PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The woman who was married to the Boston Marathon bombing suspect who died was described Monday as sweet and dedicated to the Islamic religion to which she converted. Katherine Russell Tsarnaev’s high school art teacher said she was at the top of her class in drawing and an excellent student.
Her attorney, Amato DeLuca, said his client met Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a nightclub while in college. They married in 2010. She converted to Islam and wears the hijab, the traditional Muslim headscarf.
Federal authorities have not said they think she is involved in the bombing plot but have asked to speak with her. Her attorney is discussing how to proceed.
Russell Tsarnaev stayed in the couple’s Cambridge apartment last year while Tsarnaev traveled to Russia for about six months.
His aunt told the Associated Press that he spoke with his wife every day on Skype and that at times she instructed him on correct religious practices.
On Monday morning, Russell Tsarnaev was seen leaving her house in a car driven by her mother and escorted by two unmarked cars. Multiple news outlets reported she went to her attorney’s office. She returned home shortly after 1 p.m., again escorted by unmarked cars.
DeLuca also offered new details on Tsarnaev’s movements in the days after the bombings, saying the last day he was alive that “he was home” when his wife left for work. When asked whether anything seemed amiss to Tsarnaev’s wife following the bombings, DeLuca responded, “Not as far as I know.” He said she learned her husband was a suspect in the bombings by seeing it on TV.
DeLuca said his client did not suspect her husband of anything and that there was no reason for her to have suspected him. He said she had been working 70 to 80 hours a week as a home health care aide. While she was at work, her husband cared for their toddler daughter, DeLuca said.
“When this allegedly was going on, she was working, and had been working all week, to support her family,” he told the AP.
He said Tsarnaev’s brother, Dzhokhar, was off at college and she saw him “not at all” at the apartment the family shared with Russell Tsarnaev’s mother-in-law.
Russell Tsarnaev was attending Suffolk University in Boston when friends introduced her to her future husband at a nightclub, DeLuca said. They dated on and off, then married, he said. She was raised Christian, but at some point after meeting Tsarnaev, she converted to Islam, DeLuca said. When asked why she converted, he replied: “She believes in the tenets of Islam and of the Quran. She believes in God.”
Russell Tsarnaev grew up on a quiet cul-de-sac in North Kingstown, a rural, wooded town a 90-minute drive south from the apartment she would eventually share in Cambridge, Mass., with her husband and his family. His father and mother eventually divorced and moved back to Dagestan.
Her father, Warren Russell, is an emergency doctor whose Facebook profile lists his high school alma mater as the elite New Hampshire boarding school Phillips Exeter Academy and college as Yale. Her mother, Judith Russell, was listed as working at a social services agency.