ORLANDO — The wife and best friend of the Chechen man shot and killed here by an FBI agent on Wednesday insisted today that authorities never questioned him, or them, prior to the fatal confrontation, about an unsolved triple slaying in Waltham, Mass., just outside of Boston.
Ibragim Todashev, 27, a friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was shot and killed after allegedly attacking an FBI agent who was interviewing him along with two Massachusetts State Police troopers.
Todashev acknowledged a role in the 2011 triple homicide when he attacked the agent early Wednesday with a blade, the Globe reported today. Todashev was not considered a suspect in the Marathon terror attacks, law enforcement officials told the Globe.
Todashev’s wife, Reni Manukyan, said her husband could not have been involved in the Waltham murders, and that the subject had never been brought up in FBI interviews.
Manukyan, 24, said today that Todashev told her that his previous interviews with law enforcement dealt with just two subjects: the Boston Marathon bombing and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Manukyan, who separated from Todashev in November, said that in her own interview with the FBI, conducted in Georgia where she lives, the unsolved murders were never mentioned.
“It never, ever came up,” she said, wiping tears from beneath her sunglasses. “Everything they asked was about the bombing.”
Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan issued a statement today defending the pace of the Waltham investigation, a statement that also made clear Ryan’s office believes it is constrained by ethics rules for lawyers from publicly discussing it.
“While we can not discuss details pertaining to the investigation, including evidence, suspects or witnesses, this office and its law enforcement partners have conducted a thorough, far-reaching investigation beginning in 2011 when this horrific crime occurred,’’ Ryan said in the statement. “This investigation has not concluded and is by no means closed.’’
The statement did acknowledge that the FBI is now part of the investigatory team, which also includes prosecutors and Waltham and State Police. The FBI does not routinely participate in murder investigations in Massachusetts.
Manukyan said she and Todashev met in Boston and married in 2010. First, they lived in Atlanta, near Manukyan’s family, before moving to Florida sometime in 2011, she said today.
Manukyan, an Armenian immigrant who converted to Islam before marrying Todashev, stood near the apartment she once shared with her late husband dressed in gray jeans, a blue scarf, and a black shawl.
Also today, Todashev’s best friend in Florida, Khusen Taramov, said the two had been interviewed many times by FBI agents, and had been followed for weeks by an unmarked law enforcement vehicle since the Marathon bombings.
Taramov, a fellow Chechen and immigrant from Russia, said his slain friend had been called almost daily by agents since the bombings, but Todashev had been assured that the Tuesday night interview would be the final one.
“They told us they needed just one more interview,” he said. “They said the case was closed after this.”
Fearful it would make them look suspicious, neither he nor Todashev had a lawyer present during the FBI questioning, Taramov said.
Taramov, who said he had spent nearly every moment with Todashev since the bombing, insisted that his friend had never been asked about the triple slaying in Waltham.
“We told each other everything, everything,” Taramov said. “He never said anything about any murder and they never asked him anything about that. Just about the bombings and [Tamerlan] Tsarnaev.”
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, allegedly planted two bombs on Boylston Street during the Boston Marathon April 15, a terrorist act that claimed the lives of three people and wounded more than 260. The brothers are also suspects in the April 18 murder of MIT Police Officer Sean A. Collier, who was shot to death inside his cruiser.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed after being shot by police and then run over with a car driven by his brother during a violent confronation with police in Watertown on April 19. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is in federal custody facing charges that could bring the death penalty. He faces a probable cause hearing in federal court on July 10.
The Globe has reported that authorities suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev was responsible for the Sept. 11, 2011, murders of three men in a Waltham apartment. Brendan H. Mess, Rafael M. Teken, and Erik H. Weissman were found with their throats cut and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana and cash. Mess and Tsarnaev were close friends.
Just before noon here, Manukyan and Taramov left the Kissimmee, Fla., apartment complex where all three once lived, heading to identify Todashev’s body, which has yet to be released by the FBI.
Once the body is released, they plan to arrange for it to be shipped back to Russia for burial.
“It is very important to his family that the body is buried in Russia,” Taramov said. “And, knowing him, [Todashev] would have wanted to be buried in his country, back at home.”Wesley Lowery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @WesleyLowery.