Waltham Triple Homicide: Making the Case

by Chris Wangler
September 5, 2022

Who brutally murdered three young men at 12 Harding Avenue in Waltham on the 10th anniversary of 9/11?

If you’ve been paying attention, you’re probably aware of a theory that rings true, even if it’s never been proven.

It goes like this: Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was responsible, and his boxing gym friend, Ibragim Todashev, implicated himself in 2013 before being shot to death by a Boston FBI agent at his Orlando apartment.

Now, in a three-part series streaming on Hulu, investigative reporter Susan Zalkind narrates her ten-year quest for answers in The Murders before the Marathon, based on a forthcoming book by the Newton native.

The engaging series covers familiar ground using news footage from the time, but there are plenty of twists and turns along the way, as well as new perspectives on how it all unfolded. 

“I have to find information on this case on my own”

Episode One explores the gruesome 2011 Harding Avenue murders and the Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt.

The Waltham victims’ throats were slit, and two of the three had marijuana sprinkled on their bodies.

After the Middlesex DA’s office released very little information, the media quickly moved on from a case investigators called drug related.

The killings happened before cannabis legalization in Massachusetts when the potential for violence always loomed in the background for dealers.

But Zalkind, the daughter of a criminal defense attorney, was good friends with one of the victims, Erik Weissman, “a nice Jewish marijuana dealer.” 

The mystery surrounding his death fires her passion for investigative journalism. Working from a bulletin board with photos of the principal players, she starts to question details that don’t quite add up.

Frustrated friends of the victims told police about a boxer named Tamerlan Tsarnaev who was “super close with Brendan Mess, the Cambridge man who rented the apartment.

But police didn’t interview Tamerlan, even after he raised suspicion by missing funeral services for Mess, once described as his best friend. Had something happened between them? And why were no fingerprints taken when another victim’s house was burglarized right before the murders?

As the dead ends accumulate, The Murders before the Marathon questions whether the marathon bombing and subsequent violence could have been prevented if law enforcement had solved the Waltham triple homicide.

American Nightmare 

Episode Two explores the potential involvement of Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Ibragim Todashev in the Waltham murders. The pair knew each other from the Wai Kru Mixed Martial Arts Center in Allston, where Tamerlan also trained with Brendan Mess.

Todashev’s alleged confession to Massachusetts law enforcement officers in Florida after the bombing looked like it could break open the Waltham case. But once again, information only trickled out.

Instead of pursuing a link to the Waltham murders, the media focussed on Tamerlan’s path to radicalization, reflecting a reductive narrative about Muslim terrorists.


The situation was more complex, according to terrorism experts and Zalkind, who paints a portrait of the Tsarnaevs as Chechen asylum seekers living on the edge of poverty.

After Tamerlan’s dream of becoming a professional boxer is shattered, she says he was “an out-of-work college dropout with a toddler to support.”

Amid growing financial struggles for his Cambridge family, Zalkind argues that he was drawn to 9/11 conspiracy theories, Al Qaeda and especially antisemitism. 

Two of the Waltham murder victims, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken, were Jews from Israeli families. Did they become targets?

Closing Argument

Episode Three sums up all that Susan Zalkind has learned about the triple homicide, with new revelations about the people potentially involved, either directly or indirectly.

Before Tamerlan’s brother Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was sentenced to death for his role in the marathon bombing, a federal judge blocked admission of the Todashev interview recordings at trial.

That meant Todashev’s confession about his role in the Waltham murders would remain sealed.

But an appeals court overturned the judge’s ruling during a new sentencing trial for Dzhokhar.

Finally, with new access to explosive interrogation details, Zalkind narrates her own gripping version of what happened in Waltham on September 11, 2011, the fruit of 10 years of research.

“A singular eureka moment”?

You’ll have to watch The Murders before the Marathon on Hulu to see if there’s a smoking gun. 

Directed by Jesse Sweet and executive produced by an Oscar-winning documentary company, the series ties into a growing fascination with open-unsolved investigations. 

Zalkind has reviewed thousands of pages of documents and court records, many redacted, in search of a telling date, telephone record or vehicle report to move the narrative forward.

There are no interviews with Waltham Police or Middlesex DA officials, and she does not throw any person or law enforcement agency under the bus.

But revelations surface throughout, and by reviewing earlier interviews and doggedly running them against subsequent developments, Zalkind manages to hit paydirt.

The Murders before the Marathon

Streaming on Hulu September 5

Peter Lobo file photo