‘The Murders Before the Marathon’ and This American Life

Listen to this weekend’s This American Life episode, “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” a collaboration based on this month’s Boston magazine’s cover story, “The Murders Before the Marathon.”

Our cover story this month was the result of a six-month investigation launched last fall, when a young reporter named Susan Zalkind walked through our door with a harrowing story to tell. It began in 2011 with a gruesome unsolved crime: Three men, including a friend of Susan’s, were found with their throats slit in a Waltham apartment. But the tale eventually reached from Moldova to Tajikistan to Boylston Street: The FBI would later claim, and still maintains, that one of the men who committed the Waltham murders was Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the elder of the alleged Boston Marathon bombers. The FBI then tracked a second suspect, Ibragim Todashev, to an apartment in Orlando, where he was allegedly in the process of implicating himself and Tsarnaev in the murders when he was shot and killed by a Boston FBI agent.

That was just the beginning. A week after Susan arrived we put her on a plane to Florida, and shortly after she came back, we convinced her to quit her day job and set up shop in our newsroom. Eventually, her story—“The Murders Before the Marathon”—blossomed into our first collaboration with public-radio powerhouse This American Life, which will air an hour-long program devoted to the story this weekend. Locally, you can hear TAL’s Episode 519: “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” on WGBH, 89.7 FM, on Saturday at noon and Sunday at 1 p.m., and on WBUR, 90.9 FM, on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Already, Susan’s story has made national waves. Just days after we hit the newsstands, the Florida state attorney who opened an investigation into the FBI’s shooting of Ibragim Todashev promised to (finally, after nine months) release the results of that investigation by the end of March. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow devoted a 10-minute segment of her show to Susan’s “blistering” report. “Did the FBI botch the questioning of an unarmed man connected to the main suspect in the Marathon bombing?” Maddow demanded. “Did they then prevent the release of information on the shooting—and then deport everyone who could conceivably talk about it or shed light on what happened?” The Boston magazine/TAL collaboration, Maddow predicted, “is going to put a hot national spotlight on this story.”

If you’ve already read our story—and especially if you haven’t—Susan’s piece for This American Life is a must-listen. You’ll hear many of the characters from “The Murders Before the Marathon” in their own words—and there are even some new details that have been uncovered since we went to press. And if you aren’t sick of us by then, TAL host Ira Glass just happens to be coming to Symphony Hall this weekend to speak at a Celebrity Series event on Sunday afternoon.

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  • PINKY TEE
  • JH

    Even if this reporter’s version of events is plausible, it still doesn’t address the FBI’s strange behavior after the fact and what seems very much like stonewalling and a cover up. 9 months later and not a word of explanation? Are they really accountable to no one?