The family of Katherine Russell, Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s wife, claimed over the weekend that they never really knew the “real” Tamerlan. But they knew their daughter, and watched as she transformed from a regular American girl into a bride of Islam over the course of about three years.

Katherine Russell, the widow of Boston bomb suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was ‘an all-American girl who was brainwashed’ by her extremist husband according to one schoolfriend.

Today MailOnline has gained the first glimpse and pictures of the early life of the woman who, according to those who knew her best, was ‘totally transformed’ by Tsarnaev.

At high school her personal motto was ‘Do something about it or stop complaining’. She dreamed of going to college and joining the Peace Corps.

She urged her friends to ‘lighten up and enjoy the small things,’ in life.

Instead she met Tsarneav, 26, a disenfranchised man who came to America from his troubled homeland of Chechnya who rapidly had her in his thrall.

By the time she was 21 she had married him and borne his child, Zahara, now three. She had converted to Islam, hidden her tumble of chestnut hair beneath the hijab and undergone a change so profound that today few friends profess to truly understand it.

They seem to have met during his radicalization. She is the woman he assaulted in 2009, the legal trouble that could have gotten him deported. They reconciled, she bore his child, and they spent six months apart when he went to Russia.

What role did their marriage play in his obtaining citizenship? Or in his staying in the US after the domestic violence in 2009? How much did she know about what he had obviously been planning for some time before last Monday?

One of the more unsettling aspects of all this is that, several years ago, al Qaeda started trying to recruit what they called “lily whites” — Caucasians and American citizens who speak English fluently and have no prior history of terrorism. These recruits would be trained in terrorist training camps, then fly under the radar in the US until activated. Is that what the Tsarnaevs were?

Mrs. Tsarnaev could well be innocent, and knew nothing about what her husband and brother-in-law were up to. But is that the way to bet?

Update: Tamerlan’s citizenship was still pending.