Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. It's almost a year since the Boston Marathon Bombings and the effects still reverberate. Today, just weeks before the next marathon, an interesting wrinkle in the case came out. A state prosecutor in Florida confirmed that police have evidence implicating one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in an earlier crime. A triple murder near Boston and Waltham, Massachusetts. The evidence emerged from an interview authorities conducted last year with Ibragim Todashev. He was a friend of Tsarnaevs, but here's the thing: Todashev was shot dead by an FBI agent who was at that interview. Both the Florida prosecutor and the US Justice Department today cleared the agent of any wrongdoing.
It's a complicated case and to help us sort through it, we called Susan Zalkind. She was a friend of one of the victims in that triple murder and, as a reporter, she's written extensively on Todashev's case for Boston Magazine.
Susan Zalkind: Ibragim Todashev was a 27-year-old Mixed Martial Artist and he was friends with the elder Tsarnaev, Tamerlan. The interesting connection is originally he was being questions about the Boston Bombings and eventually the interview switched to an unsolved triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts. Now, Ibragim Todashev, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and one of the victims in this unsolved murder all went to the same Mixed Martial Arts gym and the victims were found with their throats slit, marijuana on the bodies and it happened on September 11, 2011. The murder had gone completely unsolved and I had written how the initial murder case hadn't really been investigated thoroughly. Tamerlan Tsarnaev was never questioned, even though his name was given to the police. Ibragim Todashev apparently implicated himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in this gruesome triple murder during an interview with a Boston FBI agent and 2 Massachusetts state troopers in his own apartment.
Werman: That was the interview where he was shot?
Zalkind: Yes, and this report that came out says there is actually audio recording where he implicates himself and Tamerlan Tsarnaev in these murders, but afterwards the audio recording was shut off and that's when things got a little escalated. Ibragim Todashev was in the process of writing out a confession, according to this report, when he flipped over a coffee table, hit one of the Massachusetts state troopers and then, instead of leaving the apartment, grabbed a metal broomstick and started to attack and that's when the FBI agent shot him 3 times and when he still got up, shot him 4 more times to his death.
What's so concerning about this story is that this is a Mixed Martial Artist, so it's believable that he was a trained fighter and could have harmed one of the agents or people involved, but the FBI had been questioning him for a month up until this point and they had actually witnessed Ibragim Todashev beat a man unconscious in a parking lot and that's what I had reported earlier and this report coming out actually confirms that. So the agents and the law enforcement entering the room that night knew exactly how dangerous he was and they didn't arrest him, even though there was another outstanding warrant in his name.
Werman: As far as the triple slaying in Waltham, will we ever know what happened there?
Zalkind: We want to know. I'd love to know. But this is still an open investigation, this case isn't closed, which is what's so frustrating about this and so frustrating about having Ibragim Todashev, a man who could've given us answers both to this triple homicide and information about exactly what kind of man Tamerlan Tsarnaev was.
Werman: You had been a friend with one of the three men slain in Waltham in that triple homicide back in 2011, Erik Weissman. What was he like and is there a dissonance with what you know about him and Todashev?
Zalkind: Erik Weissman was my friend, I met him when I was 19 years old. He was a sweet, very generous guy. My father also represented him for a drug charge. Ibragim Todashev, I've been investigating him - it's funny, I went looking for answers into my friend's murder and I ended up entering the world of his alleged killer. Ibragim Todashev was very loved by his wife, his girlfriend, his friends and his father, but he was a very temperamental man. He could snap at the flip of a coin and he was extremely violent and well-trained. The triple homicide greatly affected my community here and the bombing definitely impounded that tragic loss and made it worse. Had the local police solved that triple homicide, we wouldn't be dealing with the Boston Marathon Bombing, an 8-year-old boy would still be alive today and two other victims would still be around as well.
Werman: Why do you think that the investigation into the triple homicide wasn't pursued more rigorously?
Zalkind: The most obvious reason was that the three men who were killed were drug dealers and it seemed that police weren't so interested in exploring other options except for a drug deal gone wrong. Even though there was marijuana found on the bodies and there was cash left in the apartment, this is New England, we don't see three men with their throats slit in such a dramatic way. I don't have any explanation for why local police officers weren't more curious about the case but the fact of the matter was that they weren't.
Werman: Susan Zalkind of Boston Magazine, thank you.
Zalkind: Thank you so much for having me.