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Boston Marathon Bombing Update: Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, suspect's wife, was in "absolute shock" after bombings

Katherine Russell, wife of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaving the house where he lived on Norfolk street in Cambridge, Mass., the day after Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police. They have a three year old daughter. Tsarnaev was married to Katherine Russell, who grew up in North Kingstown, R.I., where her father Russell is a doctor and her mother a nurse. The 24-year-old woman was raised a Christian and converted to Islam after marrying Tsarnaev when she was a student. Farrington/Polaris

Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, wife of suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, leaving the house where he lived on Norfolk street in Cambridge, Mass., the day after Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police.
William Farrington/Polaris

(CBS/AP) - The woman who was married to Tamerlan Tsarnaev was in "absolute shock" when she and her family learned that he and his younger brother were suspected of perpetrating the Boston Marathon bombings, her attorney said in a press conference Tuesday.

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Attorney Amato DeLuca told reporters that Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, 24, "is doing everything she can to assist with the investigation."

Tsarnaeva, who grew up Christian, the daughter of a suburban doctor, has avoided the public eye since her identity became known Friday. On the rare occasions when she has emerged from her parents' Rhode Island home, she is dressed in the traditional Muslim headscarf, a hijab, and has refused to answer questions.

Those who know her and knew her husband describe her as sweet and dedicated to Islam, a religion she converted to before marrying Tsarnaev in a 15-minute ceremony on June 21, 2010.

The wedding, which had just two witnesses present, was performed by Imam Taalib Mahdee, of Masjid al Qur'aan, in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, according to their marriage certificate, which lists the Imam's profession as a driver.

"They requested that it was a simple wedding," Mahdee said.

Both seemed happy, he said.

"They seemed like two people who were getting ready to get married," Mahdee said.

Tsarnaeva grew up with two younger sisters on a quiet cul-de-sac in North Kingstown, a rural, wooded town a 90-minute drive south from the apartment she would eventually share in Cambridge, Mass., with her husband and his family. Her father, Warren Russell, is an emergency doctor whose Facebook profile lists his high school alma mater as the elite New Hampshire boarding school Phillips Exeter Academy and college as Yale. Her mother, Judith Russell, was listed on her Facebook profile as working at a social services agency.

Tsarnaeva attended North Kingstown High School, graduating in 2007. Her yearbook entry lists her plans as college and the Peace Corps. Her art teacher for four years, Amos Trout Paine, remembered her talent in painting and drawing and said she was at the top of her class.

"The reason why I remember her is she was very nice and very smart," Paine said. "She was ready to learn."

She had friends and was well integrated into class, he said, and did not seem to be interested in religion.

Suffolk University said Tsarnaeva attended from 2007 to 2010 and majored in communications. Her lawyer, Amato DeLuca, said she was a student when she met Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a nightclub, introduced by one of her girlfriends. Tsarnaev, who had attended Bunker Hill Community College, was no longer in school, DeLuca said, and was seeing another woman at the time.

"They went out for a while, and then they stopped and then they went out again," DeLuca said.

Tsarnaeva knew nothing about Islam when they met, said her lawyer, adding he didn't know if marriage was a motivating factor in her conversion. The reason was that she is a believer, he said.

"She believes in the tenets of Islam and of the Quran," DeLuca said. "She believes in God."

The couple had a daughter and lived with her in the Tsarnaev family apartment, which was shared over the years with his mother, Zubeidat, and father, Anzor, now divorced, and Dzhokhar, DeLuca said. He said Tsarnaeva rarely saw her brother-in-law there because he was living in the dorms at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, two ethnic Chechen brothers from southern Russia, are accused of planting two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line last week, killing three people and injuring more than 200. Tamerlan was killed in a getaway attempt after a gunbattle with police. Dzhokhar, who was captured hiding in a tarp-covered boat in a suburban Boston backyard and is hospitalized, was charged Monday with using a weapon of mass destruction to kill.

Complete coverage of Boston Marathon bombings on Crimesider

  • Crimesider Staff

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