Boston Bombings

Michele McPhee was on Boylston Street within minutes of the deadly blasts that killed three on April 15, 2013. She has covered the case nonstop since. Here a look at her exclusive coverage:

Patriot’s Day

April 15, 2013 

Martin Richard always managed to find the perfect spot along the Boston Marathon route to cheer. The Richard family, proud Bostonians from an enclave of tight-knit lace curtain Irish in Dorchester, loved Patriots Day. They took the train “into town,” as the saying goes, to cheer on the runners from the neighborhood, got some ice cream, enjoyed the crowd. That day the sun was surprisingly strong, an unpredictable and rare warm day in a New England spring. Martin was only eight years old but was already a popular kid, always grinning. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh was from Dorchester too and liked to tease Martin, telling him, “You have a smile bigger than Fenway Park, kid.” Martin used that charming smile as he wiggled through the crush of bodies on Boylston Street until he got to the steel barricade that separated runners along the marathon route from the spectators on the sidewalk and stepped up onto a rail. Best view on the block.

A news cameraman positioned in the press pen across the street panned to the photogenic Richard family as runners hustled past. A frozen still frame of the footage captured Martin, his arms dangling off the edge of the barricade as he scanned the blurs racing by for familiar faces. His mom Denise stood to his right, laughing. Martin’s little sister, Jane, 7, climbed up to his left onto the barricade, leaning her body into their dad Bill who stood behind her. The Richard family’s oldest boy Henry, 10, was on Jane’s left, his feet planted on the sidewalk.

No one in the Richard family noticed the smirking teenager over Martin’s right shoulder. He had a white baseball cap flipped backward over a crop of curly black hair and stood near a barren tree. He was not looking at the runners but instead smiled at whatever or whoever he was looking at up the sidewalk. Minutes earlier the teen had slipped off his backpack and dropped it in the crowd behind a slight woman with red sneakers. Then came the boom roughly a half block away.

Instinctually every head turned toward the blast, felt so strongly it knocked an elderly runner to the ground just shy of the finish line roughly 270 feet away. That same news footage would show that the only one who didn’t even look once toward the chaos as the smoke billowed from the blast seat of a bomb was the teen in the white hat. Panicked spectators ran toward north on Boylston toward the Richard family, some bleeding or burned or wounded by molten glass and shrapnel that had ripped through their flesh. That is, those who could run. The street had become a war zone, a mess of body parts. It was with that blast that Jeff Bauman lost his legs. He had been standing alongside a stranger named Krystal Campbell, who was killed.

Exactly twelve seconds later, before the Richard family could gather and move, the backpack behind them exploded; the second blast more powerful than the first. It was 2:49 p.m. on Patriots Day. Boston was under attack.

Martin died instantly. Most of Jane’s left leg was gone. Their mother Denise lost an eye; their father Bill’s eardrums burst. Henry appeared to be the lucky one, covered in cuts and bruises, but he wasn’t. Jane would later put it this way to a reporter: “he was hurt in his head.”

The woman in the red sneakers had been a Boston University student from China. Her name was Lingzi Lu. She did not survive when the backpack behind her blew up. 

The backpacks contained sophisticated pressure cooker bombs, set, as prosecutors now say, “to punish America for perceived wrongdoings.” The bombs inside were crammed with BBs and nails and black powder from crushed fireworks attached to a fuse constructed from improvised Christmas lights. The pressure cookers’ seals were fortified with caulking. Each was set off remotely with a detonator fashioned from toy car parts.

The bombs, federal prosecutors said, were sophisticated and “calculated to maximize harm.”  The attack certainly achieved that, but the bombers could not calculate that the bloodletting would also create the sentiment Boston Strong.

"Jaharian" protests outside of court for Tsarnaev hearing 

"Jaharian" protests outside of court for Tsarnaev hearing 

A judge has denied a request from defense attorneys of accused marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to bar his supporters, many of them teenage girls and others who treat him as a dashing figure who is the victim of an orchestrated government plot to frame an innocent man, from assembling outside the federal courthouse.

The ruling was filed today, as jury selection resumed after an abrupt cancelation in the questioning of jurors yesterday. Last week a court official announced that jury selection is expected to be completed this week and opening arguments could come as early as the first week in March.

Despite their steadfast claims of Tsarnaev’s innocence, his defense team wanted to sever those supporters views from their client’s trial and filed a motion with the court in late December to keep the accused bomber’s “self-appointed supporters,” away from the South Boston trial. 

Some supporters some wear T-shirts emblazoned with his face and the word “Innocent,” or hold provocative signs like “Got Proof,” from massing in front of the courthouse, attesting what the accused bomber’s lawyers called “outrageous conspiracy theories.”

“Survivors, jurors, witnesses, and members of the public must be able to attend court without being assaulted by inflammatory accusations,” Tsarnaev’s attorneys wrote.

On Dec. 18, the day Tsarnaev was in court for the first time since his arraignment in July 2013, one such victim had a verbal altercation with a Tsarnaev supporter, one of the many that call themselves “Jaharians,’’ a play on his nickname Jahar.

Marc Fucarile is one of 16 amputees maimed in the dual blasts that prosecutors say were detonated by Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan, 26, near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Four days later, prosecutors said, the Tsarnaevs executed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, carjacked a man, and engaged police in the bomb and bullet battle in Watertown, a gunfight that left Tamerlan dead.

He was among the more than a dozen victims who attended a hearing who saw the swarm of supporters outside. He paused to read the signs and then pulled up his pant leg to show the supporters his prosthetic leg and muttered under his breath, “Get a life.”

Liz Norden, whose two sons J.P. and Paul Norden were part of a crowd along with Fucarile cheering a Stoneham firefighter across the finish line, also lost legs and suffered critical injuries, plans to attend the trial daily and supports the death penalty for Tsarnaev.  

Norden said the Tsarnaev supporters have a right to assemble, but she doesn’t want to see them. “I know they have a right to their opinion,” Norden told ABC News, “but they are supporting an animal and I don’t think people should be ambushed by their opinions.”

There was also an outburst at the end of Dec. 18 hearing where Tsarnaev, who looked pale and drawn, nothing like the swaggering teen brought into court with his face swollen with gunshot wounds, assured a federal judge he was pleased with his defense. Tsarnaev supporter Elena Teyer yelled in Russian, "Dzhokhar, we know you're innocent. We pray for you. Be strong, son,” as the 21-year-old defendant was led out of the courtroom. In English she added, “Stop killing innocent boys,’’ before she was escorted out.

Teyer said she is the mother-in-law of Ibragim Todashev, a Chechen shot and killed after he attacked a FBI agent during an interrogation in his Orlando apartment about the Tsarnaev brothers and an unsolved triple murder in Waltham that ABC News was the first to report that Tamerlan Tsarnaev is considered a suspect in those homicides, which left the victims nearly beheaded.

Still, the self-appointed supporters appear to be the only ones one Tsarnaev’s side.

His parents, Anzor Tsarnaev and Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who were divorced in 2011, returned to Dagestan, Russia in 2012 where they reconciled and never came back to the United States. Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who has been outspoken about her sons’ innocence and has even adopted some of the conspiracy theories disseminated by the Jaharians, would likely be arrested if she did return on an open arrest warrant connected to a shoplifting case, according to Natick police.

It remains unclear if Tsarnaev’s sisters, Bella and Ailina, who are living in New Jersey, or his brother’s widow Katherine Russell Tsarnaeva, will attend the trial. 


Inside the Mind of a Killer

November 29, 2014

On the night of the Boston Marathon attacks, Tamerlan Tsarnaev watched his handiwork on television—and laughed.

It was the evening of April 15, 2013, and Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a happy man. At a messy, third-floor apartment on Norfolk Street in Cambridge, the 26-year-old was in his living room alongside his brother, Dzhokhar, 19, watching the news on TV. Nearly every channel was running nonstop coverage of the chaos and carnage on Boylston Street: the smoke, the screaming, the severed limbs scattered in the street. Blood was everywhere. In the apartment, a laptop streaming CNN also played the endless chaos and heroic rescue efforts. Spectators used their belts, shirts, and shoelaces as tourniquets to tie off the mangled limbs of strangers; doctors who ran the marathon sprinted to operating rooms; former New England Patriots offensive lineman Joe Andruzzi carried an injured woman to safety. Read More

Khairullozhon Matanov, a Quincy cab driver, told the FBI that Tamerlan Tsarnaev watched the carnage of the marathon bombs he dropped at the Finish Line unfold on TV April 15, 2013 and laughed. 

Khairullozhon Matanov, a Quincy cab driver, told the FBI that Tamerlan Tsarnaev watched the carnage of the marathon bombs he dropped at the Finish Line unfold on TV April 15, 2013 and laughed. 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, former Golden Gloves heavyweight champ, once participated in photo essay titled "Will Box For Passport." 

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, former Golden Gloves heavyweight champ, once participated in photo essay titled "Will Box For Passport." 


By Michele McPhee - Boston 

October 12, 2014 

Defense attorneys for accused marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said a witness is prepared to testify for the prosecution that their client knew his older brother was behind the gruesome near-beheadings of three men slain on the ten-year-anniversary of 9/11. 

One of the murdered men, Brendan Mess, was referred to by Tamerlan Tsarnaev as “his only American friend,” and was one of three mixed martial arts fighters found in a blood-splattered crime scene with their throats slashed, their bodies sprinkled with marijuana.

Four days after the marathon attack, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, was killed during a shootout with police. His DNA was then matched to evidence recovered in Mess’ Waltham apartment, law enforcement sources said.

Another man connected to the attacks, Ibrahim Todashev, was shot and killed during an interrogation in May 2013 as he wrote out a confession regarding his role in the murders, which he called a robbery. The FBI agent who shot Todashev is assigned to the Boston field office and was in his apartment with two Massachusetts state troopers investigating the Waltham murders.

Now Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's defense attorneys said that federal prosecutors have a witness who will testify that he knew his brother was behind the slayings and are demanding documents pertaining to the investigation from the government.

"Tamerlan Tsarnaev participated in a triple homicide in 2011, and information depicting the brutality of those murders, is critical to the defense case in mitigation,'' defense attorneys wrote in a brief filed Friday.

That witness, defense claimed, is "prepared to testify that Dzhokhar had such awareness. Thus, Tamerlan’s alleged role in the Waltham murders is now relevant." 

                                                                                              Waltham victims

                                                                                              Waltham victims

Another man who has been charged in connection with obstructing justice in the case, Khairullozhon Matanov, was also grilled about the murders according to exclusively obtained FBI proffer reports.

Matanov and Todashev were living together on the day of the murders, according to the reports. The FBI asked Matanov during multiple interviews about the Waltham slayings, including whether Todashev came home with bloody clothes. 

 "On 9-11-11 Matanov returned home from work to find his door unlocked and the apartment empty...Because the door is unlocked Matanov assumed that Todashev had returned but did not see him. He attempted to call Todashev's cell phone but it rang in the apartment." 

Matanov told the FBI Todashev was in the shower, and claimed to have thrown away his roommate's towel because “he didn’t want to use another man’s towel.” Then, Matanov told the FBI, Todashev left town.

"Sometime on the night of 9/11/11 Todashev left Massachusetts and drove to Florida with another man," Matanov told the FBI. 

Matanov met Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Todashev while attending services at the Islamic Society of Boston's Cambridge mosque, according to the FBI reports. Oon Eid 2012, the highest of Muslim holidays, Matanov and Tsarnaev posed in front of a black flag associated with jihadists at a Massachusetts mosque, according to the reports. 

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is facing the death penalty at his upcoming trial in Jan. 2015.

Image Shows Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s Last Message Before Arrest

Exclusive look at note Dzhokhar Tsarnaev scrawled with a black Sharpie on the side of the Slip Away II, a dry-docked boat where he hid for more than twelve hours during a government mandated statewide lockdown and intensive police manhunt.

A new image shows the bullet-riddled anti-American rant allegedly scrawled by suspected Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the inside wall of a boat as he hid from a police manhunt last year. Read More


Florida Man Shot by FBI Was About to Sign Boston Murder Confession: Officials

ABC Exclusive on Waltham murder that took place on 9-11-11 and the man shot by an FBI agent this morning

The man shot dead by an FBI agent in Orlando, Florida early today was "about to sign a statement" admitting to a role, along with Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev, in an unsolved triple murder in Massachusetts in 2011, two people with direct knowledge of the case told ABC News. Read More


Waltham triple homicides

Boston Bombing Suspects Investigated in Triple Murder

Police have "mounting evidence" that both Tsarnaev brothers are linked to an unsolved triple murder. View Video


'Mounting Evidence' Boston Bombers Involved in 2011 Triple Murder

Massachusetts investigators have developed what they call "mounting evidence," bolstered by "forensic hits," that points to the possible involvement of both Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his younger brother Dzhokhar in a gruesome, unsolved triple homicide in 2011, law enforcement officials told ABC News. Read More


Boston Bomb Suspect Eyed in Connection to 2011 Triple Murder

In the wake of the revelations about the violent nature of accused marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, investigators in the Boston suburbs tell ABC News they are probing whether he may have been involved in an unsolved grisly triple homicide of a former roommate and two others. The murders took place around the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Read More


Why Waltham? The blue-collar suburb’s connection to jihad

Among the many unanswered questions about the two Tsarnaev brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombing is why, days after the attack, they were heading to the suburb of Watertown and its manicured lawns and tulips when police picked up their trail and began a chase. Read More


Chechen rebel questioned by FBI in Manchester NH

The former Chechen rebel who said his home was searched by the FBI in connection to the Boston Marathon bombing investigation said in a letter today he has "nothing to do with the terrible act in Boston." Read More


Anti-American screed written inside Slip Away 2 boat

As police searched for him, and as he lay bleeding in his boat hideout, Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wrote "F*** America" on the side panel of the boat, police in Massachusetts told ABC News.

Officers said they also discovered the phrase "Praise Allah" on the boat's side panels and several anti-American screeds, including references to Iraq, Afghanistan and "the infidels." Read More


Marathon Bomber to Face Victims and Families in Federal Court

For the first time since a pair of bombs exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others in mid-April, the surviving bombing suspect is expected to be in court to hear charges leveled against him Wednesday.

A probable cause hearing for Dzhokar Tsarnaev, 19, will be held at 3:30 p.m. ET at the same South Boston federal courthouse where notorious Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger's trial is underway. Authorities told ABC News there will be a heavy police presence around the courthouse as charges contained in a 30-count indictment against Tsarnaev are laid out. Read More


Dzhokhar Tsarnaev friend Robel Phillipos released on bond

A friend of one of the accused Boston Marathon bombers was released from jail on bond following a court appearance today.

Robel Phillipos, a 19-year-old American friend of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was arrested last week for allegedly lying to investigators in the days after the bombing. Read More


Sean Collier honored posthumously

Before MIT campus police officer Sean Collier was executed, allegedly shot five times by the Boston bombing suspects as they tried to flee an FBI dragnet, the 26-year-old had been striving to become a police officer in the nearby city of Somerville.

Collier joined the MIT police last January, but also worked for the Somerville department as a civilian, and as a volunteer auxiliary officer. Read More


Collier family takes a secret meeting with President Obama

It has been a difficult month for the family of slain MIT police officer Sean Collier so when a university official contacted them asking: "Would you like to meet the president?" his grieving mother's response was, "The president of what?"

"The United States, ma'm,'' was the answer she got. Read More


Discarded fireworks found at Gerry’s Italian Kitchen parking lot

The brothers Tsarnaev had plans to drive to New York in their carjacked Mercedes and explode their remaining bombs last Thursday, but their plans went off track when the owner of the car they stole made an escape, the New York City mayor said Thursday. Read More


The Norden Brothers – each lost a leg

Two brothers who each lost a leg in the deadly Boston Marathon bombing were reunited Monday, seeing each other for the first time since the horrific blast that changed their lives forever.

“It’s good to see you,” Paul Norden, 31, told his brother JP as his eyes welled with tears.

“Real good,” said JP, 33. The brothers embraced the best they could from their wheelchairs. Read More or View Video


How the Marathon Bombings Hit Close to Home

Tim Freda:

We were positioned outside the firehouse watching the runners. It was a nice day. There were a lot of runners because it was the four-hour mark, peak finish line time.

Then we heard this boom. It sounded like one of the muskets they fire at the Patriots game after a touchdown. We thought for a second it was part of someone’s celebration. But then we all looked toward the sound and saw the smoke. Read More

Original report by Michele McPhee for Boston ABC Affiliate WCVB-TV.

April 2013: Artist’s Way group: In my creative writing group at the Lynn Library 9-year-old Madison, who was at the finish line and was photographed fleeing the blast, just wrote: "in life there can be little bad things and big bad things. But that won't stop us because we are strong."