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Did missed connections in murder case open door to Boston Marathon bombings?

Bombings left three dead, more than 260 wounded

CNN News Wire | 7/17/2013, 11:22 a.m.
WALTHAM, Mass. — Jamal Abu Rubieh, owner of the Brookline Lunch cafe, knew something wasn’t right when Brendan Mess and ...
Boston Marathon bombing suspect is identified as 19- year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“Around here, we call it ‘NHI’ — no humans involved,” Allan said. Meaning,he explained, that “there were three drug dealers murdered over drugs and money, which seems apparent because that was what was left over the bodies.”

But Bobby Black, a friend of Weissman and a writer for the pro-marijuana magazine High Times, said the theory of a drug robbery makes little sense when no drugs or money appear to have been taken from the apartment where the men were killed.

“Anyone who knew Erik would know that he was in no way some kind of dangerous drug dealer,” Black said. “He was a college-age kid who loved weed. I think that the police writing it off early on possibly may be the reason they didn’t investigate further, which could have prevented the Boston bombings.”

Deadly connection?

The killings — on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks — occurred as Tsarnaev, who came from a family of Chechen refugees, was becoming an increasingly devout Muslim. Allan said Tsarnaev and another gym member, Ibragim Todashev, used to pray together in the gym.

Allan said he was never questioned by police after the gruesome murders of the three friends. Neither was Abu Rubieh, who says he had a father/son relationship with Mess and who knew Tsarnaev as well.

Four months after the murders, Tsarnaev left Boston and traveled to the Russian republic of Dagestan, where his parents lived. Sources have told CNN they believe Tsarnaev became radicalized on that trip, and some law enforcement sources have questioned whether the marathon bombings would have happened had Tsarnaev been questioned in the Waltham killings.

Authorities accuse Tsarnaev, 26, and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, 19, of planting the bombs that exploded April 15 at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Three people were killed there and more than 260 wounded. While Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed a few days later as he and his brother engaged in a firefight with police, Dzhokhar was captured. He was arraigned last week on charges of killing four people — including an MIT police officer who was shot as the brothers fled — and wounding hundreds more in the bombings and the pursuit. He pleaded not guilty.

In the ensuing investigation of the marathon bombings, authorities also questioned Todashev, who had moved to Florida.

While being questioned in his home May 22 by an FBI agent and Massachusetts state police officers, Todashev admitted he played a direct role in the Waltham killings and implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev as well, a federal law enforcement source told CNN at the time.

Todashev told investigators the men were killed during a drug ripoff because he and Tsarnaev were afraid they would be able to identify them and tell police what happened, according to a law enforcement source.

A U.S. government official briefed on the investigation said that while being questioned, Todashev suddenly knocked over a table, brandished “a long-handled object” and lunged at the FBI agent, who shot and killed him. The shooting remains under investigation.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan said after Todashev’s death that the Waltham killings remain an “open and active” case, and that police and prosecutors “have conducted a thorough, far-reaching investigation.”

“This investigation has not concluded and is by no means closed,” Ryan said.

Now some of those who knew Weissman, Teken and Mess are questioning whether Tsarnaev should have been under scrutiny long before the marathon attack.

Looking back at the young man’s attitude following the Waltham murders, Allan wonders whether a big clue was missed.

“Retrospectively, maybe there was something behind that,” he said.

CNN’s Susan Candiotti, Carol Cratty, Matt Smith and Stephen Samaniego contributed to this report.

Deborah Feyerick and Ross Levitt | CNN