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Older Suspect Described As Controlling, Manipulative


Big cheers in Watertown, Massachusetts, tonight and this tweet from the Boston Police Department, captured with three exclamation points, the hunt is over, the search is done, the terror is over, and justice has won, suspect in custody. We've been gathering a lot of information all day on the bombing suspects' backgrounds. NPR's Laura Sullivan reached three women who were roommates with a longtime girlfriend of the older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

He is the 26-year-old suspect who died last night in a shootout in Watertown, and those women, Laura, have painted a very dark picture. What have you heard?

LAURA SULLIVAN, BYLINE: Well, these women were close friends and roommates of Tamerlan's girlfriend, Katherine Russell, and they knew him for several years while they were in college. They described Tamerlan as very controlling and very manipulative of their friend. They say he was combative and angry. He would often call her names and insult her. He would call her a slut and a prostitute, and they remember fights that they would get into where he would fly into rages and sometimes throw furniture or throw things.

BLOCK: Have you confirmed that he was, in fact, arrested at one point for assault?

SULLIVAN: He was arrested for domestic assault and battery, but it was of a different woman. They had an on-again, off-again relationship, Katherine Russell and Tamerlan, and that was at a different period in about 2009, but over the years that they knew Tamerlan, and they knew him through Katherine, they say that, you know, he had really changed a lot. That he had started off in 2007 sort of partying with them - he would smoke and he would drink - and then sometime around 2008, they say he became very religious, and he stopped smoking and he stopped drinking, and he stopped going out with them. And it was at that point that they say he demanded that Katherine also convert to Islam and cover herself.

BLOCK: Did these women talk about his political views, anything he might've said about that?

SULLIVAN: They said that when they first met him, he didn't seem particularly political in any way, but that starting in about 2008 and 2009, he started talking - they described it as having an extremist point of view, that he started talking about being angry with the government, and he said that he felt that Islam was under attack.

BLOCK: Laura, we've been reporting throughout the day that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was married and has - or had a three-year-old child. Is his wife Katherine Russell, the girlfriend you're talking about?

SULLIVAN: All the signs so far point to the fact that Katherine Russell is his wife, and that the child - that she had gotten pregnant her senior year, and the roommates say that after she got pregnant, she left school and dropped out, and she never finished college. They say that she really pulled away from her friends, that she cut off contact with them, and she also cut off contact with her family members which her friends had been in contact with.

And at that point, they became - and they have been - very worried about her. One of the roommates said that she ran into her at a Whole Foods a year or so ago, and she was covered in traditional - she was covered, wearing a hibib(ph) but also that she seemed very distant and almost fearful...

BLOCK: And she was wearing a hijab.

SULLIVAN: Hijab, sorry.

BLOCK: Do we know where Katherine Russell is now?

SULLIVAN: We believe she is with her family, but her family has not been responding...



SULLIVAN: ...to calls.

SIEGEL: By the way, I think the person who said he's married with a three-and-a-half-year-old child was his father in the Izvestia interview. His father's in Dagestan back in Russia, and he was the one who said, you know, my son wouldn't do this. He's married. He has a three-and-a-half-year-old son. So he may be married enough in the view of his father...

BLOCK: Right.

SIEGEL: ...you could say that.

BLOCK: That's NPR's Laura Sullivan. Laura, thanks so much.

SULLIVAN: Thank you.

BLOCK: And Robert, we should let listeners know, if they're joining us just now, that the second suspect, the surviving suspect from the Boston Marathon bombings has been taken into custody by officials in Watertown, Massachusetts, found hiding in a boat.

SIEGEL: Yeah, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was picked up. Well, he was discovered almost minutes after all the highest ranking folks in Massachusetts declared that they hadn't been able to find him all day, and he's now in police custody. His brother died early this morning in a shootout with police.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Laura Sullivan is an NPR News investigative correspondent whose work has cast a light on some of the country's most significant issues.
Robert Siegel
Robert Siegel is senior host of NPR's award-winning evening newsmagazine All Things Considered. With 40 years of experience working in radio news, Siegel is still at it hosting the country's most-listened-to, afternoon-drive-time news radio program and reporting on stories and happenings all over the globe. As a host, Siegel has reported from a variety of locations across Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
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