Facing eviction from his Alabama home in 2014, John Russell Houser set out to make sure no one else could ever live in that house.
He poured concrete down the drains and cemented the fuse box shut. He splattered paint and human waste all over the walls.
The new owners found Houser had it booby-trapped: the gas starter tube in the fireplace was twisted out and ignited, the logs removed.
‘He was hoping the house would catch on fire. That’s what the investigators told me,’ said Norman Bone, 77, who had bought the house for his daughter.
Bone showed the trashed home to CNN affiliate WRBL, which reported that the only part of the home spared from ruin was a closet where his estranged wife’s wedding dress was hanging up.
The man Bone once knew as a church-going neighbor had grown into someone better known by neighbors and colleagues as an angry provocateur.
Police say his anger culminated Thursday night in a slaughter at The Grand 16 theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, leaving two women dead and nine other people hurt.
For decades, Houser lived and worked in the same area where he owned that home, in Phenix City and the surrounding cities.
Since the early `90s, he had built a reputation as an oddball. It was then that he regularly appeared on a local television show, appearing opposite a Democrat as a radical Republican railing against women in the workplace and calling for violence against abortion providers.
‘He made a lot of wild accusations,’ said Calvin Floyd, who hosted the show on WLTZ-TV in Columbus for more than two decades.
‘He could make the phones ring.’
Yet Houser had a dark side that went way beyond talk. In 1989, court records say, he was accused of hiring someone to burn down a Columbus lawyer’s law office.
His wife and other relatives filed papers accusing him of domestic violence in 2008. ‘As many times as I had him on it was obvious he had a screw loose,’ Floyd said.
The son of a longtime city tax official in Columbus, Houser received degrees in accounting and law but never applied to take the bar exam in Alabama.
Houser posted on an online career website that he was an entrepreneur who owned and operated two nightclubs in Columbus and LaGrange in the 1980s and 1990s.
But his stint as a club operator ended sourly when he was accused of selling alcohol to minors at Rusty’s Buckhead Pub.
In April 2001, the LaGrange mayor and city council voted to revoke all of Houser’s alcoholic beverage pouring licenses based on five convictions of selling alcohol to minors in the span of a year from 1999 to 2000, according to a court filing.
Houser appealed, but the court found the mayor and council acted correctly. Houser put up the swastika banner in protest, according to an April 28, 2001, story in the LaGrange Daily News.
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