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Family of slain bombing suspect's widow: 'Our hearts are sickened'

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. -- The family of the widow of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev confirmed Friday that their 24-year-old daughter was married to the Chechen immigrant who died in a confrontation with police earlier in the day, saying, “We cannot begin to comprehend how this horrible tragedy occurred.”

As for their late son-in-law, the older brother of the two suspects, the family said, they never really knew him.


“Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child,” Warren and Judith Russell, whose daughter Katherine was married to Tsarnaev, said in a statement distributed to about a dozen reporters who gathered outside their home in this well-landscaped, upper middle class neighborhood outside Providence. The mother quietly read the written statement through a barely open door, avoiding cameras.

“... In the aftermath of the Patriot’s Day horror, we know that we never knew Tamerlane Tsarnaev,” the statement said, using an alternative spelling of the suspect’s first name.

“Our hearts are sickened by the knowledge of the horror he has inflicted,” the statement continued. “Please respect our family’s privacy in this difficult time.”

The statement provided the first confirmation that their daughter was the wife or partner of the eldest Tsarnaev brother, as had been widely reported. A spokeswoman for the Rhode Island Department of Health, which keeps vital records, said it has no record of a marriage. It is not known if the couple was married in Massachusetts.

Police Chief Thomas Mulligan in North Kingstown told NBC News that state police officers visited the Russell home Friday morning. A neighbor said she also saw a man wearing an FBI jacket emerge from the home.

Classmates from high school said Katherine was a 2007 graduate of North Kingstown Senior High School. A neighbor, Paula Gillette, 59, told NBC News that Katherine, the oldest of three girls in the Russell family, attended Suffolk University in Boston.  A spokesman for Suffolk said that a Katherine O. Russell from North Kingstown was a communication major  from the fall of 2007 to spring 2010, three academic years, but did not receive a degree.

When she moved back in, Gillette said, she had a young daughter and had taken to wearing a hijab and Islamic dress and rarely left the house.

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Her husband or boyfriend often came to visit on weekends, driving a Honda Civic with Massachusetts plates, Gillespie said.

Gillespie said Warren Russell is an emergency physician in Providence, a Navy veteran, and the mother, Judith, is a nurse. The mother's Facebook page lists her employer as a social service agency for children.