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RI woman may have been in relationship with older suspect

Tamerlan Tsarnaev (left) accepted the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell.

Julia Malakie/The Sun of Lowell via REUTERS

Tamerlan Tsarnaev (left) accepted the trophy for winning the 2010 New England Golden Gloves Championship in Lowell.

Federal law enforcement authorities descended Friday on the home of a North Kingston, R.I. family, whose grown daughter, a former Suffolk University student, apparently has been in a relationship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the marathon bombing suspect who died Friday.

Katherine Russell, the oldest of three daughters who grew up in a house on a quiet residential street, may have had a child with Tsarnaev, neighbors said, and at one point appeared to convert to Islam, based on her dress.

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Outside his home Friday afternoon, Warren Russell declined to comment on the police visit to his home, or to confirm the status of his daughter’s relationship to Tamerlaen Tsarnaev, the older of two brothers that federal authorities say planted the bombs that killed three people and wounded 170 at the Boston Marathon on Monday.

“My daughter lives in Massachusetts, she is married. That’s all I can say at this time,” Russell said.

Paula Gillette, who lives across the street from the Russell’s, said she woke up around 7:30 a.m. Friday to see FBI officers at the Rusells’ home.

Gillette said that Katherine Russell, the oldest of three girls, went off to college in the Boston area. A Suffolk University spokesman said that a student named Katherine O. Russell was a communications major at the school from the fall of 2007 to the spring of 2010, and she did not complete her degree. The spokesman had no additional information about why she left school, but he confirmed that her hometown is North Kingston.

Gillette said she did not have much direct contact with Katherine. However, Gillette did notice that at some point, while she was in college, she seemingly had a religious conversion based on her clothing. Gillette said she does not know if she converted on her own, or was influenced by someone else.

“She was dressed in this Islamic garb,” Gillette said, describing what she witnessed.

According to a family friend and some others who knew Tsarnaev, he had become particularly devout in his Muslim faith over the past few years.

Gillette said she also noticed that Katherine was with a young man, and together cared for a toddler child. That child could be seen often at the grandparents’ home, and it was unclear if the couple and child sometimes lived there. She added, however, that she had not seen the couple and child in the past few months.

Globe correspondent Zachary Sampson contributed to this report. Patricia Wen can be reached at wen@globe.com.
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