With Tamerlan Tsernaev’s death and the decision to charge his brother in civilian court, there are many questions to which we may never find the answers. One of them is a triple homicide that occurred on the tenth anniversary of the Muslim terrorist attacks of September 11. While the police at the time assumed that it was a drug murder, large quantities of drugs and money were left behind at the scene suggesting another motive. The three men were Jewish. One was Israeli. And in the aftermath of Tamerlan Tsernaev’s killing spree, the triple murder of the three men, one of whom was supposedly his friend, is being looked in a whole new light.
The bodies of 25-year-old Brendan Mess and two other men were found with their throats cut on September 12, 2011, in what police deemed a triple homicide related to the drug trade. The bodies were covered almost ceremoniously with marijuana. And $5,000 was found in the apartment. Also, there was no sign of forced entry, suggesting Mess knew the killer or killers.
All three men had their throats cut, which suggests passion, rather than a calculated hit. And the friends of the three dead men, Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken and of Tamerlan Tsernaev now suspect that the Boston bomber may have carried out the murder.
The owner of the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts in Allston, John Allan, told reporters that Tsarnaev described Mess to him as his “best friend.” So the Cambridge crew were surprised in the fall of 2011 that Tsarnaev didn’t show up at his best friend’s funeral. Now they see it as a clue. “Tam wasn’t there at the memorial service, he wasn’t at the funeral, he wasn’t around at all,” Ray said. “And he was really close with Brendan. That’s why it’s so weird when he said, ‘I don’t have any American friends.’”
There are two ways to read Tamerlan’s statement. The liberal reading has been alienation. The other reading is that Tamerlan was cutting himself off from the Americans he was going to kill. The triple murder may have been his first step. There are suggestions that one of the men may have sold his younger brother some pot and their murder may have been part of his strategy for putting his little brother on the proper track. A track that ended with the marathon massacre. Murdering three Jews and one Israeli with a knife on September 11 would have resonated with the Islamic mindset. In one of the grim ironies of this case, Mess’ murder was initially used to suggest that Tamerlan was so distraught that he went off the rails and turned to terrorism. But it may have been the other way around all along…
A few months after Mess’ murder, Tsarnaev went to Russia for six months. His father, Anzor Tsarnaev, told the Associated Press his son stayed with him in the city of Makhachkala, in the region of Dagestan. “He slept until 3 p.m., and you know, I would ask him: ‘Have you come here to sleep?’” his father said. “He used to go visiting, here and there. He would go to eat somewhere. Then he would come back and go to bed.”
Even for a Jihadist, the first murder may have taken an emotional toll. Having carried out his first act of Jihad, he escaped home, where he would be beyond the reach of investigators and be able to get in touch with whatever legacy of terrorism he wanted to carry out.
Larry Aaronson, who taught Weissman at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, told the Globe after the murders that Weissman had an unusually diverse group of friends.
His group of friends may have been too diverse.