On Saturday, Todashev gave Diaz’s three-year-old daughter a little fishing rod “because he knows I like fishing.”
Now, Russell Diaz conceded: “You never really know. You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
The emerging portrait of Todashev, who emigrated from war-torn Chechnya to Boston in 2008, is more complex than the one conveyed by the occasional acquaintance of his neighbors in the tidy community pastel-blue town homes.
Todashev, a skilled competitor in mixed martial arts, was arrested on May 4 by Orange County deputies after he allegedly got into a fight with two men in a mall parking lot over a parking space.
The sheriff’s office report said Todashev left the scene while one of the victims was unconscious on the ground, his teeth knocked out and surrounded by a “considerable” amount of blood.
When deputies stopped Todashev afterward, he told them that he was fighting in self defense “to protect his knee,” which was healing from surgery. He also told police that several vehicles that were also following him were FBI agents.
YouTube videos uploaded nine months ago show Todashev, trim and muscular, in a series of bouts. State records show his last documented MMA fight was in July 2012 in Tampa, when he won against fighter Bradford May of Spring Hill.
Todashev moved to Orlando in 2011, said his estranged wife, Reni Manukyan, a 24-year-old assistant hotel-housekeeping manager now living in Atlanta. She told the Wall Street Journal that she married Todashev at a mosque near Boston in July 2010, and they separated in November 2012.
While Todashev spent some time with his Chechen roommates in Kissimmee, he also lived across town with a 19-year-old girlfriend at the Windhover condominiums, a mile from Universal Studios. There, he spent much of the last two months walking the landscaped sidewalks, swimming in the pool and recovering from knee surgery.
Residents there said he drove a white Mercedes with a Russian emblem and shared a place with his girlfriend that had a plaque of a rifle on the front door.
It was there where police questioned and killed Todashev after he allegedly confessed to the 2011 murders of 25-year-old Brendan Mess, 31-year-old Erik Weissman and 37-year-old Raphael Teken, who were found dead with their throats slit and bodies covered in marijuana and cash.
Police said Todashev told them the murders were provoked when a drug robbery went wrong and he and Tsarnaev feared they could be identified. Manukyan, Todashev’s wife, told Orlando’s Channel 9 TV that Tsarnaev called her husband this year after he injured his knee fighting. It was weeks before the deadly Boston bombing, but they only talked about the surgery, she said.
It is unclear how Todashev supported himself, or his martial arts hobby.
Manukyan told the Wall Street Journal she still shared a joint bank account with Todashev and helped support him. Chapkhavov said Todashev picked up odd jobs, but was supported in part by his girlfriend, who worked at a nearby Pizza Hut.
The manager there, however, told the Herald/Times it has been six months since she worked there.
Todashev listed the two-bedroom apartment at Sun Village Center as his address, but that is also home to a stream of Chechen friends, as many as eight who would come and go, Diaz said.
Several of his roommates said Todashev had recently purchased a ticket to return to Russia because he felt targeted by police after the Boston bombings, but the FBI asked him to cancel the tickets and he agreed.