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Top 5 Longreads of the Week

Our favorite stories of the week, featuring the Boston Magazine, ESPN Magazine, Washingtonian, Mother Jones, and The New Yorker.
PUBLISHED: March 8, 2014

The Murders Before the Marathon

A triple murder investigation led by the FBI is potentially linked to Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Clandestine actions by the FBI leave friends and family members linked to the suspect with more questions, and a community is left wondering: Could solving this case have prevented the Boston Marathon bombings?

Anonymous FBI sources gave numerous accounts of Ibragim’s death to the press, managing to be both vague and contradictory. The agency claimed that, just before being shot, Ibragim had been sitting at a table, about to write a statement that would implicate both himself and Tamerlan in the Waltham murders. In some reports, he lunged at an FBI agent with a knife, while others said he used a pole or a broomstick. It was an agonizing development: The FBI claimed he had been killed at precisely the moment he was about to give the answers so many of us had been waiting for.

Whatever occurred in Ibragim’s apartment the night he was shot dead, his death put the FBI on the defensive. The agency quashed the coroner’s report, leading media outlets and the American Civil Liberties Union to call for an independent investigation. On its editorial page, the Globe declared that “the agency’s credibility is on the line” due to its lack of accountability in Ibragim’s death. Ibragim’s father accused the agency of “premeditated murder” and released photos of his son’s bullet-ridden corpse, showing that he’d been shot in the top of the head—even though the FBI contended that one of its agents had fired in self-defense. Instead of providing answers, the FBI’s investigation of Ibragim had turned into a sudden dead end.

PUBLISHED: March 1, 2014
LENGTH: 32 minutes (8130 words)

Sex and the Single Monk

A secretly recorded video of a monk having sex with a woman rocks a Cambodian community in Lowell, Mass. — just as plans for a $10 million temple to be built went underway to "help unite an immigrant community with a history of ugly feuding":

"Meas would later tell me that his interest in the temple 'was selfish in a way. I want to make Cambodian Americans proud of what we have. We don’t have a Cambodian school, we don’t have a cultural center to teach the Cambodian-American culture.' The temple, he said, would be more than a place of worship, it would be a symbol of unity.:

"Instead, nearly three years after it was first conceptualized, the project has reopened old wounds and ripped Lowell’s Cambodian community apart. Lawsuits have been filed with sordid allegations of financial improprieties involving CKBM and, most shocking, videotaped sexual hijinks involving a monk. Far from making an emergent community proud, the temple has so far been a source of outrage and embarrassment for the city’s Cambodians."
AUTHOR:Ted Siefer
PUBLISHED: Sept. 24, 2013
LENGTH: 19 minutes (4883 words)

Black & Blue

Damien Echols spent 18 years on death row as part of the "West Memphis Three" before being freed in 2011. He's now adjusting to domestic life in Salem, Mass.:

"Lucia Coale and her husband, Ed Schutte, found out about their new neighbors back in September, not long after Davis and Echols had signed the papers on the 1810 Colonial a few houses down. Someone on the street sent out an email: 'Oh my gosh, guess who’s moving here?' Coale remembers it saying. 'We all went through a period where we checked [Echols] out on the Internet and watched Paradise Lost.' Coale herself began to follow Echols on Twitter, which is how she learned that weeks after they’d moved in, he and Davis still didn’t own a TV, which meant that every time Echols had a television appearance, which in those days was often, they were heading down to the Hawthorne Hotel to watch it.

"Some time later, Coale and Schutte were out on a bike ride when they saw Echols and Davis out walking. 'I tend to be a very chatty person, so I just kind of walked up and I said, ‘Hi, you don’t know me, but I’m your neighbor,’' Coale recalled. They invited Echols and Davis over to watch TV whenever they wanted. 'I didn’t know we would become friends with them,' Schutte said. 'Are you going to be friends with someone who was in solitary confinement for years? How would that work?'"
PUBLISHED: June 24, 2013
LENGTH: 14 minutes (3612 words)

Naked Joe

The story of Joe Knowles, who in 1913, ventured into the Maine wilderness in nothing but a jockstrap and allegedly survived without assistance for eight weeks:

"On his own, Knowles kept hiking. It was raining. In bare feet, he slipped in the mud, but still he trudged on over the flank of Bear Mountain. Eventually, he spied a deer. 'She looked good to me,' he wrote, 'and for the first time in my life I envied a deer her hide. I could not help thinking what a fine pair of chaps her hide would make and how good a strip of smoked venison would taste a little later. There before me was food and protection, food that millionaires would envy and clothing that would outwear the most costly suit the tailor could supply.' Knowles resisted the temptation to kill the deer, deciding to live within the game laws of Maine. He was hungry, wet, and cold, and also still a bit thrilled and agitated about being out there sans jockstrap. He could not sleep. What to do? He tossed off a few pull-ups. 'On a strong spruce limb I drew myself up and down, trying to see how many times I could touch my chin to the limb. When I got tired of this, I would run around under the trees for a while.'"
PUBLISHED: March 25, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5173 words)

Finalists for the 2013 City & Regional Magazine Awards

Patrick Doyle of Boston Magazine has compiled a full list of the nominated stories for this year's City & Regional Magazine Awards.
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2013

Good Will Hunting: An Oral History

Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams and Gus Van Sant reflect on the film 15 years later:

"Damon: The very first day, I remember we started crying, because it was a scene between Robin and Stellan. And when Gus called action and we watched these guys—I mean accomplished actors—do our scene verbatim, we had waited so long for this to happen. I remember just sitting next to Ben and I had tears rolling down my cheeks because I was just so happy and relieved that it was really happening.

"Affleck: We did tear up a little bit. But why is Matt saying this shit? Like, he holds his fucking tongue for 15 years and now because it’s Boston magazine, he says he started crying? His career is not over, you know what I mean? He needs people to believe that he’s like Jason Bourne or whatever!"
PUBLISHED: Jan. 5, 2013
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5167 words)

The Loved One

The troubled life of Sage Christensen, who was born in the Ukraine and adopted by a man who would later be accused of sexual abuse. Christensen would eventually be charged with murder:

"After being taken from Myers, Sage spent the next three years in a blur of foster homes. Myers fought for custody, spending more than $300,000 on attorneys and eventually filing for bankruptcy, but was ultimately unsuccessful.

"In June 2005 Sage was adopted by Dean Christensen and Jane Olingy, a married couple in Wilmington. He became Sage Christensen, his third name in 12 years. A social worker told his new parents about his rough upbringing in the Ukraine and about Myers. Sage, they were informed, had recently torn up every picture he had of Myers. 'When he first moved in with us,' Jane tells me, 'he made sure the doors were locked 24/7, even during the day…. He told us there was always the shadow of a man outside of his window.' At times, Sage went to bed with a knife under his pillow. He had frequent nightmares, and woke his new parents in the middle of the night with his screaming in Russian. Sage’s parents say that he was generally outgoing and playful, but became quiet whenever the subject of Myers arose.

"Still, the couple fell in love with the 12-year-old’s teasing sense of humor, quick mind, and desire to be part of a family. Olingy calls their first three years together 'the honeymoon.' But when Sage hit puberty, the trouble started. Small and skinny, Sage was picked on. A girl shoved him into a locker during his first day at middle school. Bigger students bullied him. 'We told Sage that if you start a fight, we won’t support you,' Christensen says. 'But you have to stand up for yourself.'"
PUBLISHED: Aug. 1, 2012
LENGTH: 20 minutes (5226 words)

The Audition

On a percussionist's nerve-wracking audition for the Boston Symphony Orchestra:

"The classical audition ranks among the world’s toughest job interviews. Each applicant has 10 minutes at most to play in a way so memorable that he stands out among a lineup of other world-class musicians. Tetreault has prestigious degrees from the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and the Royal Academy of Music in London, and he’s studied under the world-renowned performer Christopher Lamb, but at his audition, the only thing that will matter is how he performs in the most pressure-packed few minutes of his life. If he squeezes his glockenspiel mallet too hard, choking the sound, or if he overthinks the dotted rhythm or fails to adjust to the BSO’s oddly scaled xylophone bars and misses a few notes, the whole thing will be over. Mark Volpe, managing director of the Boston Symphony, sums up the audition process this way: 'I want someone to be so brilliant that there’s no question.'"
PUBLISHED: July 1, 2012
LENGTH: 17 minutes (4389 words)