A complicated portrait of the two Tsarnaev brothers is coming into view. Again and again, people who knew them use words like "normal" and even "outgoing" -- and say they never hinted at extremism. NBC's Ann Curry reports on two young men who seemed to disappear in the crowd--until this week.
The parents of two brothers police say planted bomb-filled backpacks in crowds watching the Boston Marathon and later engaged in a stunning firefight with police say their sons are being framed for the deadly blasts.
Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, died in the shootout with police Thursday. His younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured by police Friday night after an intense manhunt that locked down Boston for nearly a day.
"You could kill me but I would never believe they had anything to do with this," the father, Anzor Tsarnaev, said in a telephone interview with NBC News from Dagestan's provincial capital, Makhachkala. "This is nonsense. It doesn’t add up."
Law enforcement sources told NBC News that the suspects have family roots in Chechnya, a predominantly Muslim Russian republic that has fought a war for independence and is tied to vicious terrorist attacks.
The family -- the parents, two sons and two daughters -- fled Russia about 10 years ago. The family, but not the older brother, moved to the United States on April 12, 2002, and applied for asylum, according to travel documents obtained by NBCNewYork.com. The older brother joined them a year later.
The family was granted legal permanent residence on March 2, 2007, and the younger brother became a naturalized U.S. citizen on Sept. 11, 2012.
Dzhokhar is described as an A student, a well-adjusted “cool kid” who wrestled on the high school team, hung out with friends and had his eyes on a medical career. He attended the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.
The older brother reportedly had trouble identifying with his adopted country. He was described by a former coach as a talented amateur boxer who dreamed of making the U.S. Olympic team. He was married to Katherine Russell, who works at a social service agency for children, and father of a young girl, reportedly about 3.
“Our daughter has lost her husband today, the father of her child,’ said Judith Russell, her mother.
“We cannot begin to comprehend how this horrible tragedy occurred. In the aftermath of the Patriot's Day horror, we know that we never really knew Tamerlane Tsarnaev.”
But one of the sisters, who lives in West New York, N.J., said Tamerlan was a "great person, a kind and loving man," according to NBCNewYork.com. It was unclear where the other sister is.
The father was an attorney in Russia but in the United States worked as an auto mechanic.
Both of the parents, according to Russian media, live in Makhachkala, the capital of the republic of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya.
“I came back to my motherland to die,” said the father. “I had a hematoma in my brain and I was convinced it was the end. But I somehow pulled out of it, practically came back from the dead, as it were, here.”
The parents maintained their sons can't be have done such deadly acts of terrorism.
"Somebody clearly framed them. I don't know who exactly framed them, but they did. They framed them. And they were so cowardly that they shot the boy dead," Anzor Tsarnaev told Reuters.
“It’s impossible, impossible for both of them to do such things,” Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, the mother, said, according to a "Russian Today" interview that was replayed on CNN. “I’m really, really, really sure this is a setup. I would know.”
The two suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings arrived in Cambridge from Russia more than 10 years ago. Their father, reached by phone Friday, insisted, "I would never believe they had anything to do with this." NBC's Ann Curry reports.
- Who are the brothers accused of the Boston Marathon bombing?
- Chechen insurgents deny any link to marathon bombing
- What we know: Timeline of terror hunt
- ‘Dedicated officer’ gunned down by Boston Marathon suspects at MIT
- Boston bombing spurs Senate debate on tighter immigration screening
- Tweeting police chatter creates confusion over Boston suspect
- Missing student's family staggered by false accusation