Boston Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev's Wife: Who Is She?

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tamerlan tsarnaev, wife, katherine russell, boston bombing
How much does the bomber's young widow, Katherine Russell, know?

When tragedies like the Boston Marathon bombing occur, a curious thing happens: We become just as interested in the lives of the suspects (and what will happen to them) as we do the lives of the victims (and those that were lost) — perhaps even more so. I reached out to my Facebook network for some insight into this phenomenon, and the general opinion was that when people commit such horrific crimes, we feel compelled to understand why.

As the media, we understand this morbid curiosity and feed into it. I admit to sniffing out every bit of information over the past few days like a bloodhound, trying to piece together this grim puzzle. For every article about 8-year-old victim Martin Richard, there seem to be 10 more about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed in a shootout with police this week. But very little has been written about another significant figure in this case: Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old widow of the elder Tsarnaev — and mother to his toddler daughter. Yes, he was married with a child.

 

What we do know about Russell is that she's an American who converted to Islam after meeting Tsarnaev. In a message released to the public, Russell's family expressed shame and disbelief that their son-in-law could be repsonsible for such a horrific terrorist attack. Online commenters were divided. Some refused to believe she could not have known that her now-deceased husband was a religious radical with murder on his mind. Others came to Russell's defense, arguing that partners of rapists, swindlers, philanderers and even murderers are often completely unaware of their significant others' devious sides — especially if said sociopaths are clever enough to keep a low profile. 

Though Tsarnaev's wife was a newly inducted member of Islam, it's important to note that true Islam and extremism are two very different things. That said, is it fair to accuse the spouse of a terrorist of guilt by association — is that part of what "for better or worse" entails? Is it a person's responsibility to be in tune with her/his partner's state of mind? Or is it more important to give Russell the benefit of the doubt?

Readers, what do you think? Does Katherine Russell know more than she's letting on, or is it fathomable to be married to a terrorist and not even know it?

I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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