The Boston Marathon bombing is much more important than has been acknowledged, principally because it is the defining domestic national security event since 9/11—and has played a major role in expanding the power of the security state. For that reason, WhoWhatWhy is continuing to investigate troubling aspects of this story and the establishment media treatment of it. We will be exploring new elements of the story regularly as the January trial of accused co-conspirator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev approaches.


All dead: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 2011 murder victim Brendan Mess, Ibragim Todashev. By WGBH.

All dead: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 2011 murder victim Brendan Mess, Ibragim Todashev. By WGBH.

For nearly any crime requiring a “Whodunnit” answer in Boston around the time of the April 15, 2013, Marathon bombing, the authorities answered: The Tsarnaev brothers.

One egregious crime pinned on them was a grisly Sept. 11, 2011, triple murder in Waltham, Mass.

Now, prosecutors in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have delivered a shocking reversal. They admit to having no evidence that his dead brother, Tamerlan, was involved in the slayings.

That wasn’t the case right after the bombing: law enforcement fingered Tamerlan as the perpetrator, and suggested Dzokhar may have been involved. Much of the media has presented it as fact ever since.

This is a pattern we’ve seen since the bombing: The government feeds prejudicial information (usually anonymously) to the press, implying Tamerlan and Dzhokhar’s guilt, despite having flimsy or no evidence. In the most extreme example, prosecutors had to completely recant their accusation that the brothers robbed a 7-Eleven.

The Waltham triple murder case got the same treatment. Within weeks of the bombing on Boylston Street, law enforcement officials confidently proclaimed they had a “growing” amount of “forensic evidence,” along with a written confession from a now-dead friend of Tamerlan’s, that implicated Tamerlan in the Waltham slaying.

But now, the government admits that, other than the confession, it “has no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Waltham murders.” And it turns out that the damning confession has some serious holes in it too.

So, what happened? First, a little history.

Cold Case: The Waltham Murders

On Sept. 12, 2011, the bodies of Brendan Mess, 25; Erik Weissman, 31; and Raphael Teken, 37; were discovered in Mess’s Waltham apartment, their throats slashed, with pounds of marijuana and thousands of dollars in cash scattered over them.

Investigators immediately assumed that these murders in a small suburban community outside Boston likely involved some type of illicit drug dispute. But the trail to the perpetrators of the triple homicide soon went cold—until the Marathon bombing.

While the public was still riveted by wall-to-wall news coverage of the bombing, law enforcement began to speculate about the Tsarnaevs’ involvement in the slayings. Tamerlan had been friends and an occasional martial arts and boxing sparring partner with one of the three victims, officials told the media.

But the government’s own story called into question the behavior of law enforcement officials in the same case. Despite the fact that Tamerlan’s link to the murder victims was known then, it appears he was never questioned about the crime. This is just one of the many inexplicable mysteries surrounding Tamerlan’s pre-bombing relationship with authorities.

Pointing the Finger

The Boston bombing somehow changed everything.

Eight days after the attack, the Boston Globe first reported the possible link, and sourced it to an unnamed relative of one of the victims. The families of the victims asked that the investigation be reopened in light of the bombing.

An ABC news report three weeks later upped the ante: Law enforcement had “forensic evidence” tying the brothers to the slayings, the network said, quoting unidentified Massachusetts investigators.

But how solid was this evidence linking the Tsarnaevs to Waltham? All but nonexistent. We know that because Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s defense team in the bombing trial asked prosecutors to share the proof they had of Tamerlan’s involvement in the Waltham murders.


Why does Tamerlan’s participation in a murder have anything to do with his younger brother’s trial for a wholly separate crime, the Marathon Bombing? The defense is trying to gather proof that Tamerlan dominated his younger brother, which would help Dzokhar’s arguments against the death penalty. Presiding Judge George O’Toole ultimately denied the defense request.

Nonetheless, the answer the prosecution gave in court filings demonstrated one thing: that what was leaked to multiple news outlets as evidence was nothing more than innuendo.

In terms of incrimination, all that’s left is the confession by the dead friend of Tamerlan’s, Ibragim Todashev. Which also appears, on close scrutiny, to raise more questions than it answers.

In fact, Boston Magazine uncovered an important inconsistency in Todashev’s description of the crime scene that calls its legitimacy into question. Due to an improper redaction which made the confession public, the magazine was able to compare Todashev’s written description of the victims with what the first eyewitness encountered at the crime scene.

Taped or Not Taped

When referring to the three victims, Todashev wrote in broken English that “we taped their hands up.” (Please see a photo of the handwritten confession here).

But the first eyewitness to the gruesome scene, Hiba Eltilib, girlfriend of Brendan Mess, said otherwise: “None of their hands were tied as I recall,” she said in an interview.

So here we have another example of the authorities’ early assertions about the Tsarnaevs looking suspiciously shaky under close scrutiny. The Tsarnaevs’ imputed connection to the Waltham murders rests on nothing but a questionable confession by a friend — a man who was later shot down by an FBI investigator while being interrogated. And dead men tell no tales.


Meanwhile, as so often happens in these high-profile cases, the initial allegations are still widely circulating in media accounts, while the later, potentially exculpatory information barely registers in the mind of the public.

Certainly there’s a lot of pressure on public officials to solve particularly horrific crimes like the Waltham murders. But a year-and-a-half after the government’s confident claims of Tamerlan’s guilt, we’re finding out that what they really have is next to nothing.

Can this rush to judgment be blamed on expediency, wishful thinking, or something else?

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Thank you so much for this and all your work on this case.

“This is a pattern we’ve seen since the bombing: The government feeds prejudicial information (usually anonymously) to the press…despite having flimsy or no evidence.”

Let’s fill this out a little:

From the above, the press implants a basic impression or connection in the mind of the public. (In this instance it is: Tsarnaev = murder and mayhem.) Then the government quietly backs off, leaving the actual facts to the very small number of people who learn them. The attention is moved away to some other violence or act of “terrorism” usually just as questionable and fact free.

All one needs to start the next war is a enough of these powerful “basic impressions” or “connections” together with one more major catalyzing incident tbd.

Charles D

Thanks for the work you are doing on this case. I don’t see anyone else doing this kind of skeptical analysis.


It is good to see articles such as this and there is, assuredly, much to be skeptical about in all the cases related to the bombing of the Boston Marathon. If there never was forensic evidence linking Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the Waltham murders how much more of the “information” fed to the general public is in fact disinformation, fiction and lies? (Likely a substantial amount imo.) The government have long claimed to be in possession of “damning evidence” in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. If what they have is really so conclusive, why then the need to attempt, with the help of the msm, to convict in the court of public opinion prior to any trial?

Charles D

I’d like to see a full investigation into CIA and JSOC involvement in Chechnya and their dealings with Chechen terrorists. There is a lot of smoke there and I’m betting there is fire.


Betting same! Much more to this than might be immediately apparent. (Imho.)


Sad thing is that Jahar is insignificant pawn in scheme of things, his imprisonment and death alters nothing.

Change You Can Keep

They literally came out and said that they had video evidence of D dropping a backpack, walking away, and seconds later it exploding at bomb scene 2. If this is the case, why are the Feds intimidating witnesses, leaking stories to the press, and refusing to relocate the trial? It seems to me that if a video truly exists (I highly doubt) then changing location shouldn’t matter, it should be an open and shut case.


As you say, if they have all they say, why the need to intimidate witnesses? Railroading written all over it!

Danielle Davito

Except for me.

mina catheb

Work? What work? Work would include some sources, some ‘other’ investigation. Not copying and pasting others’ work.

Charles D

I don’t see any skeptical coverage of the Boston bombings anywhere else. I also appreciate that Who What Why is reporting documented facts rather than wild speculation.

barbara henninger

RX for anything by Michelle McPhee to be taken with large grain of salt. Re the “mounting forensic evidence” tying the brothers to the slaying, the Waltham murders were covered extensively by the Wicked Local Cambridge. In none of the articles written at the time closely following the murders is there ever any forensic evidence mentioned. In a September 17, 2012 article from the Local called “One year later, few answers in murder of Cambridge trio”, Middlesex DA Gary Leone and Waltham Police Chief Thomas LaCroix “both commented on how difficult it would be because of the lack of eyewitnesses and forensic evidence.” In the same article, Gary Marchese, the Ward 5 Councilor in Waltham had said that the investigation has led detectives outside of the state.

Crime Reporter

I don’t even think they have evidence on Collier. Notice anything relating to him has been suspiciously absent in the public motions.

Seneca Wolf

In my mind I don’t even think of the Waltham murders or Collier for the crimes they’ve been accused of. There really isn’t evidence. Never has been. So I’ve never taken it seriously.

Velocet 8

There is evidence, they’re just not willing to disclose it in an unrelated trial.

Change You Can Keep

There has been absolutely 0 evidence implicating Tsarnaev’s to Collier killing ever released or reported on, believe me, I’ve looked. If you’d like to share some evidence you’ve seen, please do so, otherwise, you’re spreading disinfo.

Danielle Davito

Well,they attempted to ‘manufacture’ evidence of them murdering Sean,and several other things that transpired the night/early morning of the 18th/19th. Instead of immediately impounding their vehicles(Tsarnaev’s),they ‘drove’ them around,producing fictitious evidence.Sending out APBs in MA.,& Connecticut at 5:49am,7:41am,9:49am,& 11:09am for their vehicles.The police scanners mention nothing about a carjacked Mercedes,instead a ‘stolen’ Mass. State Police vehicle being tracked thru LoJack.This is the ‘blame Dzhokhar for running over Tam’ scam.Tamerlan,if run over,had to have been dead for some time.He was in handcuffs?Then where is the bruising,&probable broken wrists.No blood flow,no bruising.MIT sent Tweet out to students;”OFFICER DOWN:Please Stay Inside” at 7:51pm,& Boston Globe Tweeted that “Officer pronounced Dead” at 8:07pm.Over 2 1/2 hours before Tsarnaevs supposedly killed him.Tamerlan wouldn’t have killed him anyway,they knew each other from boxing.My guess is that Sean ran into them in Cambridge,or Somerville,on the 15th,thus being a credible witness,that had to be done away with.

mina catheb

Who think everything you hear on police scanners are correct. No one believe everything should be taken as gospel. It’s called communication, and a part of communication is an exchange of words. And in a heighten situation as the Laurel shootout and finding Officer Collier is considered as such. Do you know many addresses are incorrect that come over scanners and info – lots. We know at this point that a police cruiser was not stolen, it was used for officer to shield himself against gunfire, and we know that Tsarnaev did in fact get into a stolen SUV and flee. So one needs to be careful in a chaotic situation to heavily reply on back in forth convos, many time by people not even at the crime scene.

mina catheb

There is mounds of information missing from the public domain, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist – and to release that information would certainly make it more difficult for Tsarnaev to get fair trial. By May 2013 his attorneys received case in chief evidence, the most incriminating of evidence so if was all such sham, believe me, you would be hearing about it. But what we have heard from his own attorneys, the ones that all the facts in this case as they are speaking to him, and he really has faith in this team as he said in court, is that he is guilty. They just don’t think he is guilt as his brother. They have further acknowledged his extremist ideology so whether Tsarnaev pulled the trigger on Officer Collier or not, he was right along with brother, and a video will certainly reveal why he was indicted on the murder of Collier.


Something else.

Sprinkler Newz.US

I was very pleased to discover this article on Discus. I was very surprised to see Todashev, who is dead obviously and was killed by an FBI agent with a shady past, connected in any way with the triple homicide in Boston. Todashev has never been portrayed as connected with any crime. He was not killed for being a bad guy, that’s for sure.

Sprinkler Newz.US

Sorry my bad the triple homicide was in a MA town called Waltham not Boston.


I find it interesting that Tamerlan’s best friend was killed on September 11, 2011 and a year later his brother is granted citizenship on September 11. 2012 while he is back in Dagestan suddenly a raving Islamic fundamentalist. My theory is that the CIA convinced him that the Russians killed his friends and he was persuaded and bribed to participate in the Boston Bombings, not as a terrorist but a hero. He wanted to be in the Olympics fighting for the United States-not exactly an enemy of the state! They are both pasties and I think it’s a travesty how these young men were used and manipulated due to their status as Chechen immigrants.

daniel wilson

This is simply an extension of the artificially constructed narrative of a threat of homegrown religious terrorism. The Tsarnaevs are said to have been inspired by “INSPIRE” magazine and what do you know , that is the same magazine that is said to have been a catalyst in two Texas events to say the least and lo and behold that is not a magazine but a propaganda tool created by those at the CIA dominated “SITE”. If we follow the trail that the government photographer Bob Leonard set out in Boston and follow all the other people involved in this absolutely massive attempt to manipulate society we will all come to the same conclusion that this event was no more about the Tsarnaev brothers than it was about the Corocorans or the Brassards or the Richards.

barbara henninger

How do you know SITE is involved in Inspire? They seem to make a lot of mischief including the fake beheading videos, but I’m just wondering what makes you think they do Inspire?

daniel wilson

god… I’m wracking my brain for it.. I was just going from my head but I’m almost positive I found out through a round-a-bout way in researching the marathon. I just looked through my records but can’t place it right away.. I’m so bad…if you happen to want an update as to the specific connections you can find me on that twitter thing as bostonpsyop and ask me again and I’ll dig it up.

barbara henninger

That’s ok. I don’t have twitter. If you find it could you put it on here? Thanks!

daniel wilson

I was trying to save myself the “trouble” of having to remember when I hopefully came across it again. You don’t need to sign up for it so someday if you get bored check it out perhaps as I plan to devote a lot of time to this for those who do in fact want the answers! have a good day!

Velocet 8

“almost positive I found out through a round-a-bout way”
Sounds like BS to me.

daniel wilson

“almost positive” meaning that I would never ever misrepresent facts and want to be clear about how assured I am about something and “round-a-bout” meaning it didn’t say in the New York Times that “the SITE group is secretly behind Inspire magazine”.

Velocet 8

Ummmm…if you actually read the court document cited in the link in this article, you’ll see that it DOESN’T say what the article claims it does.

The article claims that the gov’t “admit to having no evidence”, yet the document shown in the link from these very words clearly states:

“The government opposed the motion on the grounds that production of any such writing or recording (as opposed to the information itself) was not required by the rules of discovery and would needlessly jeopardize the Middlesex District Attorney’s ongoing investigation of the triple homicide. After reviewing pertinent materials in camera, the Court denied the motion to compel.”

That clearly shows that there IS evidence that the crime was committed by Tsarnaev, but the government is not required by the rules of discovery to disclose it in this trial.

The author of this article is hoping you’ll never actually read the document it links to, and directly lying about the contents to influence you opinions.


Velocet 8 says: “…there IS evidence that the crime was committed
by Tsarnaev, but the government is not required by the rules of
discovery to disclose it in this trial.”

The government says: “…the government has no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Waltham murders, so there is nothing to produce.”

Enough with the phony debunking.

Mollie Norris

The government uses a lot of trolls.


The document was referring to the Todashev confession. The questionable one that the Mass state troopers recorded.

mina catheb

I applaud you for stepping up and calling it out, as your comments are correct. Stories like this only add to the denigration of journalist integrity. We all know the internet is full of misleading and down right false info.


It’s pretty clear that not only did local & state police assemble some substantial evidence that the Tsarnaevs (particularly Tamerlan) committed the Waltham murders, investigators had identified them as the PRIMARY suspects and were about to arrest them when their investigation was suddenly taken over by the FBI. The case did not “go cold,” it is still officially an “active investigation,” according to the FBI, as the shooting of Todashev clearly demonstrates.

Mollie Norris

“The production of any such writing or recording (as opposed to the information itself) was not required”.
No information provided: no evidence.

Alexander von Eikh

Tne one thing the the western press has never mentioned is the fact that the older brother went to CIA training facility in Georgia for a six month “security seminar”. There is no doubt in my mind what this whole story is about. Very sad. US will not even try to learn new tricks. I guess they dont need to, people here are buying it any way.

mina catheb

This is journalism at its finest?

Seriously, WWW is at it again, proving that the internet is full of misleading and factually deficit stories. Mr. James’ story is suppose to be the untold story that other media fail to present or investigate. What I see, that is correct, it’s ‘untold’ because it’s his own dreamed up version.

Especially taking statements and then conjuring up a story to fit their narrative (their most famous word they used consistently on WWW):

“But now, the government admits that, other than the confession, it “has no evidence that Tamerlan Tsarnaev actually participated in the Waltham murders. And it turns out that the damning confession has some serious holes in it too.”

This is not what the gov is actually saying, and any smart person would understand the underlying meaning to this comment, ‘the government’ interpret by WWW/James as meaning ALL gov. But in this context, it is to meant be that the prosecution team not having the information on the three murders in their custody and /or their control. Knowing Waltham is a State investigation by Middlesex District Attorneys office.

Even so, how in the world would WWW know anything about this investigation without actually reading the actual case files, watching the taped interviews and interviewing the people involved in the investigation? This is just Star tabloid stories are born.

If WWW are such sleuths on the prow for the truth to go beyond where no other media or journalist has ever gone before to uncover the ‘real story’ or the big cover ups then wouldn’t you at least get some first hand accounts from at least ONE person close to the investigation? Where are sources? The girlfriend of Mess possibly? No, they got their meat and her comment from another media stories.

Mr. James makes some far fetching theorizing on this case for a person that doesn’t know much except for what others have said in other media stories and those comments are undoubtly twisted to his own theory of the case. Without more substantial information on the case, without seeing the autosopgy photos (hands taped or untapped) and reports, and certainly not having seen and heard all that was said by Todashev, he can’t know how involved T /T was in these murders. And its not reasoned correctly to say because the defense was not able to get the actual files that this equates to T or T not being involved. This is called the judge ruling it is not material to Tsarnaev’s case and the crimes HE is accused of committing.

John Cram

What a ramble job. WWW – you have said NOTHING of substance, nothing in all that babble.


I must be missing something. Was there a crime committed at the Boston Marathon? Except for somebody setting off a talcum-powder puff-bomb, I don’t think there was a crime unless you count the fraud committed by the crisis actors that were crawling all over the scene.