updated 05/02/2013 AT 3:25 PM ET
•originally published 05/02/2013 AT 4:00 PM ET
A young woman who claims she had a “fleeting fling” with surviving Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at University of Massachusetts – Dartmouth says he was a popular student who was “idolized” by his friends, including the three additional suspects arrested for assisting Dzhokar after the bombing.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, told Mother Jones she was in shock when she realized Dzhokhar – who went by the nickname Jahar at school – was involved with the bombings, since he seemed like a typical, even “adorable” college student.
“I met him standing outside a building and honestly, his face was enough to capture my heart,” said the woman, who lived in the same dorm as the alleged bomber in the fall of 2011, and added that he was popular with female students. “I walked right up to him and I was like, ‘Oh my God, you are adorable. Can we hang out?’ I’m very forward.”
But, like many freshman romances, the relationship didn’t last after Dzhokhar got too forward too fast. “He wanted to go further than I did, and that made me uncomfortable, and I realized that that’s not the kind of person that I wanted to be around,” she says. “I don’t think that’s necessarily being a terrorist. I think that’s just called being a hands-y teenaged boy.”
Around the same time, the source got to know Dzhokar’s social circle, and she observed that he appeared to be the alpha male in his group of about five Russian-speaking school buddies, including Dias Kadyrbayev, Azamat Tazhayakov, and Robel Phillipos, the three men charged with disposing evidence and lying to investigators after the attack. “They all sort of idolized Jahar,” she says.
Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov, both citizens of Kazakhstan in the United States on student visas, are accused of removing a backpack that included fireworks missing their gunpowder fillers from Dzhokhar’s dorm room in an attempt to hide evidence for their friend, while Phillipos, an American citizen who lives in Cambridge, Mass., is charged with lying to investigators.
“I cannot speak to the nature of their relationship because of the language barrier, however I did observe that Jahar was always the leader in his group,” she says. Later she added of his pals, “There was no indication that they were crazy at all. They just seemed goofy, kind of lackadaisical, not interested in their studies. But, you know, whatever, it was their first semester of college.”
The woman’s account, which Mother Jones said was corroborated by another former resident in the dorm, somewhat helps to explain why these three young men would help their friend after such a brutal, high-profile attack.
As for Dzhokhar’s motiviations, “I just can’t see him being a radical jihadist just because of the nature of who he was,” the source tells Mother Jones. “I don’t doubt that he did it, but the why behind it – I’m having difficulty believing the news.”