A teenage immigrant with intellectual promise heads out on a sunny day into the streets of a large American city and decides to murder as many innocent strangers as he can. He’s in the company of an older man who has taken the place of his father, who has long been away in a distant country.
The teen is Lee Boyd Malvo, who at age 17 killed 10 people in the 2002 Washington, D.C.-area sniper attacks, but the description also fits the still-developing profile of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, whose father left their Cambridge home for Russia in 2010.
The psychological makeup of 19-year-old Tsarnaev, who is accused of setting off two pressure-cooker explosives with his 26-year-old brother, remains unknown. But forensic psychologists say there are a number of mental health conditions that could cause a young man — even one who is intelligent and seemingly well adjusted, as some acquaintances have described Tsarnaev — to fall under the malicious influence of a father figure.
They might help explain what would drive a well-liked marine biology student to allegedly carry out a terrorist attack.
Ruslan Tsarni, Tsarnaev’s uncle, told reporters last week that he does not believe the 19-year-old could have masterminded the bombing plot. “He’s been absolutely wasted by his older brother. I mean, he used him. He used him for whatever he’s done.”
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