The gunman who killed two women and himself in a Louisiana movie theater Thursday night is the same John Russell "Rusty" Houser who vandalized and booby-trapped the Phenix City house a Columbus man bought 18 months ago for his daughter out of foreclosure -- years after they went to church with Houser and considered him incapable of such horror.
Norman Bone, 77, and his daughter, Beth Bone, stood outside the 32nd Street home that she said still isn't fit to be occupied 1 1/2 years after police accompanied them to seize the house and evict Houser.
On that March 2014 day, Houser was gone but left behind destruction "like a madman," Beth said: paint up and down the driveway and on the walls, torn comforters with "feathers all over the place," human feces in buckets, hundreds of cut-up goldfish in the pool and thrown around the house, cement in the tub and sinks, and the fuse box cemented shut.
The gas logs were disconnected, Norman said, and the gas line was turned up to the mantel piece and lit, with buckets of paint and gasoline around.
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"I consider myself lucky," Norman said. "If he was in that frame of mind to do what he'd done out there, he could have came back to Columbus and did the same thing to me and my family. He could have went ballistic any time."
Beth said she got "chills" realizing the man who murdered two strangers was the same one who set a trap in her home.
"I'm just glad that he didn't hurt me or anybody else," she said, holding back tears.
Norman said his heart goes out to the Houser family, whom he has known for about 20 years. They went to Eastern Heights Baptist Church in Columbus. Rusty attended Sunday school there, he said, and even preached a sermon. Rusty's wife sang in the choir, he said, and his mother taught Beth in the fourth grade at Wynnton Elementary School.
Asked to describe the Rusty he knew at church, Norman said with his voice cracking, "Good ol' guy, just one of the boys."
Around 2:30 a.m. Friday, an FBI agent called Norman and, without explaining why, asked for permission to search the house on 32nd Street in Phenix City. Norman and Beth's boyfriend met the authorities, including a Phenix City police officer, at a nearby Waffle House to be sure it wasn't a hoax.
"They blocked off the street, a bunch of cars," he said. "They came in with flashlights and dogs."
After the search, Norman asked what it was all about and was told, "Just watch the news."