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Lawyer: Tsarnaev's wife assisting bombing probe

The Associated Press

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. -- Katherine Russell was a talented artist, a good student who grew up Christian, the daughter of a suburban doctor.

Then she went off to college in Boston.

A few years later, she had dropped out of school, converted to Islam and was Katherine Tsarnaeva, wife of a man who would become a suspect in the deadly Boston Marathon bombings and a subject of one of the biggest manhunts in American history.

Tamerlan Tsarnaev, 26, and his brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, two ethnic Chechen brothers from southern Russia, are accused of planting two shrapnel-packed pressure-cooker bombs near the marathon finish line last week.

Tsarnaeva, 24, who's staying at her parents' home in Rhode Island, has mostly avoided the public eye since her identity became known Friday.

Those who know her and her husband describe her as sweet and dedicated to Islam.

Tsarnaeva grew up with two younger sisters on a quiet cul-de-sac in North Kingstown, a 90-minute drive south from the apartment she would eventually share in Cambridge, Mass., with her husband and his family. Her father, Warren Russell, is an emergency doctor and her mother, Judith Russell, was listed on her Facebook profile as working at a social services agency.

Tsarnaeva attended North Kingstown High School, graduating in 2007. Her yearbook entry lists her plans as college and the Peace Corps. Her art teacher for four years, Amos Trout Paine, remembered her talent in painting and drawing and said she was at the top of her class.

"The reason why I remember her is she was very nice and very smart," Paine said. "She was ready to learn."

She had friends and was well integrated into class, he said, and did not seem to be interested in religion.

Suffolk University said Tsarnaeva attended from 2007 to 2010 and majored in communications. Her lawyer, Amato DeLuca, said she was a student when she met Tamerlan Tsarnaev at a nightclub, introduced by one of her girlfriends. Tsarnaev, who had attended Bunker Hill Community College, was no longer in school, DeLuca said, and was seeing another woman at the time.

Tsarnaeva knew nothing about Islam when they met, said her lawyer, adding he didn't know if marriage was a motivating factor in her conversion. The reason was that she is a believer, he said.

"She believes in the tenets of Islam and of the Quran," DeLuca said. "She believes in God."

The couple got married on June 21, 2010, in a ceremony performed by Imam Taalib Mahdee, of Masjid al Qur'aan, in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood, according to their marriage certificate, which lists his profession as a driver.

Mahdee said he never saw the couple again and that they never attended his mosque.

The couple had a daughter and lived with her in the Tsarnaev family apartment, which was shared over the years with his mother, Zubeidat, and father, Anzor, now divorced, and Dzhokhar, DeLuca said. He said Tsarnaeva rarely saw her brother-in-law there because he was living in the dorms at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

Tsarnaeva's lawyer said she had no reason to suspect her husband of anything and was focused on supporting her family, working 70 to 80 hours, seven days a week as a home health care aide. Federal authorities have asked to interview Tsarnaeva, and DeLuca said Tuesday that his client "is doing everything she can to assist with the investigation."

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