The Boston Marathon bombings have returned to public consciousness following the release of American Manhunt: The Boston Marathon Bombing on Netflix. Much is known about the fate of the bombers – Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokar Tsarnaev – so today we’ll look at Katherine Russell, Tamerlan’s wife, who’s suspected of having known about the plot.

Katherine Russell lives a quiet life with her daughter, her husband, and their children

Katherine Russell’s life changed when she met Tamerlan at a nightclub in 2007. The pair started dating, which didn’t impress Katherine’s mother, a nurse. Katherine’s mom didn’t mind Tamerlan’s Muslim religion – she despised him for his disrespect and abusive tendencies. 

In 2008, Tamerlan forced Katherine to convert to Islam; she adopted the hijab and the name Karima. Two years later, the couple wed in a Dorchester mosque. In late 2010, Katherine gave birth to their daughter, Zahara.

After Tamerlan died in a shootout with the authorities, Katherine returned to her parents’ home in Rhode Island. Katherine’s parents released the following statement:

“Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child. We cannot begin to comprehend how this horrible tragedy occurred. In the aftermath of the Patriots’ Day horror, we know that we never really knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Our hearts are sickened by the knowledge of the horror he has inflicted.”

A year later, Katherine and her daughter moved to North Bergen, New Jersey, to live with Tamerlan’s sisters. Shortly afterwards, Katherine remarried and moved to Jersey City, New Jersey, where she lives with Zahara, her husband, and their children. Katherine leads a quiet life away from the spotlight. 

Katherine reportedly dropped the name Karima. However, according to Mayhem: Unanswered Questions about the Tsarnaev Brothers, the US Government and the Boston Marathon Bombing, a book by journalist Michele McPhee, Katherine still wears a hijab. 

According to The Daily Mail, the book mentions Katherine’s Facebook account, which features photos of Katherine and Zahara. 

McPhee writes that Katherine is on the FBI watchlist and is barred from entering Massachusetts. The author confirms that Katherine lives in New Jersey and still wears a hijab. She adds that Katherine occasionally taunts the officers surveilling her. McPhee writes:

“Once in a while, the sources confirm, she would taunt investigators who were tasked with following her by driving along the edge of Massachusetts from Connecticut to Rhode Island, daring them to arrest her. They never have.”

The Department of Justice doesn’t plan to charge Katherine

A question that lingers on most people’s minds is whether Katherine knew of the Boston Marathon bombings before they happened. The overwhelming conclusion is that she did. Why, then, doesn’t she face criminal prosecution like the wives of other terrorists?

Authorities found bomb-making instructions in her computer, though it’s nearly impossible to figure out who downloaded the content. Katherine’s internet search contained queries about the reward of a wife whose husband becomes a martyr or a fighter in the ‘holy war’. 

The searches suggest that Katherine knew of Tamerlan’s extremist plots. To some, there is enough evidence to indict Katherine. However, authorities don’t believe they have enough to secure a conviction. Richard DesLauriers, the special FBI agent in charge of the bombing investigation, told WBUR:

“I’m not saying she did know, I’m not saying that at all,” he said. “I have no information that she did or didn’t know, but I think one of the conclusions you could reasonably draw is that since she lived in that residence, she might have had some foreknowledge.”

Initial reports claimed that Katherine refused to cooperate with authorities. However, Katherine’s attorney, Amato DeLuca, told WGBH News that Katherine spent hours speaking to the FBI:

“She cooperated. I mean, look! Let’s call it for what it is. She spent a lot of time with the FBI and the terrorist task force and provided them with a lot of information, many, many, many many hours. I don’t know what else she could have done.”

DeLuca said that Katherine refused to testify because the government declined to provide immunity. He confirmed that the DOJ doesn’t plan on prosecuting Katherine in relation to the Boston Marathon bombings:

“You’re always concerned about what may happen, but we feel very confident that she’s done nothing wrong. As far as I know, she’s not a target and there’s been no suggestion at all by the government that she’s going to be indicted.”