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Reniya Manukyan, Wife of Ibragim Todashev, Indicted

By Susan Zalkind, For Boston Magazine, On 29 September 2016, Read Original
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The wife of the man shot to death by a Boston FBI agent, on the fifth hour of an interview about an unsolved triple murder in Waltham, Massachusetts, has been indicted for lying to the FBI, according to a recently unsealed court document.

Reniya Manukyan was the wife of Ibragim Todashev, who allegedly implicated himself and Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the grisly murder of Brendan Mess, 25, Erik Weissman, 31, and Raphael Teken, 37, on September 11, 2011, in an interview that took place in Todashev’s Orlando, Florida, apartment more than a month after the Boston Marathon bombings.

The interview between Todashev, a Boston FBI agent, and two Massachusetts State Troopers began on May 21, 2013. FBI agent Aaron McFarlane shot Todashev seven times, shortly after midnight, after Todashev, who was in the middle of writing his confession, hit the agent in the head with a coffee table and lunged at a Massachusetts State Trooper with a broomstick, according to the reports by the Department of Justice and a Florida prosecutor clearing the agent.

In a lengthy investigative story about Todashev’s death and the unsolved murders written in collaboration with This American Life, we previously reported that Manukyan and Manukyan’s mother Elena Teyer were also interviewed separately by FBI agents at the same time, at 7:30 p.m. on May 21, 2013.

Manukyan, who did not live with Todashev, was interviewed near her home near Atlanta, Georgia, while Teyer was interviewed near her home near Savannah, Georgia. Both Todashev and Manukyan had been interviewed by FBI agents numerous times previously in the weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings.

But it was during the May 21, 2013, interview, on the eve of her husband’s death, that the indictment alleges Manukyan lied. According to the indictment, Manukyan, “falsely stated to agents of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force that a named individual with whom she associated had returned to Atlanta, Georgia, on a bus after his employment in the State of Massachusetts ended in or about August 2011 when in fact and as the defendant well knew, the defendant met that individual in the State of New York on or about September 13, 2011, and drove him to Atlanta, Georgia.”

The indictment does not identify the “individual with whom she associated.”

According to Gretchen Fortin, spokesperson for the US Marshals in Atlanta, the FBI is currently trying to locate Manukyan. Calls and messages to Manukyan and Teyer were not answered at the time of publication. It’s also unclear if Manukyan is currently in the United States—she had previously moved to Volgograd, Russia, in the wake of her husband’s death.

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Manukyan had previously told Boston magazine that Todashev was not in Massachusetts at the time of the triple murder in Waltham. She also stated that FBI agents did not question her about the 9/11/11 killings until immediately after Todashev’s death.

According to Todashev’s partially written, blood-splattered confession, accidentally leaked to the press by a Florida prosecutor, Todashev had gone with Tsarnaev to Waltham for what he thought was a robbery, found three men, and then “taped their hands up.”

The three men were found with their throats slit, near the point of decapitation. Marijuana was dumped on two of their bodies, and $5,000 cash was left in the room.

But questions remained about Todashev’s confession. Prosecutors in the case against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, stated that the federal government did not have evidence linking Tamerlan Tsarnaev or Todashev to the unsolved murders. And more than two years after Todashev’s death, and five years after the murders, the homicide case is still not closed.

In previous statements, Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan has said that her office cannot comment on open cases. In a statement from one of her spokespeople this evening, the 2011 homicide investigation is still an “open and active investigation.”

Family members of the Waltham murder victims say they have not been contacted in lieu of the recent indictment. But Aria Weissman, the younger sister of Erik, says that although she is exhausted with the rollercoaster nature of her brother’s homicide investigation, she says she would like Manukyan’s indictment to lead to answers.

“Maybe it can open the door to more,” she says, adding that it might “finally put some closure to this ongoing nightmare.”

Todashev’s parents said last year that they planned to sue the FBI for his death. The matter is still pending, according to Hassan Hassan Shibly, spokesman for the Tampa Chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations.