WALTHAM — The mayor of Waltham says she is frustrated by the lack of information available to the public about the unsolved 2011 slayings of three men that have been linked to one of the men suspected in the Marathon bombing.
Mayor Jeannette McCarthy said part of her job is to keep her constituents informed, but she said federal, state, and local law enforcement officials have not provided updates about the investigation and whether authorities are still pursuing suspects.
“Bottom line is, would I like them to come out and have a press conference in Waltham and tell the people of Waltham what happened? Yes, that’s what I would like,” McCarthy said this week, “because normally that’s what happens.”
The Department of Justice and a Florida prosecutor released separate reports this week confirming that 27-year-old Ibragim Todashev confessed last May in Orlando that he was involved in the Waltham killings. Later that night, an FBI agent fatally shot Todashev.
In October, federal officials confirmed that Todashev said his friend, suspected Boston Marathon bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was involved in the deaths.
But the Justice Department and the Florida prosecutor refused to say this week whether officials have solved the Waltham homicides and declined to provide more details of Todashev’s videotaped confession, even though he and Tsarnaev are now dead.
Both agencies said their reports were focused on whether the FBI shooting of Todashev was justified. The reports said the agent acted in self-defense. However, the Florida report quoted from the Todashev video and included a redacted copy of his handwritten confession.
“We were not officially interested in the Waltham murders,” said Richard Wallsh, a spokesman for state attorney Jeffrey L. Ashton, the top prosecutor in Orlando who investigated the Todashev shooting. “That’s a Massachusetts issue.”
The FBI and the Department of Justice referred questions to Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, who is in charge of the homicide investigation. Ryan and Waltham Police Chief Keith MacPherson released a statement this week that ambiguously raised the possibility that other suspects remain at large.
“Identifying all parties responsible for that terrible incident remains a top priority for the Middlesex district attorney’s office, the Waltham Police Department, and the Massachusetts State Police,” they said. “We will not be issuing any further comment at this time.’’
Beyond the statement, Ryan’s office, the Waltham police and the State Police have not commented on the investigation. Ryan’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Chelf Guyotte, refused to answer questions about whether there is a risk to the public, saying she could not elaborate because the investigation is ongoing.
McCarthy said she does not want to interfere with the local investigation if it is still active. But she said the two city police detectives assigned to the case have not even been allowed to brief the police chief on the murder investigation since the FBI got involved, as part of its broader inquiry into the Marathon bombings.
“Normally, if there was a local event the chief of police would update me,” she said.
Meanwhile, critics say the disclosure of Todashev’s videotaped confession raises questions about whether police have solved the crime. And it renews concerns that investigators in 2011 missed a crucial link to Tsarnaev that might have prevented the bombings.
“You need complete transparency in order to regain public trust and we don’t have that right now,” said Jessie Rossman, staff lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. “If the investigation is closed, this information should be made public. If the investigation isn’t closed, we should at least know what is happening right now.”
On Sept. 12, 2011, Tsarnaev’s friend Brendan Mess, 25, and his friends Erik H. Weissman, 31, and Raphael M. Teken, 37, were found in Mess’s apartment, their throats slashed and their bodies sprinkled with marijuana. No one was ever charged with the crimes, and some speculated they were drug-related.
Until the Marathon bombings, the slayings attracted little attention outside Massachusetts. In Waltham, area residents remember the homicides well. Police closed off Harding Avenue, a short, dead-end street. News helicopters circled overhead. But for more than a year, the case was cold.
On Friday, some residents said they wanted to know whether the case has finally been solved.
Todashev died May 22 after he allegedly attacked the FBI agent and a Massachusetts State Police trooper who had been interrogating him.
Tsarnaev died in a police shooting in Watertown days after he and his brother allegedly placed two bombs at the Marathon finish line that killed three people and maimed or wounded 260 others. The brothers are also suspected of killing an MIT police officer.
“You do want to know, of course you do,” said retiree Sally Lacci, as she emerged from a beauty salon off Main Street. “I had a friend who lived across the street. . . . She was petrified.”
Carmen Caira, a 69-year-old retired painting contractor, said if the case is solved, he would like to know the result.
“There should be more information,” he said while making a stop at a convenience store. “It’s my neighborhood.”
Around the corner, Ray Zammuto said he was not worried because the killings did not appear to be random. Maybe, he said, investigators are still digging into the case.
“We don’t know what they know,” said Zammuto, a 64-year-old doorman.
Relatives of Mess and Weissman did not respond to requests for comment. A relative of Teken’s declined to comment Friday.