Boston Suspects Said to Initially Plan Attack for July 4

The two brothers suspected in the Boston Marathon bombings initially targeted the city’s July 4 celebration and attacked last month’s race after building their bombs faster than expected, according to a U.S. official.

The information about the brothers’ original plans came from an interrogation of the younger suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, said the official, who was briefed on the questioning and asked not to be identified discussing an open investigation.

Tsarnaev also told interrogators that the pressure-cooker bombs used in the attack were assembled at the Cambridge, Massachusetts, apartment of his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the official said. Tamerlan, 26, was killed in a shootout with police on April 19, and his brother was captured by authorities later that day.

The April 15 bombing killed three people and wounded more than 260 in the highest-profile terrorist attack on U.S. soil since Sept. 11, 2001. While authorities continue to investigate whether the suspects had help in planning the attack, no evidence of such assistance has surfaced, according to a second U.S. official who asked not to be identified.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was apprehended after a manhunt that paralyzed the Boston metropolitan area. He was found hiding in a boat in the backyard of a home in Watertown, Massachusetts, and taken to the hospital for treatment of multiple gunshot wounds.

The younger Tsarnaev, now held at a federal prison medical center west of Boston, is charged with using and conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and may face the death penalty if convicted.

Miranda Rights

Tsarnaev, who has had trouble speaking because of a wound in his neck, was questioned by specialized interrogators led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the official briefed on the matter said. The questioning came before Tsarnaev had been warned of his Miranda rights and federal charges were filed against him.

Investigators are also scrutinizing Katherine Russell, the widow of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who lived in the Cambridge apartment with him and their 2-year-old daughter. FBI agents took DNA samples from her on April 29, according to the U.S. official.

Investigators have found female DNA on a bomb fragment, said this official, who cautioned that the genetic material may have come from a number of sources and that its discovery doesn’t necessarily mean that more people were involved.

Widow’s Lawyer

Amato DeLuca, Russell’s lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment. He has said she has been cooperating with investigators. She has moved into her parents’ home in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.

“Katherine will continue to meet with law enforcement, as she has done for many hours over the past week, and provide as much assistance to the investigation as she can,” DeLuca, of Providence, Rhode Island-based DeLuca & Weizenbaum, said in an April 30 statement.

In another development yesterday, the three college friends of the younger Tsarnaev -- who face related charges -- were taken to the Essex County jail in Middleton, Massachusetts, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

The three 19-year-olds, Robel Phillipos of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov, who are both from Kazakhstan, all began college together with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. The two Kazakhs have been charged with conspiring to obstruct justice by removing items from Tsarnaev’s dormitory room. Phillipos has been charged with willfully making false statements to investigators.

Backpack Removed

All four are or were students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, south of Boston. Kadyrbayev removed from Tsarnaev’s room a backpack that had fireworks emptied of their powder along with a laptop, according to a criminal complaint filed May 1 in federal court in Boston.

Robert Stahl, a lawyer for Kadyrbayev, said the laptop wasn’t discarded. The FBI now has the laptop, he said. The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment yesterday on whether the laptop was recovered.

In Washington, Iowa Senator Charles Grassley, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano asking how Tazhayakov re-entered the U.S. on Jan. 20, even though his student visa was canceled Jan. 4, after he had been dismissed from the school.

Grassley cited “clear gaps” in the immigration control system, and requested more information on how the two Kazakh students were admitted to the country and how their visas were dealt with by Napolitano’s department.

Suspect’s Body

Police in Boston plan to meet with their counterparts in New York City to learn how police in Manhattan deal with security issues during such events as the New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square, according to Boston television station WBZ. Boston’s Independence Day celebration regularly draws hundreds of thousands of people to the banks of the Charles River, with events centered at the Hatch concert shell.

The family of bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev now has his body, according to the Massachusetts medical examiner’s office. A spokesman confirmed the release without saying which family member took the corpse.

Local television stations that tracked the hearse that retrieved the body reported it was taken to the Dyer-Lake Funeral Home in North Attleborough, Massachusetts. Funeral directors there didn’t respond to a telephone call and an e-mail after normal business hours.

The cause of the older brother’s death will be made public when an official death certificate is filed by the funeral home involved, according to Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the medical examiner’s office in Boston. Harris wouldn’t say where the body was being taken for disposition.

“The body is claimed,” he said.