The docuseries examines the connection between the 2011 murders and the Boston Marathon bombing
The case of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings is closed and a suspect is on death row, but there is still a common thread between the terrorist attack and the gruesome murders that took place not too far away. a year and a half earlier.
The murders before the marathon
If the police had solved a horrific triple homicide in Waltham, Massachusetts, would they have prevented the Boston Marathon bombing?
A growing body of evidence appears to link a triple homicide in 2011 to one of the suicide bombers.
The ABC News Studios docuseries “The Murders Before the Marathon,” which began airing on Hulu Sept. 5, follows the investigation by Boston-based journalist Susan Zalkind, who spent years trying to uncover the possible connection between the bombings and the triple homicide.
Zalkind interviewed dozens of witnesses, law enforcement sources and confidants and gathered documents that helped paint a more accurate picture of the killings.
On the night of September 11, 2011, Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken met to watch a football game at Mess’ apartment in Waltham, Massachusetts. The next morning, Mess’ girlfriend found their bodies with their throats slit, nearly decapitated, and covered in marijuana and cash. Investigators said the three men, who were known to have sold marijuana within the community, were targeted; it was not a random crime.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office says the murders are still under investigation and unsolved
When she was home from college, Zalkind befriended Weissman and followed the case in the news as the investigation continued.
Although there was no breakthrough in the case, things changed after the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. Three people were killed and hundreds were injured in the attack.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, then 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, then 19, were identified as the prime suspects three days later and were hunted down by authorities. As news of the suspects spread and news stories included their photos, several people who knew the victims of the Waltham murders began to recognize the bombing suspects.
“I stood up and was like, ‘Hey, this guy looks familiar.’ I don’t know how, I don’t know why, I don’t know from where, but this guy looks familiar to me,” said Ryan Dermitt, a friend of Brendan Mess.
Watch ABC News Studios’ “Killings Before the Marathon” special on Hulu.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was an amateur boxer in Massachusetts and trained with Mess at the same boxing gym, according to people who were friends with the two men.
“They were best friends. In fact, shortly after Brendan died, I went to Tamerlane and said, ‘I’m sorry for your loss. I know he was your best friend,” Sean Gannon, who trained at the gym, said.
On April 19, Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a shootout with police in which he was run over by his brother, who was trying to flee in a stolen car. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was arrested following the encounter.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was later convicted and sentenced to death for his role in the bombings. He is currently awaiting his execution.
After the arrest, investigators began looking into the possibility that the elder Tsarnaev had been involved in the Waltham murders. According to Zalkind, several of the victims’ friends said they spoke to police about Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s ties to one of the murder victims, but Zalkind says she found no record of local authorities speaking to her during the investigation. initial investigation.
The Middlesex District Attorney’s Office said it could not initially comment because the Waltham murders are an open case.
On May 22, 2013, an FBI agent, two Massachusetts State Police officers, and other law enforcement officers interviewed Ibragim Todashev at an apartment complex in Orlando.
Todashev was also friends with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and trained at the same gym he and Mess attended.
Initially after Todashev’s death, what happened during the interview was unknown because federal investigators only released heavily redacted reports. But over the years, more and more information has been released.
What is known is that during the interview, Todashev tried to attack one of the investigators, which prompted the FBI agent to open fire, killing him, according to a Florida State Attorney’s Office investigation.
The Waltham murders were discussed during the interview, according to the report, but there was very little public exchange on the details, although the conversation was reportedly recorded. Todashev allegedly implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the 2011 murders, claiming the two were going to rob someone, according to reports. Todashev allegedly told investigators he had no idea there would be a murder, according to reports.
Investigators have not officially confirmed these details.
Zalkind was able to obtain an unredacted document allegedly written by Todashev during the 2013 interview where he tells the story of a robbery he and Tamerlan Tsarnaev committed in September 2011.
“He says he went to the apartment. Tamerlane had a gun. They went upstairs. And they recorded three men. And that’s where he stopped writing,” Zalkind said.
There is no mention of the murders in the written statement.
Zalkind was recently able to obtain confirmation from the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office through a public information request that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Ibragim Todashev are persons of interest in the Waltham murder investigation.
“They say, ‘The bureau continues to investigate the potential involvement of one or more additional undisclosed individuals in connection with these homicides. They say: “As recently as November 2021, we identified new potential sources of material evidence. And they say, “Last year we interviewed an important witness,” she said.
Zalkind, who is writing a book about the Waltham murders, said there were still unanswered questions.