The bizarre past of the La. theater gunman

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The man authorities said opened fire in a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater on Thursday grew up and lived, until recently, in the Columbus, Georgia area.

A mad house

The shootings came more than a year after John Russel Houser was evicted from his Phenix City, Alabama home due to foreclosure. The woman, whose family bought the home on the courthouse steps, grew up with him. Beth Bone knew the 59-year-old man as Rusty and said the man in the news is not the same person with whom they grew up and went to church with.

Bone told FOX 5’s Doug Evans about the disturbing scene Houser left behind in his former ranch-style home. Paint tossed on the driveway is the only physical evidence left, but the new owner recalls walking into a home rigged to explode.

Dan Ramsel, Bone’s boyfriend, said, “He had disconnected the gas line from the fireplace and lit it. And he had gas cans everywhere. He had chemicals. Magnesium on the downdraft stove.”

The discovery of the gas lines burning inside prompted the area to be promptly evacuated. Fire crews came in to deal with the immediate hazards.

Once the fires were out, the real cleanup on the house began. Broken glass spewed in the air vents, dead fish randomly thrown in room, and human feces smeared across the floors and walls not to mention the paint splattered everywhere, was just some of the filth that purposely plagued the house.

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Bone said she remains baffled by what she found in the foreclosed home.

“[He] had 30 days to put cement in toilets, in the sinks, dishwasher. It's taken a year to get everything out and no more remembrance of him,” said Bone.

The chaotic filth left behind was strikingly offset by pristine and pensive tableaux Houser had left in his former bedroom.

“Well, the whole house was destroyed and the only thing that was left in the master bedroom was her wedding gown and a picture of his child, but the whole house was destroyed,” said Bone. “Which I thought was really weird. Everything else he tore up.”

A state of mind

“My heart goes out to all the families over there. It goes out to my family that nothing has happened to them. They could have just as easily taken it out on us as he did the folks in Louisiana,” said Bone.

The FBI searched the house overnight, but wouldn’t tell Bone why. She said she figured it out by watching the news. It appears the Phenix City home was Houser’s last known permanent address. It brought back other memories to Bone and his former neighbors.

Neighbors told FOX 5’s Doug Evans that Houser grew increasingly “off the chain” over the years. They recalled how at one point while he lived there placing a note on each of his neighbor’s mailboxes proclaiming the end of times was near and they should come together to discuss polling resources to survive it.
Court documents obtained by FOX 5 News show that the probate court was petitioned by a family member to have Houser involuntarily committed "because he was a danger to himself and others." In 2008 Houser was ordered by the judge to be hospitalized and was taken into custody by the Carroll County Sheriff's Office. The documents stated that during that time he told his wife that once he got out of the hospital, "he would continue his erratic as well as threatening behavior" to try to stop his daughter's wedding. He was eventually committed to a hospital in Columbus, Georgia.

Growing up in Columbus

Houser grew up around Columbus, Georgia, the son of a Georgia tax commissioner and an elementary school teacher.

He earned a degree in accounting in 1988 from Columbus State University and enrolled in law school at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala. in 1994. He graduated four years later, but the Alabama State Bar said they have no record of him applying to take the bar exam.

A Columbus television host said Houser was a guest many times of his program. Calvin Floyd said he appeared on his show during the early 1990s advocating violence against people involved in abortions. Floyd described Houser as an "angry man."

That “angry man” went on to open fire in a movie theater, killing two people and wounding nine others before turning the gun on himself.

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