For two-and-a-half years, authorities have been investigating a triple homicide that took place Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, without filing charges.
The bodies of Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman and Raphael Teken were found posed at the homicide scene in Waltham, Mass.
Now several experts on Islam say it’s possible authorities have hit a dead end because they are trying build a drugs-and-money case when they should be probing an Islamic jihad angle. The case, they point out, already has been connected to alleged Boston Marathon terrorist Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Police initially believed the murders were drug-related because the bodies were littered with drugs and cash.
But Dawn Perlmutter, founder of the Symbol and Ritual Intelligence Research Center, said the evidence doesn’t add up and that the crime scene actually showed signs of Islamic jihad.
She’s considered an expert on the subject, regularly training law enforcement officers and agencies. She’s presented expert-witness testimony in cases and has written several books on ritual violence, beheadings and related topics. She holds a doctor of philosophy degree from New York University. Her clients have included the FBI, National Gang Intelligence Center and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office in Florida.
“It was the crime scene, the body position and the trauma that I recognized,” Perlmutter said. “I do a lot of work with ritual murders related to different types of groups. The trauma and the position of the bodies was very specific to other Islamist actions.”
She said the killings followed a pattern that is specific to an act of jihad.
“In street-gang crimes, they don’t take the time to position a body, move them into different rooms and pose the body. Cartels in Mexico pose bodies, but they pose them differently,” she said.
“The trauma in this case was the near-decapitation and the stabbing. The victims’ throats were cut from ear-to-ear. It wasn’t a gunshot wound. It was a death by a stabbing. That is not common by street gangs and drug-related deaths,” Perlmutter said.
She said there were details of the crime scene that pointed to a jihad-connected murder.
“There was nothing about the scene that was Chechen-specific, as I do symbolic analysis of the crime scene. It’s a combination of a certain number of symbolic indicators that pointed to jihad. Being Sept. 11 was one of them,” she said.
“The victimology, the race, the nationality of the victims, the religion of the victims, that all figured in to a symbolic cultural analysis. A number of things point to a pattern; it was the date, the religion, the victims were Jewish,” Perlmutter said.
Perlmutter said some signs pointed to Tamerlan Tsarnaev as a suspect.
“The fact that he was close friends of one of the victims, and usually when a close friend of one of the victims doesn’t attend the memorial service, the funeral service, and the last person to see them alive is usually the first person you investigate,” Perlmutter said.
Writing on the incident, Islamic terrorism analyst and journalist Daniel Greenfield confirmed that Tamerlan Tsarnaev had said Mess was “his best friend,” but he didn’t attend his service.
Detectives with the Waltham Police Department and a spokesman for the Middlesex County District Attorney’s office said no reports can be released because the incident is still under investigation.
But Perlmutter also said there were signs it was an Islamic honor killing.
“Muslims, particularly the Chechens, are part of honor-shame societies. How that plays into it is that if someone believes they have been disrespected, it has to be avenged. That’s where the expression ‘being dissed’ comes from,” she said.
“How it plays in here is that part of the worst thing you can do is die a bad death. So putting money on a corpse and posing their bodies is denying that person the dignity of death. You’re making that person lose face, and you’re sort of on a higher level,” Perlmutter said.
In ritualistic, religious murders, pointing to a shameful part of someone’s life is a way to reveal the victim’s “sin.” Perlmutter said the cultural and religious evidence points to religion as a motive.
“In an honor killing, leaving drugs on the body is something you’re not going to do. They’re not going to leave money; they’re not going to leave drugs. It’s just not what they do. For someone to do that, you have to decipher why they would do that.
“In my evaluation, they would leave drugs to sort of display some of the sins of the victim. In other religious murders, they have the beheading videos, they have someone read the victim’s ‘offenses’ for the video. Displaying the drugs and the money is displaying their offenses,” she said.
“‘This is your sin, and this justifies the death. Tamerlan, once he was no longer a part of that scene, was almost ‘righteous’ about it. It was a righteous slaughter because I’m doing the right things now,’” Perlmutter said.
Her findings have been published in an article for the Middle East Forum.
The brothers are thought to have created two pressure cooker bombs and exploded them near the finish line of the Boston Marathon last year. Three people were killed and hundreds injured. Tamerlan later died in a confrontation with police, and Dzhokhar was arrested while trying to hide in a back yard in a Boston suburb.
Demographer James Weeks said it’s hard to say if other Chechens in the U. S. will follow the Tsarnaev brothers’ path of radicalization.
However, Weeks told WND that his report on Chechens in the U. S. for San Diego State’s International Population Center found a relatively small pool of potential Chechen suspects.
“The discovery that the alleged Boston Marathon bombers were immigrants from Chechnya raises the obvious question of how many Chechens there are in the U.S. The answer turns out to be surprisingly hard to figure out,” he said.
“My first reaction was to download the latest American Community Survey from IPUMS.org … but I discovered that there are few enough Chechens in the U.S. that the ancestry questions on the ACS do not include Chechen or Chechnya as a response category,” Weeks wrote.
While not necessarily agreeing with Week’s assessment, Perlmutter believes that the potential for further jihad-related killings in the United States is very high.
“Absolutely. I think there already have been Islamist murders in the United States, and I have no doubt there are going to be more of these attacks in malls and buses. It’s been going on like this in Israel for a long time.
She said there’s more that can be done to defend Americans.
“There’s too much activity, and law enforcement is just not allowed to be trained on these kinds of identifiers,” Perlmutter said.
“With other groups, white supremacy groups, and with gangs, they talk about the flags, the colors they wear, their methods. But our law enforcement isn’t allowed to mention the Islamic identifiers,” Perlmutter said.
“You can’t go in and say this is the Islamist black flag or evidence that always points back to Islam. It’s incredibly problematic. Law enforcement really wants this information. I can’t tell you how many requests I get every day, ‘Can you identify this?’ or ‘Can you tell me what this means?’ and the law enforcement people want that information,” Perlmutter said.