Laconia man says he served prison time with the mysterious 'Misha' who some believe radicalized older Tsarnaev brother
Published DateLACONIA — As a mysterious bald-headed, red-bearded Armenian known only as "Misha" has become a central figure in the shadowy past of the Tsarnaev brothers, a local man said yesterday that he encountered a man matching the description when they shared time in prison in Massachusetts.
Earlier this week the Associated Press (AP) reported that relatives of Tamerlan Tsarnaev — an uncle Rusian Tsarni, who lives in Maryland, and former brother-in-law Elmirza Khozhugov — believe Misha, described as a convert to Islam who visited the Tsarnaev home in Cambridge, led him to become a militant Muslim.
"Somehow, he just took his brain," Tsarni told the AP. "The seed for changing his views was planted right there in Cambridge."
Isaac (not his real name), who recently moved to Laconia from Dorchester, Mass., said yesterday that he came across Misha first in a Boston jail and later at the Bridgewater Correctional Facility where he was called not Misha but Mischka. "He is a big man, six-two or six-three, with red hair and a goatee," said Isaac, who last saw him in 2005, three or four years before the man's relationship with the oldest of the Boston Marathon bomb suspects began.
"He was definitely mentally unbalanced," Isaac said, who recalled that Misha once flung his feces on the walls of his cell and rubbed them all over his body.. "He claimed to be a 'Red Atheist,' a Cabalist, a Coptic Christian and a Muslim, but he was really just a drug dealer and gang banger. But, every time he got in trouble," he continued, " he started talking about God. He just looked for a crutch. He didn't believe in anything."
"I wouldn't take my eyes off him or give my back to him," Isaac said. "He was violent and dangerous. He got into fights and tried to strangle a mental patient at Bridgewater."
Isaac did not reject the notion that the man he knew as Mischka could have influenced Tsarnaevs. "It's possible he put some bad thoughts into the minds of the two brothers," he ventured. "He's the type that preys on people in their weakest points in life."
Isaac said that he last heard of Mischka in 2009, when a Muslim storeowner refused him and others entry to his shop. "He runs with an Armenian gang," he said, "and carried a gun."
Acknowledging that "I don't know enough about him to be of help (to the authorities)," Isaac said that anyone looking for Mischka should start with the Armenian gangs in the Boston area, especially Watertown. "He's known to stick close to Watertown," he said.
Meanwhile, Isaac, who grew up in Irish home, said that "I was a bad person and now am turning my life around." Several years ago he converted to Islam and carries the Koran with him. He resents those like the Tsarnaev brother who kill and maim in the name of Islam. "As soon as they put those backpacks on the sidewalk they ceased to be Muslims," he said. "Every time one those extremists does something like that they drag the whole faith through the mud. They're twisting a beautiful thing."