PROVIDENCE, R.I./BOSTON (Reuters) - The wife of the dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect is assisting authorities and in absolute shock that her husband and brother-in-law were accused of the deadly blasts, her lawyer said on Tuesday.
“She cries a lot,” attorney Amato DeLuca said of Katherine Russell, 24, an American-born convert to Islam who was married to Tamerlan Tsarnaev in June 2010. “She can’t go anywhere. She can’t work.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed in a shootout with police and younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, lies wounded in a Boston hospital charged with using weapons of mass destruction in the twin blasts that killed three people and wounded 264 near the finish line of the Boston Marathon on April 15.
The two ethnic Chechen brothers remained the only known suspects.
People interviewed by Reuters described Tamerlan Tsarnaev as proud but angry, never quite achieving his own idea of the American dream, and instead finding solace in a radical form of Islam adopted by fighters in his homeland.
Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s condition improved to “fair” from “serious” on Tuesday as he recovered from gunshot wounds at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, where in an impromptu hearing on Monday he was charged with two crimes that could result in the death penalty if he were convicted.
Since recovering enough to communicate by nodding his head and writing, the younger Tsarnaev has also told authorities he and his brother acted alone, learned to build the pressure-cooker bombs over the Internet and were motivated by a desire to defend Islam because of “the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” NBC News reported.
NBC cited an unnamed U.S. counterterrorism source who has received multiple briefings on the investigation. Reuters could not confirm the information.
Katherine Russell’s lawyer called a news conference to deny that she had any connection to or knowledge of the bombings, saying she was busy caring for the couple’s 2-1/2-year-old daughter and working as a home healthcare aide in the time leading up to the blasts.
“She is doing everything she can to assist with the investigation,” DeLuca said outside his office in Providence, Rhode Island. “The reports of involvement by her husband and brother-in-law came as an absolute shock to them all.”
DeLuca declined to say what law enforcement agencies Russell had spoken with or what they asked her. “It is pretty evident that she didn’t know anything,” he said.
U.S. prosecutors formally charged the lone surviving suspect with using a weapon of mass destruction and malicious destruction of property resulting in death.
Tsarnaev, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was recovering from gunshot wounds suffered during at least one of his two gun battles with police, authorities said. He was captured on Friday night following a massive, daylong manhunt that shut down greater Boston.
Police say the Tsarnaev brothers also killed a university police officer on Thursday night and wounded a transit police officer on Friday morning.
A total of 264 people were injured in the blasts, the Boston Public Health Commission said on Tuesday.
The family of 8-year-old Martin Richard, the youngest person to die in the attacks, privately buried their son on Tuesday.
“This has been the most difficult week of our lives and we appreciate that our friends and family have given us space to grieve and heal,” parents Denise and Bill Richard said in a statement. “We laid our son Martin to rest, and he is now at peace.”
The Tsarnaev brothers emigrated to the United States a decade ago from Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim region in Russia’s Caucasus. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a legal U.S. resident and his younger brother became a U.S. citizen last year.
Russian authorities flagged the older Tsarnaev in 2011 as a possible Islamist radical, and some lawmakers have accused the FBI of failing to act thoroughly enough after Russia’s security services raised their concerns with the United States. The FBI questioned him in 2011.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration legislation, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina asked Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano why the older brother was not questioned upon returning from Russia in 2012.
Napolitano said U.S. Customs generated an alert when he left the country but neither Customs nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation was aware of his return six months later.
“The FBI text alert on him at that point was more than a year old and had expired,” Napolitano said.
Napolitano also dispelled reports authorities may have lost track of Tamerlan Tsarnaev because his name was spelled differently on an airline manifest.
Additional reporting by Richard Cowan in Washington; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Eric Beech