PHENIX CITY, Ala.- Neighbors who knew John Russell Houser say he was a quirky kind of guy. They say he was always outside working on some kind of project. Neighbors began to not see Houser anymore towards the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014.
This was around the time when the Russell County Sheriff’s Office says Houser’s home was foreclosed on. In February of 2014, Norman Bone, a man who knew Houser years before purchased the home at an auction. Soon after, Bone, his daughter Beth and her boyfriend Dan Ramsel went to the home to ask Houser when he was going to leave the house. They say he used some foul language and slammed the door on them. This man was not the same man who Norman Bone knew years before. Bone says he was a fine man, a great father and husband. He also says Houser attended church every Sunday and even sang in the choir. “The guy who was here when I purchased the house and when I came and asked him to leave, that wasn’t the guy who I went to church with,” Bone said.
Bone says that Houser missed his court date for the eviction, and when he did, the new owners, Bone, his daughter and Ramsel along with a police officer went to the home. Upon arrival, Ramsel says the officer wanted to clear the house before they went in. After they went through the backdoor, the officer told them not to go in just yet. When the officer went inside, he told them to get back. That was because the officer said Houser booby-trapped the house. He disconnected a gas line, threw paint, poured concrete and other chemicals down the sink among other destruction.
Neighbor Rick Chancey, who has walked through homes where people have been evicted, but he says this one was different. “Everything that should have been on the wall, or in a closet or on a shelf was on the floor,” Chancey said. “You couldn’t hardly take a step without stepping on something.”
Photographs taken by Ramsel on February 24, 2014 show that there was one thing in the house that was not scattered along the floor: his estranged wife’s wedding dress. It was left untouched in a closet.
On Thursday, the FBI contacted Norman Bone telling him they needed to meet and check the house. Ramsel had a hunch. “He goes, I bet you that he is crazy enough that, that might be the shooter in Louisiana,” his girlfriend Beth Bone said. “I said there is no way. I know he’s crazy but, he didn’t do anything to these people over there, and I get chills saying that because I was scared when he almost blew my loved ones up.”
“I just had that feeling,” Ramsel said. “You know sometimes when you get that gut feeling? It was just something that I just had. You know? It’s gotta be him.”
When asked about whether he can look at the house the same again, Chancey said, “Every time you see it now, it just reminds you what just happened in Louisiana,” Chancey said. “That’ll hurt. That guy was here at one point. But, you actually look for, hey, good neighbors, better future.”
Chancey also told News 3 that a few years back, Houser placed fliers in neighbors mailboxes. He says they were apocalyptic in nature. They spoke about the economy crashing and that the neighborhood needed to band together and pool their resources together.
Ramsel and Bone still plan to move into the home.