Shortly after two bombs exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s then wife, Katherine (Russell) Tsarnaeva, reassured a friend via text that she was OK. She then texted:
“Although a lot more people are killed every day in Syria + other places.’’
Defense attorneys pointed to Tamerlan’s relationship with his wife to demonstrate his ability to influence his younger brother Dzhokhar, as they began their case Monday in the sentencing phase of Dzhokhar’s trial.
Tamerlan’s widow, who now appears to go by Russell, wasn’t “at all’’ religious in high school but converted to Islam after entering into a relationship with Tamerlan, her childhood friend, Gina Crawford, testified. “I thought he put that idea in her head,’’ she said.
As the relationship progressed, Russell’s interest in Islam intensified, Crawford said. Russell would urge Crawford to convert and gave her books and showed her YouTube videos on the religion, she said.
Crawford’s testimony echoed that of Russell’s mother, Judith, who remarked on the extent Tamerlan would go to convince her of his religion’s merits.
Russell’s mother said she wasn’t opposed to her daughter adopting Islam but had a bad feeling about Tamerlan from the very first time they met. Her daughter discovered that he cheated on her, and Judith was told by her daughter’s roommate that the relationship was abusive.
“I didn’t want her to be with him,’’ she testified.
During Russell’s junior year at Suffolk University, she got pregnant, dropped out of college, and married Tamerlan. Crawford told jurors she did not attend the wedding, nor did any members of the Russell family.
Judith told jurors that Tamerlan’s adherence to his Muslim faith changed after his six-month trip to Russia. After he came back, he grew out his hair and beard and “didn’t dress flashy anymore,’’ she said.
“He always wanted to talk about how Islam is good,’’ Judith said. “Then over time, it seemed to be more of an obsession.’’
Whether or not Russell will testify remains unknown.