A woman who lost a leg in the Boston Marathon bombing described feeling as if she were in a horror movie: wounded people all around her, including someone covered with soot, dazed and “walking around like a zombie.”
At the federal death penalty trial of bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on Thursday, Roseann Sdoia told how she’d gone to the race as a spectator on April 15, 2013. She saw two flashes of white light at her feet near the finish line, looked down, and for a split second thought to herself: I’m wearing strappy sandals.
Then, sobbing, she told jurors she quickly realized she was looking at her foot dangling from her mangled leg.
“It was almost like I was starring in a horror movie, as everybody else was around me,” she said.
Sdoia walked to the witness stand on an artificial leg, plainly visible below the hemline of her skirt.
Prosecutors also showed the jury a grisly photo of her shredded leg.
Tsarnaev’s lawyer has admitted the former college student took part in the bombings. But in a bid to save Tsarnaev from a death sentence, she argued that he was influenced by his older brother, Tamerlan, who was killed in a getaway attempt days after the bombing.
Also Thursday, the father of an 8-year-old boy who was killed described the moment when he looked down at his son’s pale, torn body and realized he wouldn’t make it.
“I saw a little boy who had his body severely damaged by an explosion,” Bill Richard told the jury, “and I just knew from what I saw that there was no chance, the color of his skin, and so on.”
Martin Richard was one of three people killed in the bombing near the finish line of the race. The boy’s younger sister, 6-year-old Jane, had a leg blown off, while their older brother, Henry, suffered minor injuries.
Their father spoke in a slow, halting voice but remained largely composed as he described the chaos and confusion. Tsarnaev, 21, sat at a defense table no more than 15 feet away from him. He showed no reaction to the testimony and appeared to look straight ahead.
Richard said he scooped Jane up in one arm and took Henry in the other and “tried to shield both of their eyes” from the carnage around them as he took them away.
As Richard testified, the jury watched a video of the father rushing to help his children and a grievously wounded Jane struggling to get up, only to fall down.
A prosecutor showed Richard a photo and circled a face — a young man in a white baseball cap worn backward — who could be seen just a few feet behind Jane and Martin as the youngsters stood on a metal barricade, watching the race. It was Tsarnaev, shortly before the two pressure-cooker bombs went off.
Richard said he himself suffered shrapnel injuries, burns on his legs and two perforated eardrums. His wife, Denise, was blinded in one eye and had other injuries.
Jeff Bauman — who lost both legs in the attack and was photographed being wheeled away that day in one of the most widely seen images of the tragedy — testified that he locked eyes with one of the bombers shortly before the twin blasts.
“He was alone. He wasn’t watching the race,” said Bauman, who walked slowly into court on two prosthetic legs. “I looked at him, and he just kind of looked down at me. I just thought it was odd.”
Later, from his hospital bed, Bauman remembered the man’s face clearly enough to give the FBI a description of someone authorities say turned out to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Before testimony began Thursday, Tsarnaev’s lawyers complained to the judge that the survivors’ testimony from the previous day went into too much detail about the effect on their lives. They said that kind of testimony should be reserved for the punishment phase of the trial. U.S. District Judge George O’Toole Jr. said the testimony did not go too far.
The trial resumes Monday.