Tamerlan Tsarnaev Heard Voices: Report

Results of 5-month investigation published

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 16, 2013 9:04 AM CST

(Newser) – The Boston Globe yesterday published the results of its five-month investigation that delved into Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and the very first line of the 18,000-word piece presents an attention-grabbing claim: That Tamerlan "started hearing the voice as a young man. ... It frightened him, as the voice inside grew more insistent. It may in the end have directed him." The Globe spoke to a close friend who says the voice told Tamerlan to do certain unnamed things; he reportedly told his mother "that he felt there were two people living inside of him." But the piece is much more than just this revelation: It suggests that much of what we believe we know about the Tsarnaevs and their motivation is incorrect. Among its claims:

  • The Globe suggests the Tsarnaevs did not flee to America because they were persecuted in Kyrgyzstan; rather, it indicates that father Anzor's tobacco trading business stepped on the turf of Russian gangsters, who possibly threatened him. A former co-worker of mother Zubeidat heard a different story: that Anzor "tried to prosecute" Russian mobsters over illegal trading; members of their group allegedly kidnapped Anzor and tortured him for a week, then severed the family dog's head and left it on their doorstep.
  • The Globe indicates Russian security officials' claim that Tamerlan made contact with Islamist radicals while in Dagestan may not hold water. Its sources "say it would have been difficult, if not impossible, for Tamerlan to have met with members of the underground without drawing attention." And if Russia's FSB "already suspected Tamerlan of seeking such contacts, they would ordinarily have been watching him very closely," says an analyst, who adds, "it is unclear what prevented the FSB from seizing him when he was leaving Russia."
  • Dzhokhar was a big-deal pot dealer at UMass Dartmouth, selling about $1,000 worth a week of what one friend termed the "best bud on campus"; he sometimes carried a gun to protect his goods. The Globe recounts his passion for driving at 120mph, and his seeming knack for getting off the hook with authorities—like when campus police found him and friends smoking pot in his car.
  • As for Dzhokhar, the Globe writes that its investigation "fundamentally recasts the conventional public understanding of the brothers, showing them to be much more nearly coequals in failure, in growing desperation, and in conspiracy." On the failure front, the paper recounts his ever-sinking grades (he had a D-minus average at the end of fall 2013) coupled with his lies about how well he was doing.
Head to the Globe for much more, including anecdotes of how Tamerlan once dressed: in "silver hightop tennis shoes, skin-tight jeans, a white scarf, and his trademark furry hat."

In this Feb. 17, 2010, photo, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, accepts the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship from Dr. Joseph Downes, right, in Lowell, Mass.
In this Feb. 17, 2010, photo, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, left, accepts the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship from Dr. Joseph Downes, right, in Lowell, Mass.   (AP Photo/The Lowell Sun, Julia Malakie)
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