The 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which claimed three lives and injured hundreds more, has been well-documented for its tragedy and heroism. The Murders Before the Marathon, a new true-crime documentary from ABC News and Hulu, revisits a lesser-known triple homicide that Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the bombers, is suspected of committing in Waltham, Massachusetts, in 2011. In the series, Zalkind poses the following query: “Would the Boston Marathon bombing have been avoided had police conducted a thorough investigation into this case?”
The three men were discovered by Waltham police on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11, covered in marijuana and cash. The three victims, later identified as Brendan Mess, 25, Erik Weissman, 31, and Raphael Teken, 37, had been brutally executed in the manner of a duel with their necks cut with sharp objects. According to ABC News, one investigator described the crime scene as “the worst bloodbath” he had ever witnessed and likened the carnage to “an Al-Qaeda training video.”
Although no one has ever been charged in connection with the killings, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing alongside his brother Dzhokhar, was a leading suspect at the time. Police killed Tamerlan during a shootout in the aftermath of the bombing, even though Dzhokhar was captured and later found guilty; Tamerlan trained at the same gym as Mess and had been seen hanging out with the murdered trio. The Middlesex DA’s office did not question Tamerlan even though his name had been given to the police, according to The New York Times. In addition, Zalkind asserted that investigators didn’t go to the gym or pursue leads about Teken getting into a fight with a Chechen person or having his apartment robbed just before the murder.
Authorities reportedly believed the murders were the result of a failed drug deal because the three victims had been connected to marijuana dealing. The story was in the news for about a week before it “seemed to disappear,” according to Zalkind, who was close friends with Weissman. Because she couldn’t let go of the notion that “stabbing is personal” and saw police failing to follow up on important leads, she started her own investigation, which has lasted more than ten years. There was no public outreach, according to Zalkind, who also claimed that those who did come forward were intimidated or persecuted.
Ibragim Todashev, a friend of Tamerlan’s, allegedly admitted to federal agents that they had both “participated in the Waltham murders” in a May 2013 unsealed affidavit, Todashev claimed that he and Tamerlan “had agreed initially just to rob the victims, whom they knew to be drug dealers who sold marijuana” he also described how Tamerlan suggested they get rid of the witnesses and how they attempted to “re Todashev, however, allegedly turned violent during the interrogation, prompting an FBI agent to shoot and kill him.
In the end, all Zalkind wanted was an explanation. She recently told The Boston Globe that “What happened at Waltham has just been a gaping hole in the story of the Boston Marathon bombing.” “My duty was to close that gap. This [series] is not a policing essay. Although I believe there should be some sort of accountability here, it is not within my purview to make recommendations about how law enforcement should be held accountable.