Report: FBI Has Recovered Dzhokhar's Missing Laptop

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
May 2 2013 1:21 PM

Dzhokhar's Missing Laptop May Have Never Been in the Landfill After All

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Students at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth hang out outside of the Pine Dale Hall dormitory where Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev reportedly lived

Photo by Kayana Szymczak/Getty Images

CNN is reporting that the FBI has recovered Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's laptop. If true, the discovery could provide investigators with a trove of information about the Boston bombing suspects, perhaps including how the brothers learned to make the homemade explosives they are said to have used near the finish line of the Boston marathon.

According to the report, it's not clear how or when the FBI found the laptop, and one of the network's two unnamed federal law enforcement sources said that it wasn't recovered during last week's search of a landfill near Tsarnaev's University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth dorm room. That detail is important because it suggests that the three college students charged yesterday with intentionally hindering the investigation may have held on to the laptop after allegedly dumping a backpack they took from Tsarnaev's room into a dumpster in a bid to help him.

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According to the criminal complaint against the trio filed yesterday, one of the suspects, Dias Kadyrbayev, told police he took the laptop from the dorm room almost as an afterthought after finding the backpack, which contained fireworks that had been emptied of gunpowder. The rationale he allegedly offered, however, is more than a little puzzling. In the affidavit's words, Kadyrbayev said he took the laptop "because he did not want Tsarnaev's roommate to think he was stealing or behaving suspiciously by just taking the backpack."

The court document makes no mention of what happened to the laptop after the men allegedly brought it back to an apartment shared by the two suspects from Kazakhstan.

Original reports about the missing laptop suggested it belonged to the older Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, but it now appears to have been Dzhokhar's, or at least been in his possession more recently. Dzhokhar reportedly told investigators shortly after being taken into custody that he and his brother got the instructions they used to build the bombs from Inspire, an online magazine published by al-Qaida. The recovered computer may shed light on whether that account is true, while also providing other information about the brothers' online activities.

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter, and read more on Slate about the Boston Marathon bombing.***

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City.