Who is Katherine Russell, widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev?

katherine-russell

(CNN) — The wife of deceased Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is “very distraught” and “cries a lot,” her lawyer told CNN Monday.

The FBI wants to interview Katherine Russell about her husband, but for now, agents only have been able to talk to attorney Amato DeLuca.

“She knew nothing about it at any time,” DeLuca told CNN’s Chris Lawrence, referring to the bomb plot.

Russell, 24, learned through news reports that the father of her 2-year-old daughter was suspected in the attack, DeLuca said. “That’s my understanding.”

Hearing that news devastated her, he added.

“The whole family is a mess, to put it bluntly,” he said. “They’re very distraught. They’re upset. Their lives have been unalterably changed. They’re upset because of what happened, the people that were injured, that were killed. It’s an awful, terrible thing.”

Tsarnaev’s domestic violence arrest

While it’s unclear when Tsarnaev and Russell began dating, the couple married on June 21, 2010, according to marriage records at the Cambridge City Hall.

Eleven months earlier, Tsarnaev was arrested, accused of domestic assault and battery against his girlfriend at his home in Cambridge, police records said.

The police report was redacted to hide the girlfriend’s name, and a police spokesman would not confirm it was Russell.

The woman, who was “crying hysterically,” called 911 to report that she was “beat up by her boyfriend” on the afternoon of July 28, 2009, Cambridge Police Officer Angela Pereira wrote in the arrest report.

Tsarnaev told Pereira and another officer that his girlfriend “was yelling at him because of another girl.”

“I asked the suspect if he had hit the victim, and he stated ‘Yes, I slapped her,'” Pereira wrote.

The girlfriend told police Tsarnaev hit the left side of her face. “No visible marks were seen,” Pereira said.

NPR’s Laura Sullivan reported Friday on an interview with unnamed women she described as Russell’s close friends and college roommates.

“They described Tamerlan as very controlling and very manipulative of their friend,” Sullivan said. “They say he was combative and angry. He would often call (Russell) names and insult her. He would call her a slut and a prostitute, and they remember fights that they would get into where he would fly into rages and sometimes throw furniture or throw things.”

Russell dropped out of school after she became pregnant in her senior year, the women told Sullivan. “They say that she really pulled away from her friends, that she cut off contact with them, and she also cut off contact with her family members which her friends had been in contact with,” she reported.

Couple lived apart

Russell was born and raised a Christian, but she converted to Islam after marrying Tsarnaev. She’s an observant Muslim and wears a headscarf, her lawyer said.

Katy — that’s what family and friends call her — lives with her parents in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and works as a home health aide, he said. “She worked many, many hours.”

Their daughter lived with her husband because she worked seven days a week, he said.

“She would go off in the morning, she would work ’til late at night,” he said. “She called to see how her daughter was and that kind of stuff, like any person would.”

Tsarnaev’s wife is not talking yet

The Russell family hired DeLuca on Saturday, after federal agents contacted them asking to interview her, he said. For now, he is the one speaking to the FBI.

“She understands the need for doing it,” he said. “This is the way the government looks at it, and she understands this. It’s a threat to national security, and she gets that. And she’s a really good person, very sympathetic to that. Katy’s just trying to bring up her daughter.”

Russell may release a public statement through her lawyer soon, he said.

The family released its own statement Friday, after learning Tsarnaev had died.

“Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child,” the family said. “We cannot begin to comprehend how this horrible tragedy occurred. In the aftermath of the Patriots’ Day horror, we know that we never really knew Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Our hearts are sickened by the knowledge of the horror he has inflicted. Please respect our family’s privacy in this difficult time.”

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