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Suspect's widow drawn into Boston bomb investigation

The suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing (Reuters)
The suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing (Reuters)

By Svea Herbst-Bayliss

PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (Reuters) - Katherine Russell has tried to stay out of sight in the five days since her husband, one of the suspects in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing, was killed in a shootout with police.

Russell, who wears the traditional Muslim hijab headdress, has made no public comment on what she may have seen or heard in the months before the April 15 bombing that killed three and wounded 264, in which her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, and his brother are the only known suspects.

"She cries a lot," her lawyer Amato DeLuca said on Tuesday, describing Russell, 24, as exhausted and distressed. He said his client was entirely in the dark about her husband and brother-in-law's activities because she was too busy working as a health aide in the Boston area to support her family.

Her 26-year-old husband, an amateur boxer with a taste for expensive cars and clothes, stayed home with their toddler. He and his brother, ethnic Chechens, spoke to each other in a language Russell did not understand, DeLuca said.

"It is pretty evident she did not know anything," he told Reuters in an interview. "She (worked) from early in the morning to late at night."

Russell has been seen coming and going from her parents' house in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, where police brought her late on Friday. She has not reappeared near the Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment she shared with Tsarnaev, her 2-year-old daughter, her brother-in-law, and, for a time, her mother-in-law.

Russell was not a regular member of the congregation of the Islamic Society of Boston, where Tsarnaev twice disrupted services, mosque spokesman Yusufi Vali said on Tuesday.

DeLuca, a personal injury lawyer with a four-person firm, was put in touch with the Russells through mutual friends, he said. He slipped into the back door of the North Kingstown home late on Sunday, shortly before a team of three law-enforcement agents arrived at the front door, he said.

Katherine Russell's mother, Judith, turned them away.

HELPING WITH THE INVESTIGATION

Russell has been "doing everything she can to assist with the investigation," DeLuca said. He declined to say what agencies she may have spoken with or what she said. Her brother-in-law, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, lies wounded in a Boston hospital charged with using weapons of mass destruction.

The woman, known to her friends and family as Katie, is effectively tethered to her home, at least for now, DeLuca said. "She cannot work, she cannot go anywhere," he said.

Her parents, a doctor and a nurse, put the house, which has the saying "give much gather often greet many" stenciled on the dining room wall, up for sale on Friday, the day their son-in-law was killed.

Local real estate agents said the move had been planned for some time but that selling the three-bedroom home now would become more difficult.

Several neighbors and friends in the normally quiet neighborhood described the young woman they knew as a nice, "all-American girl" who was a member of the art club at North Kingstown High School were she graduated in 2007.

She went off to college at Suffolk University in Boston, but did not earn a degree after she met Tsarnaev at a nightclub and married him in June 2010 in a small ceremony, her lawyer said.

She returned to Rhode Island looking very different. Russell changed from wearing jeans and T-shirts in her high school years to wheeling her baby around the cul-de-sac where her parents lived covered from head to toe and wearing a head scarf, neighbor Paula Gillette said.

While Tsarnaev visited his in-laws in Rhode Island, Russell did not join him on a visit to Russia early last year to see his father and other relatives, the lawyer said.

(This story corrects headline to say "Suspect's" instead of "Bomber's")

(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Mohammad Zargham)

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