Boston Bombing Anniversary

Who Is the Boston Bombing Widow?

Image: Katherine Russell

Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, center, widow of killed Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, exits a car at the home of her parents in North Kingstown, R.I., on April 21, 2013. At left is her father, Warren Russell. Katie Zezima / AP file

The wife of the dead Boston Marathon bombing suspect has never been implicated in the attack, but her proximity to it has put her in a prison without bars.

Katherine Russell, who married Tamerlan Tsarnaev in 2010, rarely ventures outside of her Rhode Island home anymore, according to neighbors — so little is known about her beyond what first impressions were revealed nearly a year ago.

Here’s what we do know.

What’s her background?

Katherine, 25, is the oldest of three daughters in the Russell family, from North Kingstown, R.I. Her father, a Navy veteran, is a physician in Providence, and her mother is a nurse.

Katherine is a 2007 graduate of North Kingstown Senior High School in Rhode Island. She attended Suffolk University in Boston, studying communication from the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2010, but did not receive a diploma, a spokesman told NBC News.

When did she convert to Islam?

It’s unclear, but friends and neighbors have said that when she returned to Rhode Island in 2010, she had a young daughter and had taken to wearing a hijab and Islamic dress, which she still dons.

She reportedly married Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the summer of 2010, at a mosque outside of Boston, in a small ceremony with two witnesses.


There were some early reports that she had returned to Christianity after the April 15, 2013, bombings, but her lawyer has said that is not true.

A Facebook page called Muslims in Support of Katherine Tsarnaev was created after her name became public, and it currently has nearly 2,000 members.

Is she being investigated?

She has not been named as a suspect, but the FBI has interviewed her, and it has been reported that phone records showed she spoke to her husband three days after the bombing — just after his photograph was released by investigators. It was just before Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed in a shootout with police and his younger brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was injured and captured.

Her lawyer, Amato DeLuca, has said that her sisters testified before the grand jury investigating the case in December, and her parents testified last September. But she has not been called to testify, the lawyer said.

DeLuca told The Associated Press that he was informed last year “she was not a target of the investigation,” but the fact that she hasn’t been called to testify yet could indicate that investigators are gathering evidence on her.

Where is she now?

While she’s no longer continually hounded by the media, the widow reportedly still gets stares at supermarkets and gas stations, according to a Yahoo News story written about her last weekend. Her lawyer says she has received death threats.

She was last seen publicly in a traffic court in Wrentham, Mass., in January, where she was fined $150 for driving with a suspended license, speeding and driving an unregistered car.

Neighbors near her North Kingston home told NBC News this week that the family is barely seen anymore.

“I think they really just want their privacy and I respect that,” said Paula Gilette, who lives next door.

Image: Katherine Russell
Katherine Russell, widow of Boston Marathon bomber suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaves the law office of DeLuca and Weizenbaum, with her mother Judith Russell, on April 23, 2013, Providence, R.I. Stew Milne / AP file

What's next?

While it still remains to be seen if she will ever be charged in connection to the Boston Marathon bombings, her lawyer this week revealed that a federal grand jury asked her for items that belonged to one of the victims in a triple slaying in a Boston suburb nearly three years ago.

DeLuca said a grand jury asked her for items that belonged to Brendan Mess, one of the three people killed in the Waltham triple slaying and a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev's.

The lawyer claimed Russell doesn't have anything that belongs to Mess.