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12 years, a docuseries, and one book later, author still looking for answers on 2011 Waltham triple murder

‘This is the biggest crime story out of Boston in several decades,’ says journalist and ‘The Waltham Murders’ author Susan Clare Zalkind

Journalist and author Susan Clare Zalkind's new book "The Waltham Murders" explores the 2011 triple homicide in Waltham, a case that still isn't officially solved after more than a decade.Nafis Azad/Little A

Journalist and author Susan Clare Zalkind has been on a crusade for more than a decade to find answers to the 2011 murders of Erik Weissman, Brendan Mess, and Rafi Teken in Waltham — a case that remains officially open and unsolved.

On Sept. 11, 2011, the three men were found dead in a second-floor apartment with their throats slashed and marijuana dumped on them, along with $5,000 in cash left at the crime scene. The case was initially believed to be a drug deal gone wrong due to the men’s history of illegally selling marijuana, but attention would later turn to Ibragim Todashev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, a friend of the Waltham victims who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing on April 15, 2013, with his younger brother, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Tamerlan died four days after the bombing in a shootout with police.


On May 21, 2013, when authorities went to Todashev’s Orlando home to question him about the Waltham case, Todashev confessed to committing the murders with Tamerlan Tsarnaev. According to officials, a Boston FBI agent shot and killed Todashev when he allegedly lunged at the agent during the questioning. Details of the confession were included in a search warrant affidavit that was partially unsealed in 2019.

Despite the apparent confession, authorities have yet to close the Waltham case. A central question of Zalkind’s book is: Why?

Newspaper coverage of the Waltham murders in a still from "The Murders Before the Marathon."ABC News Studios, Story Syndicate & Anonymous Content

For Zalkind, a Newton native who was friends with Weissman, uncovering the truth about the 2011 Waltham triple homicide is personal. She has spent more than a decade reporting on the case, writing extensively on it for Boston magazine, and even reported on it for an episode of “This American Life.” In 2022, Zalkind produced “The Murders Before the Marathon,” a Hulu docuseries on the case. Her book, “The Waltham Murders: One Woman’s Pursuit to Expose the Truth Behind a Murder and a National Tragedy,” was published by Amazon imprint Little A this month.


Part memoir, part true crime investigation, the book is the culmination of Zalkind’s work on the case and features new reporting, including information related to Hiba Eltilib, Mess’s former live-in girlfriend who discovered the bodies, as well as new source material connecting the Waltham case with the Marathon bombing.

“Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Ibragim Todashev did these murders,” Zalkind told the Globe in a recent Zoom interview. “While there are many questions surrounding [the] case, that’s the fact of the matter.”

“And what’s so concerning to me is that, after a decade, those in power have not established that fact,” she added. “There’s a real risk of people becoming entirely untethered from the truth.”

A still from "The Murders Before the Marathon" showing the apartment of Brendan Mess where the Waltham murders took place.ABC News Studios, Story Syndicate & Anonymous Content

Zalkind’s book peels back some of the possible layers behind why the case remains open, and explores the “criminal ecosystem” of an “area of greater Boston that people don’t usually associate with crime stories,” she says.

In her book and the 2022 docuseries, Zalkind raises questions about the investigation, arguing that a more thorough look into the Waltham murders could have helped to prevent the Boston Marathon bombing.

“What’s so concerning to me is that there are these questions about the overlap between local law enforcement and the victims, and how thoroughly this case was or was not investigated,” Zalkind said. “The same office is still in charge of the case with no oversight.”


“This is the biggest crime story out of Boston in several decades,” she added. “And so, it’s not just about this one case. It’s what that represents about the truth.”

While Zalkind’s book points to new leads and threads that authorities could look into, she said she doesn’t believe people in power will pursue them because it wouldn’t “be beneficial to anybody politically.”

“I’m concerned about that,” she said. “The story is about Waltham, what happened there, and the aftermath, but I think it’s also about what we expect from those in power and how we search for answers.”

After more than a decade of reporting on the case, Zalkind is ready to tackle a new story. She said the book provided her with “closure and catharsis” that she wasn’t able to get from her earlier reporting.

“I did what I came to do with this story,” she said. “I pushed it as far as I’m physically able and I found a lot of answers.”

This story has been updated to clarify Zalkind’s role in the Hulu docuseries.

Matt Juul can be reached at matthew.juul@globe.com.