Emotions ranged from satisfaction to sorrow after sentencing

The news of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence evoked a mixture of shock, satisfaction, and sadness Friday from people at the sites where the Tsarnaev brothers planted the bombs in Boston, murdered a police officer in Cambridge, and engaged in a wild shootout in Watertown.

At the bright yellow finish line, which is just starting to show some wear a month after the April race, pedestrians paused for cellphone pictures and to speak with news crews.

Shane O’Hara, manager of Marathon Sports, nearly broke down in tears in an interview moments after the verdict was announced. He was at work the day one of the bombs exploded just outside his store, and he wanted the bomber to pay with his life.


“Without a doubt, this was what I was definitely hoping for,” he said. “Someone held accountable.”

Get Fast Forward in your inbox:
Forget yesterday's news. Get what you need today in this early-morning email.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

What O’Hara really wants is for the saga to be over, he said, and he now hopes that the appeals process does not drag on endlessly.

O’Hara testified at the trial, describing the sounds and smells of the explosion. He also recounted his scramble to use anything in the store to tie up wounds and stop victims’ bleeding.

Libby McCann, 30, who has worked at the sports store since March, said she was uncomfortable with capital punishment and would “rather see [Tsarnaev] sit in a small room and think about what he has done.”

Nearby, Rochelle Baron gasped when she heard the jury had voted for a death sentence. Standing in the very spot where the first of the two bombs exploded, she said she would have preferred a life sentence.


“I think it’s too simple,” she said of the death penalty. “I think he should suffer.”

Baron, 67, of Sharon, is a former Brookline resident who used to ride her bike to see the runners on Marathon Day, she said.


The monument to MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was shown Friday.
Travis Andersen/Globe Staff
The monument to MIT Police Officer Sean Collier was shown Friday.

At MIT, where the Tsarnaev brothers killed MIT Police Officer Sean Collier, some stopped to speak around the memorial to the slain campus police officer.

Xian Du, a native of China, said he “definitely” supported the death penalty.

“One hundred percent,” Du said. “Two hundred percent. ... He killed not only one guy, he killed other people.”


Du described Collier as a hero who worked to protect the MIT community.

“He’s a good man,” Du said. “He died for us.”

Du also noted that while death sentences may be rare in the federal system in the US, “in China it is quite normal.”

“In China, [Tsarnaev] would have died a hundred times already,” Du said.

But an MIT grad student, Alex Whigham, 26, voiced opposition to the sentence.

“Personally I’m against the death penalty, but I understand that the jury deliberated and they came to this conclusion,” he said, adding that the verdict was the culmination of “two years of pain that this community has suffered.”

Whigham said life in prison would be a more appropriate punishment and said of the death sentence, “I’m never going to agree with any jury that sentences anybody to death. I think it’s barbaric that we still do this.”

An MIT undergrad, Gary Barnett, 20, offered measured support for the ruling.

“I definitely see how it was justified,” Barnett said. “I’m not against how the verdict came out.”

Barnett’s friend, Corey Biggins, 20, of Brockton, said he expected the death sentence to be handed down.

“I think the way it was handled was appropriate to the situation,” Biggins said.

Another MIT graduate student passing by the memorial, Jordan Whisler, 29, said he was surprised to learn that Tsarnaev had been sentenced to death.

“I thought from the media coverage that most people were not in favor of it,” he said.

However, Whisler said, the jury made the right call in opting for the death penalty. “If it’s appropriate, then this is a case where it is,” Whisler said. “They knew what they were doing. They were trying to kill innocent people.”


Loretta Kehayias says her house was damaged in the shootout.
Steve Annear/Globe Staff
Loretta Kehayias says her house was damaged in the shootout.

Residents had similarly complicated sentiments in Watertown, where Tsarnaev and his brother, Tamerlan, engaged in a shootout with police days after the bombing. Tamerlan was killed after being shot by police and run over by his own brother.

James Floyd and his wife moved into their Watertown home on Laurel Street just months before the shootout. Their property is littered with shrapnel marks and bullet holes.

“I kind of wanted the life in prison because ... it wouldn’t have to go through the appeals process, and once they murder him it becomes, ‘United States murders another martyr,’” he said. “I wasn’t disappointed either way.”

Loretta Kehayias, who also lives nearby, said she felt emotional hearing the verdict, but she was glad Tsarnaev was sentenced to death.

“I just wished he showed some kind of emotion,” she said. “For him all this time not to have shown any emotion whatsoever — the only time he cried was with his family [on the stand].”

Kehayias’s house is marked by more than 13 holes from shrapnel and bullets.

“If he just cried once and said, ‘I’m sorry,’ I would have felt different,” she added. “But he just didn’t.”

Katie Raines, who lives a few blocks from the Laurel Street gun battle scene, said she would have been happy to see Tsarnaev live out his days in a jail cell.

“In a sense, justice has been served, but it doesn’t take back what happened,” she said. “I was leaning more towards he should be locked up and not see daylight.”

Barton Halvadjian, who grew up mere houses away from where the confrontation took place on a quiet street, said the death penalty was a copout.

“What he did was crazy, but the death penalty is not good enough. For him, that’s too easy,” he said.

Halvadjian said Tsarnaev should “rot away” in jail. “What’s worse than that? He would be stuck there for the rest of his life.”

Mark Arsenault can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemarkSteve Annear can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.Travis Andersen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.