Transcript: 181. Pazuzu Algarad’s House of Horrors | USA

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In 2014, behind the walls of a house in North Carolina were hundreds of flies, piles of human feces, tons of decayed animal parts, and dried blood. The resident of the home, a self-proclaimed Satanist, had been boasting about animal sacrifice, murders and claiming he had buried the bodies of his victims in his backyard for several years. All the warning signs were there, and yet, nobody seemed to take him seriously.


For a long time, Pazuzu Algarad had been able to continue his disturbing practices within his filthy home, before authorities finally realised he had been telling the truth all along…


>>Intro Music

Pazuzu Algarad was born John Alexander Lawson on August 12, 1978, in San Francisco, California, to Timothy and Cynthia Lawson. John was the couple's only child, and soon after his birth, the family moved to Forsyth County, North Carolina.


There is not much information about John's early years—not because he has never talked about his childhood but because John reinvented his story for each person he met. As the director and producer of the documentary "The Devil You Know," Patricia Gillespie said:


"He told people he was from Iraq, he told people his father was some high priest. But the people who knew him as a child described him as a little off-kilter, a little emotional. Things that might indicate the beginning of a mental illness: harming

animals, consuming alcohol and drugs at a very early age."


John's parents divorced in 1990 when he was 12 years old, and at some point afterward, he relocated to Clemmons, North Carolina, with his mother. John's father moved back to California and ceased to have a relationship with his son.


Eight years later, in 1998, Cynthia married Johnny James and for some time, all three lived together in a home on the outskirts of Clemmons at 2749 Knob Hill Drive, Winston-Salem. The area has a large Christian population, and John's presence was noticed very soon—and not in a good way.


John spent a lot of time alone, and in their small town, there were not many opportunities for young people to explore. So he turned to drinking and learning about Satanism and magic. Most children are fascinated by magic, but in John's case, he really got deep into witchcraft and black magic, so much so that he even told his classmates he had special powers. It is very likely that John purposely tried to get a reaction and was enjoying the feeling of creating chaos. John's peers were from mainly Christian families, and him talking about Satan and black magic would definitely have caused some discomfort. John was hungry for attention – no matter if it was good or bad. Remember that he was the only child, John did not have brothers and sisters to play with, and his parents were not there most of the time. John also had a hard time making friends—he did not really have any. So the only thing John had that gave him joy was his strange and dark hobbies and he let himself fully submerge into them.


John eventually dropped out of school before finishing his freshman year in high school. Part of it was because John was not interested in learning what they were teaching in the school anyway, but part of it was because of his fear of the world outside his home. John was sometimes so anxious, even thinking about getting out of the house, that he almost passed out. He was trying to manage his non-stop anxiety in his own way but drinking a 12-pack of beer every single day was not the best approach. In addition, John was apparently also torturing animals during this time which is never a good sign.


But despite John's problems, his mother said he was never a bad person. Cynthia said that the two had their arguments like every parent and child has and did not always agree, but she saw her son as a ‘little warrior’. Cynthia did acknowledge John had serious mental health issues and tried her best to get help for him. A psychiatrist eventually diagnosed John as being agoraphobic, schizophrenic, and psychotic, meaning it would have been necessary for him to continue treatment, but unfortunately, that was not possible. Cynthia ran out of money and was forced to manage her son by herself, which was not always easy, as she explained in an interview for The Devil You Know:


"You gotta remember the good things, and I block out any of the bad things. He wasn't by any means an angel, but he wasn't a bad person or a bogeyman or whatever phrases people have called him."


However, there is also another side to Cynthia's story. Her friend Carmen has said John's mental health issues and violent behaviour were all Cynthia's fault. According to Carmen, John's mother had her own problems with alcohol, drinking every day and leaving her son alone or with random people. And because Cynthia did not have her own life under control, it was difficult for her to deal with John's situation. We do not know if these allegations are true or not, but there is the question of how John was able to drink so much alcohol and use drugs every day at such a young age. Nevertheless, as Cynthia was unable to continue John's treatment, he continued his downward spiral.

Without proper education, John had a hard time finding himself a job, not that there necessarily was something he actually would have wanted to do. He did work briefly as a landscaper in his twenties but soon went on disability for his agoraphobia.


In 2002, John changed his name to Pazuzu Illah Algarad, saying it was for religious reasons. Those familiar with the novel and movie The Exorcist might recognize the name—in them, Pazuzu appears as a demon who possesses a 12-year-old girl Regan MacNeil. Cynthia's friend Carmen Duke once said that when she used to babysit John when he was around five to ten years old, the young boy loved watching scary movies, including A Nightmare on Elm Street and The Exorcist. So from a very young age, John – or Pazuzu as we will call him from now on – had enjoyed everything spooky and frightening.


However, it is interesting to note that the writer William Peter Blatty did not come up with a completely new character for his book but found inspiration from an Assyrian/Babylonian demonic god who was most popular in the first Millennium BCE. Pazuzu is actually the only Mesopotamian demon to have starred in a movie. However, while Pazuzu was the demon of the underworld and capable of destruction, it was believed he had another side. Very often, Pazuzu was actually invoked for protection from evil—it is safe to say John did not have that in mind when he looked for a new name for himself. It was clear that Pazuzu Algarad wanted to reinvent himself and be feared, as an editor of the Camel City Dispatch, Chad Nance said:


"Pazuzu had done everything he could to make himself seem scary to the people in town. He was trying to freak people out. He claimed to sacrifice animals, he claimed to be able to control the weather, he filed his teeth down ... he had tattoos printed over his face. He became Winston-Salem's own Manson-esque icon of depravity."


In addition, Pazuzu had stopped bathing and cleaning his teeth—which he had filed down to points while high on meth—claiming that personal hygiene "stripped … the body of its defenses in warding off infection and illness." Pazuzu claimed he could control the weather and started a new religion that mixed Luciferianism and Islam—two incredibly discordant religions. Pazuzu often wore a turban, but at the same time, he had a huge tattoo on his forearm that read "SATAN." Pazuzu had also tattooed a Nazi symbol on himself alongside a demon, numbers 666 and Lucifer. Many doubt that Pazuzu ever actually was in any way religious but just wanted to make people feel uncomfortable and knew exactly how to do that in the Christian, post-9/11 community.


Around 2006, Pazuzu was in treatment for his mental health issues and substance abuse. During this time, he was taking Zoloft, which is used to treat depression and anxiety disorders. But as it goes, Pazuzu stopped taking the medication because it made him feel like a zombie. Pazuzu also left the treatment at the recovery services just to return in 2008, seeking help for his agoraphobia. At that time, Pazuzu was diagnosed with panic disorder, agoraphobia, social phobia and alcohol dependence. However, he was not diagnosed with psychosis as psychiatrists felt that Pazuzu's strange thoughts and beliefs could be attributed to his religion.


Pazuzu practiced a "Sumerian" religion that involved a monthly dark moon sacrifice: a sacrifice of an animal in the form of a satanic ritual. He performed these rituals in the family home, and Cynthia was aware of them and did not approve. However, she was afraid that if she told Pazuzu to stop, he would hurt himself. While many of Pazuzu's actions were done just to provoke reaction, it does seem like he believed his dark rituals would give him more power somehow. Perhaps he thought if he kept making these sacrifices, he would really become the demon, Pazuzu.


But while Pazuzu wanted to be feared – and many people were genuinely afraid of him – there were still others who wanted to be close to him. Pazuzu's former friend, Nate Anderson, later said:


"He had a twisted sort of charisma, it's the kind of charisma that isn't going to appeal to everyone. But certain minds are going to be drawn in by that: the misfits, the outcasts, people living on the edge or people who wanted to live on the edge."


Some of these people even considered themselves followers of Pazuzu. They came to his house because they knew it was free reign—there were no rules, no judgment. People were allowed to follow their darkest impulses and do whatever they wanted.


Pazuzu was also strangely popular amongst women. He had several girlfriends, even fiancées, vulnerable people who had come to the house without anywhere else to go. One of these women was Amber Burch.

Amber and Pazuzu were actually listed as a married couple on Facebook on November 1, 2009, even though they never legally married. Amber lived in Rock Hill, South Carolina, which is located about an hour and a half from Clemmons. She had just graduated from high school when she met Pazuzu—from there, Amber's life quickly took a turn for the worse. Amber's best friend, Katie Wagner Davis, said that Amber grew distant from her friends and family, and like Pazuzu, she stopped showering. In addition, Amber shaved off her eyebrows and filed her teeth. Apparently, she wanted to be able to better bite into animals during ritual sacrifices. Katie also said that Amber told her she and Pazuzu would cut each other and drank each other's blood. And still, after hearing all this, Katie agreed to go and meet Pazuzu when Amber asked her in late 2009. 


As soon as she stepped inside the house at 2749 Knob Hill Drive, Katie felt like she was punched in the face by the horrible smell. Katie mentioned the stench to Pazuzu, saying the home smelled like death. Pazuzu simply replied, "yeah, that's just the bodies in the basement." That would not be the first or the last time Pazuzu dropped a hint something was going on inside the basement of the house.


Another friend of Pazuzu, "Krazy Dave" Adams, described his experience in the house by saying:


"We just hung out and chilled around and whatnot, maybe did a little bit of heroin

every now and again. Just a crazy s--t-ton of drinking, cut ourselves and each other, maybe drank the blood of a bird or so. Just all around having a good time. There

were no rules, there was nothing you had to abide by. You could piss on his carpet, you could smash a TV, you could hit somebody in the head with a beer bottle, you could throw a knife at his wall, it just didn't matter."


There was apparently only one rule if you wanted to enter the house, and that rule, Pazuzu had written down and put on the solid black front door. The note read:


"No gang members allowed. Anyone that dresses the same, has the same badge and call themselves the authority of a land they did not create, they only seized

though terrorism has no permission to enter this land, unless you are a native, since

this is their land. Since this is the first amendment of your fake laws, for we see you are guilty until proven innocent. If you can make laws, so can we. So be it."


Otherwise, Pazuzu clearly did not care what people were doing inside his home—and his mother's home. All this time, people were doing drugs, drinking, having sex and defecating wherever they pleased, while Cynthia also lived in the house. It seemed that as long as they stayed out of her room, Cynthia did not care what was going on—which is a little hard to believe as the home was in an unimaginable condition. The smell that came from the house at 2749 Knob Hill Drive every time the door was opened was unbearable. One of Pazuzu's female friends later said in an interview that when she went to the house for the first time, she was hit with the strongest smell she had ever smelled in her whole life. The people who spent time inside for long periods of time had to be out of their minds—drunk or on drugs—to be able to survive the stench.


Pazuzu would not only entertain his visitors by sacrificing rabbits and birds, but he would also cut himself and drink his own blood. Often the audience would then follow their leader's example and do the same. So there was not just human faeces and urine all over the place but blood from humans and animals in addition to empty bottles, needles and garbage. Furthermore, the walls were hidden under strange posters, pictures, and satanic symbols. Yet Pazuzu, his mother and their five dogs continued living there. 


According to "Krazy Dave," Pazuzu kept rather unusual things inside the dishwasher—a bunch of different types of weapons. The weapons alone might not have been alarming, but Pazuzu also went around telling stories about how he killed homeless people for fun. According to Pazuzu, he shot and stabbed people to death and once hid a person in his basement. Pazuzu continued by saying that if his friends ever saw somebody coming out of the basement, they should not let them leave. As mentioned before, it was not just once or twice that Pazuzu said things like this, but it seemed like nobody took him seriously. Of course, Pazuzu's friends were high on drugs most of the time, and they could not understand what he was saying, nor did they really listen. And those who understood most likely thought it was just part of Pazuzu's way of boosting his terrifying image.


Bianca Heath lived with Pazuzu for a month and had heard discussing killings and cannibalism. Pazuzu bragged he had murdered two sex workers and eaten their flesh before burning their bodies and burying the remains in his backyard. But like everyone else, Bianca also assumed Pazuzu was lying:


Paz told everyone. But I never believed him. I’m sure no one else believed him either. He laughed about the skeletal remains when telling the story of why he did what he did ... I never once saw the skeleton bodies, I honestly thought he was lying, now I’m not sure what to believe."


In addition, Krazy Dave recalled one time when Pazuzu had threatened him with a large knife, saying:


"I've done something. You're gonna help me dig this hole, or I'm gonna kill you."


Krazy Dave was not the only person treated badly by Pazuzu. A woman named Sylvia LaBelle—a daughter of a preacher and active in her church—met Pazuzu in 2009. Unsurprisingly, Sylvia did not want to have anything to do with Pazuzu and his lifestyle, but somehow, he was able to make her come inside the house one night. There, Pazuzu forced her to watch highly disturbing homemade porn. Sylvia noted that in the video, Pazuzu was wearing a bloody bandana—but what Sylvia did not know was that the bandana belonged to a man who was missing. Pazuzu continued telling Sylvia that he was a gatekeeper to hell, which was not too far from the truth.


Somehow, Pazuzu had never had serious issues with law enforcement, even though he had been arrested several times. First, he was convicted of larceny back in 2008 but was only placed on probation for the next few years. Then, in 2010, Pazuzu was convicted of misdemeanour assault of his own mother. Apparently, Pazuzu had put Cynthia in a chokehold and held her so tightly she could not breathe. In addition, Pazuzu's fiancée Amber was accused of slapping and attempting to beat Cynthia further. However, nothing more came of it as Cynthia chose not to press charges.


Pazuzu also found his way out of an even more serious incident when in 2010 the body of a 30-year-old Joseph Chandler was found near the Yadkin River by police on June 7 after his mother reported him missing. He had been shot to death in the exact same location where Pazuzu often went to torture and kill animals. However, it was not Pazuzu who was convicted of killing Joseph, but a man named Nicholas Rizzy. The police did accuse Pazuzu of concealing information from investigators and allowing a murder suspect to stay at his house. He was charged and convicted with accessory after the fact of involuntary manslaughter—but again, Pazuzu was released on probation shortly after.


The same day Pazuzu was arrested, he underwent a psychiatric evaluation in Dorothea Dix Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. It is not necessarily a standard procedure to send someone to be evaluated so quickly, but authorities had a good reason to think there was something seriously wrong with Pazuzu. A psychiatrist in Dorothea Dix Hospital prescribed Ativan to help Pazuzu with his anxiety, but there was little to no effect. He also underwent alcohol detoxification and was given medicine for high cholesterol and antibiotics for a burn wound on his arm. Once again, a psychiatrist confirmed the diagnosis of agoraphobia and schizophrenia, saying that Pazuzu's anxiety "made him a prisoner of his own home." There were also signs of a possible personality disorder. After the evaluation, it was recommended that mental health and substance abuse treatment should be a mandatory part of Pazuzu's release—but it seems like he was back to his old habits very quickly.


In the court documents, officers alleged that Pazuzu performed ‘satanic rituals’ and animal sacrifices at the Clemmons home and thought it was a good idea to keep a close eye on him.


That same year, in 2010, the police actually searched Pazuzu's property after a woman named Stacey Carter reported her former partner Joshua Fredrick Wetzler missing, saying she had heard a rumour he had been killed and his body was buried behind the Knob Hill house. At the same time, the police received a tip stating that the body of a man named Tommy Welch's may also be buried in the same place. 


A search warrant was issued on February 23, 2010, and the authorities headed out to investigate Pazuzu's backyard. There was just one big problem—the police did not have access to proper equipment used to search for buried bodies. They could not just blindly dig here and there, hoping to find something. Imaging devices or ground penetrating radar would have pointed them to the right locations. But apparently, the police did not want to wait to have access to the equipment and instead used cadaver dogs to search the property. Dogs can be very effective, but in this case, they did not find anything—most likely due to all the dead animals and other smelly garbage Pazuzu had all over his backyard. So this time, the investigators left the Knob Hill house empty-handed.


Then, after years of putting up with his son's behaviour, Cynthia went to the police on November 8, 2011, and told them she had witnessed a murder in her own house a couple of years before. According to Cynthia, she had heard a gunshot, and as she went to investigate, she saw Amber holding a rifle and standing next to an unresponsive man lying on a couch. However, just Cynthia's words were not enough for the police, they needed concrete evidence, and so they asked if Pazuzu's mother could search the house. After Cynthia refused, the police simply decided to let it go.


That same year, Pazuzu was charged with an assault on another woman, to which he pleaded guilty. And still, after everything the authorities had heard about this man, he was once again sentenced to probation only. But even Pazuzu Algarad's luck did finally run out when Iraq War veteran and one-time friend Matt Flowers went to the police in 2014 with his suspicions and convinced them that the Knob Hill house needed to be thoroughly searched. 


In the end, it had taken the authorities five years to actually go and search Pazuzu's home—even though several people had come to them saying that something terrible was going on in the self-proclaimed demon's house. People had told the police is so many words there were bodies buried in the backyard and they had witnessed murders, and yet, Pazuzu had remained free all this time. It seemed like not only Pazuzu's friends were intimidated by him but the police too. Pazuzu had a firm hold of everybody around him, including his mother. And, of course, it is very likely that the authorities did not simply believe Pazuzu's friends or did not want to waste their time listening to them as they were drug addicts and other low-lifes. But when a war veteran came to them telling a similar story, suddenly, things started to happen.


On October 5, 2014, officers arrived at 2749 Knob Hill Drive together with the State Bureau of Investigation, medical examiners and forensic anthropology team. They began to go through the backyard, which was absolutely filthy, which could have made the search difficult, but it was actually relatively easy to see where the ground had been disturbed. So easy, in fact, that many have said you can see the location clearly in the pictures taken from Pazuzu's backyard during the initial search years earlier. Yet, in 2010 the police had somehow missed two shallow graves next to a fire pit area. But this time around, they discovered two sets of human remains in addition to animal corpses that were littering the property.


35-year-old Pazuzu Algarad and his fiancé, 24-year-old Amber Burch, were arrested immediately after the discovery of the bodies and were charged with one count of murder and one count of accessory after the fact. Shortly after the arrest, Pazuzu's second fiancée, 28-year-old Krystal Matlock, was charged in connection with the death of one person whose body was found.


The two remains were identified on October 13 as Joshua Fredrick Wetzler and Tommy Dean Welch, both had gone missing back in 2009. Authorities believed that Joshua was killed that summer and Tommy later in October. Both had died from gunshot wounds —Joshua had been shot at least seven times with a 22. caliber rifle, three times in his head and four in his torso. Tommy had been shot at least once to the back of his head when he was sitting on a couch in Pazuzu's home. All the details are not known, but allegedly, Pazuzu killed Joshua and hid his body in the basement before burying him in the backyard with Amber’s help. And allegedly, Amber shot Tommy and Pazuzu helped her with the burial. Apparently, Pazuzu had used bleach and cat litter on the bodies while they were in the basement to hide the smell—even though it most likely was not necessary considering the condition of his house. 


After the discovery of her son's remains, Joshua's mother, Martha Wetzler, said in an interview:


"I'm not even sure how I feel. I'm kind of numb. I want to know why, why he did that. But I'm not so sure I'll get an answer to that."


And that is the thing. Nobody knows for sure why Pazuzu did what he did. The media surely wanted to paint a picture of terrible satanic rituals and sacrifices done by this demon-like person. In the God-fearing community, it was easy to portray Pazuzu like that—people were afraid of him already. To them, Pazuzu was the devil. Patricia Gillespie commented on the media frenzy:


"People have realized that sex and violence sells and that was leaned in to in the media such that a lot of the facts were obscured. There's certainly a lot of elements

of an adult nature. [Some outlets] were calling it a 'sex cult' – and it's like, well … it wasn't really a sex cult. It was a bunch of people living in a dirty house. It was a

bunch of girls that were more or less being abused to the point that they abused other people. Because they were left in a dirty house with a lot of drugs — they were

hit and threatened. I think it's easier to say, 'Oh look, the brides of Satan!' than it is to point to systemic misogyny and a general disregard for poor people."


The media really did their best to sensationalize Pazuzu's lifestyle, but he had also worked hard for that image. Many just seemed to forget this man was severely mentally ill—in his head, Pazuzu might have genuinely believed he was a demon who gained power through sacrifice. He might have even thought that moving from animals to humans might make him even more powerful. A practicing Satanist and member of the Satanic Temple, Liz Bradley commented on how actual Satanists have attempted to distance themselves from Pazuzu's actions:


"Obviously, people are trying to pin him on us. He clearly was a messed-up person. I don't know why anyone would take anything he says super seriously. People love to use the scapegoat of Satan. We want to look for a solution or an answer, and since mental health is difficult to understand, we can just point at Satan — especially in this particular case because the guy had a bunch of face tattoos."


In the course of Pazuzu's life, there were many possibilities for him to get the help he desperately needed, but it never happened. More than once, he was convicted and was just placed on probation without proper monitoring and an actual treatment plan. Time and time again, Pazuzu slipped through the mental health and criminal justice systems—a lot of times due to a lack of resources. And because nobody was able to intervene early enough, Pazuzu eventually crossed paths with Joshua and Tommy.


It is unclear how the two men had exactly found their way to Pazuzu's house of horror. Joshua was a father who had once had an amazing plan of building a farm with horses together with his wife. But after financial issues and losing his job, Joshua had drifted into the wrong group and began selling drugs to get by. In "The Devil You Know," Cynthia says that Joshua was one amongst the many wayward souls who found his way to their home, looking for camaraderie:


"They were just friends, as far as I knew. They liked to sing music. He didn't have anywhere to stay ... They turned his heat off or something and [he asked if he could] sleep on the couch. I didn't have a problem with it. I enjoyed John having friends." 


Cynthia added that she could not think of any reason for her son to kill Joshua:


"I don't know where it came from. I really honestly think that he just didn't know what he was doing ... He was not himself. He was on drugs or alcohol or both, probably."


The reason for Tommy's death is a mystery too and will most likely remain that way. He lived with his mother in North Carolina and had planned to have a pizza night with his brother Rusty and Rusty's wife and kids but never made it to their apartment. For years, his family searched for answers to where Tommy had gone that day. Even though they now have the answer to that, they still do not know why.


Nevertheless, on March 9, 2017, Amber Burch pleaded guilty to the second-degree murder of Tommy Welch, the accessory after the fact for Joshua Wetzler's death and armed robbery. She was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years and eight months with a maximum of 39 years and two months.


A few months later, on June 5, 2017, Krystal Matlock pleaded guilty to conspiracy to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder for her role in Joshua's death. She was sentenced to a minimum of three years and two months with a maximum of four years and ten months. Krystal did apologize to the victims' families, saying that she could have come forward but was too scared to do so.


But unlike his fiancées, Pazuzu Algarad never appeared in court. On October 28, 2015, almost exactly one year after the discovery of the bodies at his home Pazuzu was found unresponsive inside his cell with a wound on his arm. He was pronounced dead soon after. Pazuzu's reign of terror might have ended there, but the questions did not. With police withholding most of the details of Pazuzu's death, the public can only guess what happened to him. We do not know how he died exactly, if there were any weapons inside his cell or if he was on suicide watch at the time. However, many have speculated that Pazuzu bled to death from a deep cut on his left arm caused by his sharp teeth. He did not need a separate weapon to commit suicide—he already had blades inside his mouth.


However, some people interviewed in "The Devil You Know" were not entirely sure if Pazuzu had really taken his life. Patricia Gillespie says that we are never going to have all the facts:


"At the very least, it shouldn't have happened. Whatever sharp objects was used … the fact is this guy died and there was such a vague press conference about it, it's frightening. That to me is the real horror."


Patricia also added that she refuses to condemn Pazuzu as an evil person:


"Of course Pazuzu and Amber actually shot and killed these people, but there were many points at which someone could have interceded. We, as a community, sort of messed that up. We should check on the weird kid a little more, or maybe we should hold our police a little more accountable."


During the investigation, authorities released a 9-minute video of the Clemmons House of Horrors, showing its disturbing condition to the public. Needless to say, people were even more convinced Pazuzu had really practiced demonic rituals inside his home. That alone caused residents of the area to want to get rid of the whole building, but due to Pazuzu and his followers' lifestyle, the house was also deemed uninhabitable. And so, the house at 2749 Knob Hill Drive, Winston-Salem, was demolished in April 2015, six months before Pazuzu committed suicide.


Even though nothing is left of Pazuzu and his horror house, his bizarre case continues to shock people. In the end, too many things were handled poorly, and so many things could have been done differently to prevent several lives from being destroyed. Pazuzu Algarad's story is not just about a crazy man who wanted to be a demon but an example of why mental illness has to be taken seriously, and giving help to people who suffer from mental illness should be paramount.

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