His mother worked in a spa and his wife was an all-American high school dancer – until they fell under the spell of the Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
The two central women in Tamerlan's life had been living very western existences until the man who dominated them demanded that they cover themselves up and become more devout.
His mother Zubeidat Tsarnaev arrived in America a decade ago and did a beautician's course. She went on to give what one client described as "damn good facials" at a spa.
She dressed in high heels and short skirts. It was initially Mrs Tsarnaev's concern that her party-going son might slip into a life of drinking, smoking and drugs that led both to explore their Islamic heritage.
Tamerlan then became more devout, encouraging his mother to do the same, she said.
"That's how he began to study the Koran and go deeper into Islam. And from that moment he gave up bad habits and we started to go deeper together, and pray together," she said.
"Tamerlan said to me, 'You know mama, you are pushing me toward the truth, but I would like you to wear a hijab. A woman in Islam should be concealed'."
After that, relations from Russia, communicating by Skype, were shocked to see her wearing a veil. She stopped working at the spa and only took clients at home.
A client, Alyssa Kilzer (23), a writer and yoga teacher, said Mrs Tsarnaev started referring to conspiracy theories about September 11, saying: "My sons know all about it."
Family members and acquaintances have described their belief that Tamerlan led his younger brother Dzhokhar into the fatal attack on the Boston marathon.
Dzhokhar was amiable when on his own, but became quiet and withdrawn in the presence of his imposing older brother, said their uncle, Ruslan Tsarni.
In 2009, Tamerlan married Katherine Russell, the daughter of a doctor and nurse from New England.
After they were married she converted to Islam, began wearing a hijab, and did not graduate.
Asked why she had converted, her lawyer Amato DeLuca said: "She believes in the tenets of Islam and of the Koran. She believes in God."
Last night, his aunt Patimat Suleimanova describ- ed how Tamerlan struggled to fit in during a trip to his ancestral homeland in southern Russia last year. She claimed that he seemed more American than Chechen and "did not fit into the Muslim life" in Russia's Caucasus. She said when Tsarnaev arrived in January 2012, he wore a winter hat with a little pompom, something no local man would wear, and "we made him take it off". The Tsarnaev family moved to the US a decade ago, but the suspects' parents are currently in Russia.
Their father said he hopes to go to the US this week to seek "justice and the truth".
Ms Suleimanova, who wore a pea-green headscarf, said her nephew prayed regularly and studied the Muslim holy book.
"He needed this. This was a necessity for him," she said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)