On the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., an attack of a different nature took place in Waltham. That evening in 2011, on a dead-end street near the Watertown border, three men — Brendan Mess, Erik Weissman, and Raphael Teken — were murdered in Mess's second floor apartment. All three, according to police, suffered horrible deaths. They were nearly decapitated, and marijuana was strewn everywhere. Five-thousand dollars were left behind.  

The men knew each other from Cambridge, either as former classmates at Cambridge Rindge and Latin or from the world of mixed martial arts. That led law enforcement officials to connect the dots to the marathon bombing suspect two years after the murders. Suddenly, in the aftermath of the explosions, the Waltham case was in the national spotlight.

Erik Weissman’s sister, Ariel, told WGBH’s Magery Eagan and Jim Braude that the alleged connection came as a shock.

“It was just like there wasn't even time to process the April 15 bombing before it was immediately implicated that there may have been a connection to my brother and these other two guys' murder,” she said.

On Harding street where the murders took place, crocuses were budding, and hints of grass were transforming lawns from brown to green. It’s a proto-typical suburban scene. One resident, who didn't want to give his name, likes the peace and quiet.  

The murders of three men on September 11, 2011, took place on the second floor of this house in Waltham.
Phillip Martin/WGBH News

He recalls in 2011 when this Waltham street was awash in blue lights. “It wasn’t nice with cops, cops in and out and stuff like that. It got back to normal way quicker than I thought it would because I don't think they found who it was.”

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan this week told WGBH News, “That continues to be an open and active investigation. As you certainly know many times cases take time. We work on cases for a long time before reaching a successful conclusion."

And some of those avenues have led investigators — including Massachusetts State Police and the FBI — to several locations, including Orlando, Florida.

That is a case that is open and active. There are lots of avenues that we are pursuing. -- Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan

That is where an FBI agent, in the company of two Massachusetts troopers, fatally shot Ibragim Todashev seven times in his apartment in May 2013, during an interrogation. Todashev’s family accused the FBI agent, a former Oakland police officer with a spotty record, of murder. The agent said that Todashev, a mixed martial artist, lunged at him for reasons unclear, moments after Todashev allegedly confessed to taking part in the triple homicides. He reportedly implicated Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the crime.  

But that version of events has has come under suspicion from the ACLU and the families of the three dead men. Law enforcement officials, however, continue to this day to work on the theory that at least Todashev and Tsarnaev were involved in the murders. WGBH News learned that a third person may be connected to the case. I asked Ryan for confirmation but she declined to comment.

As WGBH News has reported previously, state police investigators visited Hilba Eltilib, a girlfriend and housemate of Brendan Mess. Her name was on the lease of the Waltham apartment, and she discovered the bodies of the men the next morning. Investigators, we are told, believe she may know more than she has let on.  

In the space of seven years with no resolution, the Waltham triple murder case has taken on a life of its own and is the subject of alternative theories of what happened, ranging from an anti-Semitic hit job, since two of the victims were Jewish and the incident occurred on September 11th, to the belief that at least two of the men were government informants who ran afoul of organized crime.  At a vigil for the three men not long ago I interviewed Mess’ friend, Kelly Griffin, who expressed concern about the rumors.

“It leaves people to try to connect the dots on their own rather than to get information that would provide some sort of real understanding,” said Griffin. "It's like gossip that comes to us rather than real information. And it's unfortunate that there hasn't been a real investigation into this. I mean it makes you wonder what is really behind it and why.”

Ryan, the district attorney, is under pressure to solve this mystery and has heard from her constituents in Middlesex County.

“People should be concerned and ask questions," she said. "In some cases, investigations take a long time as we put those cases together with integrity to build a solid prosecution if that's where the case is going." 

But on Harding Street in Waltham, for our unnamed resident, whodunnit, as they say, doesn’t really matter. 

“It didn’t impact me at all, to be honest with you," he said. "Seems like a professionally done job, because how do you get that type of homicide happening and nobody hearing nothing? It was not like it just happened to be some guys just pulled into a random street and said ‘Oh, yeah, let’s do a triple homicide.’ That didn't happen.”

No, it didn’t. It was not random. On that, at least, the victims’ families and Waltham and state police, the FBI and the Middlesex DA all agree.