Just 30 minutes south of Providence sits North Kingstown, Rhode Island – your run-of-the-mill suburban town, with a predominantly middle class population of around 26,000. This small town’s major claims to fame is that famous American portraitist Gilbert Stuart and Olympic swimmer Elizabeth Beisel called it home.
Needless to say, it’s not really a hotbed of news nor is it on the radar of national news media – that is, until last week.
Once news broke Friday that Katherine Russell Tsarnaev, the widow of one of the suspects in the Boston Marathon bombing, hailed from this small town by the bay, North Kingstown suddenly found itself on the map.
NBC, CNN, The New York Daily News, The New York Post, the Associated Press and even the UK Daily Mail have been staked out on Coriander Lane outside the Russell family homesince Friday when the FBI identified her husband, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, as one of the bombers. The Russell family, including Katherine and her toddler-aged daughter, has largely stayed inside their 3,900-square-foot home since the news came out last Friday.
Parked outside their home are more than a dozen cars, several news trucks, a satellite dish and a bevy of reporters and photographers, hoping to catch a glimpse of 24-year-old Russell or to talk to one of her neighbors.
Among those outside the Russell home is freelance photographer John Clarke Russ of the UK Daily Mail, who has waited outside the home for more than 13 hours each day since Saturday.
“They’ve had a pretty intense presence here in North Kingstown, in Boston, in Watertown,” said Russ of the Daily Mail.
Though other media outlets declined to speak to Patch about their coverage of the Russells, neighbors have been pretty vocal to police with their dislike for the media camping out on their street.
“Overall, [the media presence] is annoying the neighborhood,” said North Kingstown Police Chief Thomas Mulligan. “To a relatively quiet neighborhood, it’s a nuisance.”
Mulligan added that police officers have had to instruct reporters and photographers on where to park, and remind them that they can’t block fire hydrants and to turn their lights off at night when they aren’t filming.
Reporters have been knocking on neighbors' doors since Friday afternoon, hoping to get some insight into the life of a woman married to a suspected terrorist.
Neighbors aren’t the only ones getting attention. The North Kingstown School Department has been flooded with calls from media, requesting interviews with former teachers and seeking yearbook pictures.
“It’s been crazy,” said North Kingstown Superintendent Phil Auger. “We’ve had a ton of requests from places like Entertainment Tonight, CNN, Reuters, AP and others.”
Reporters have been outside both North Kingstown High School (where Russell graduated from in 2007) and even her middle school, Davisville Middle School. Auger has instructed all principals to direct any media inquiries to his office. At this time, the school department is not sanctioning any interviews with teachers or releasing any information on Russell, including her yearbook photos.
“I don’t feel comfortable releasing any student’s information,” said Auger. “Even their picture.”
Though a handful of Russell's teachers has spoken to other media outlets, Auger stresses these interviews were conducted off school grounds and were not sanctioned by the department. According to Auger, reporters have even called high school staff and faculty at their homes to try to get information on her.
“They’re doing everything they can to figure out who’s working at the high school and even DMS,” said Auger. “They’re hounding them.”
Reporters have been outside the North Kingstown High School campus for the past few days, said Auger. One reporter even approached a group of photography students conducting a project outside, asking if they could get him pictures of Russell.
“Luckily, the kids knew better enough to say ‘no’ and ‘go away,’” said Auger.
No one knows when the media frenzy surrounding Katherine Russell Tsarnaev will die down, or when the news crews will vacate the once-quiet cul-de-sac in Fletcher Estates. The Russells are in the process of selling their North Kingstown home, which coincidentally appeared on the housing market the day that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was identified as one of the bombing suspects.