arriving in the U.S., they refused to recognize Tamerlan’s growing concern with his own condition.
2. Dzhokhar was a drug dealer who should have flunked out of college.
The 20-year-old spent most of his time dealing marijuana while at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. In fact, he failed so many classes that he should have not been allowed to return for his spring semester under normal circumstances, the Globe reported. The younger brother did not receive as much attention as his boxing brother did, and a wrestling coach said he didn’t meet a family member once in three years. When Dzhokhar graduated from the Community Charter Schools of Cambridge, only the family’s landlady was in attendance.
3. Patriarch Anzor Tsarnaev may have lied about persecution in order to move to the U.S.
Claiming he was a victim of persecution in Kyrgyzstan, Anzor sought asylum in the U.S. But experts point out that there was no evidence of Chechen persecution during the time the family lived in Kyrgyzstan. A family friend alleged that “he made that up … so that the Americans would give him a visa.” Rather, the Globe posits that the family was escaping Russian criminals or simply economic hardship. However, Anzor, who now lives in Dagestan, struggled with night fits of screaming and possibly suffered from PTSD.
4. Tamerlan’s trip to Dagestan may have had something to do with a murdered friend.
The 26-year-old boxer traveled to southern Russia after his friend Brendan Mess, along with two other friends, was murdered in 2011. Tamerlan did not attend the wake or funeral, and his friends said they were “puzzled” by his reaction. When Tamerlan returned from Dagestan, friends noted that he was visibly and emotionally different. Friends noted that he became more serious, and he last referred to the voices in his head with a fearful tone.
Read the in-depth investigation here.