Not many of us have the luxury of having neighbors who rarely do things we don’t like, a little noise here or an excess lightning fixture there. It’s hard enough getting along with the person next door but you just might consider yourself lucky that you never lived next to Pazuzu Algarad.
A self-proclaimed Satanist, Algarad spent his days drinking blood, making animal sacrifices and engaging in orgies in his home. It was not until his arrest and subsequent murder charge that the nightmare came to an end.
Pazuzu Algarad, originally named John Lawson, was primarily raised by his mother, Cynthia James. The pair moved from California to Forsyth County, where Cynthia grew up. There, Cynthia remarried and the family moved into a home on Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons, where John changed his name to Pazuzu Algarad and was tied to the deaths of three men.
Not much is known with absolute certainty about his early life as Algarad took pride in reinventing stories surrounding his childhood. He was born on August 12, 1978, in San Francisco, California originally named John Alexander Lawson.
from John Lawson to Pazuzu Algarad
In a documentary series dedicated to telling the story of Pazuzu Algarad, The Devil You Know, which was produced and directed by Patricia Gillespie, she gave an insight into how difficult it was to get a true grasp of his life.
As she would later put it: “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.”
Earlier, Algarad was diagnosed with several mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and agoraphobia at a young age. His mother, Cynthia initially got Algarad the psychiatric help he needed but she soon ran out of money and could no longer afford treatment for him. Consequently, his mental health deteriorated much rapidly.
In an interview for The Devil You Know, Cynthia would describe her son by saying: “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.”
The Name: Pazuzu Illah Algarad
While the name Pazuzu originally refers to the king of the demons of the wind and son of the god Hanbi in ancient Mesopotamian religion, John Lawson took to it as a sign of homage to the Assyrian demon referenced in the movie The Exorcist. The original demonic Pazuzu represented the south-western wind and is regarded as the bearer of storms and drought in ancient culture.
In 2002, John Lawson changed his name to Pazuzu Illah Algarad, saying in an affidavit that the name change was for religious reasons. The affidavit did not offer any details about his religion and subsequently, he alienated himself from society.
He covered his face in tattoos and filed his teeth into points, he would also tell people that he regularly conducted animal sacrifices and even claimed to be able to control the weather. His behavior was seen as a major rebellion against Clemmons and its residents –a town known for being predominantly Christian.
As expected, Algarad soon attracted others who felt socially excluded toward him and encouraged them to engage in debauchery. Among those attracted were Amber Burch and Krystal Matlock, two of his (known) fiancés who frequented his home.
As Nate Anderson, his former friend would later describe his ability to attract like-minded people: “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.”
Pazuzu Algarad’s Horrific House
Pazuzu Algarad’s house at 2749 Knob Hill Drive soon became a hot-spot for those outcasts and misfits who would eventually find their way to him. They could come and stay for as long as they wanted. Algarad showed no sign of care about what they did in his home.
Algarad’s home at Knob Hill
Activities at Algarad’s home included: self-harm, drinking the blood of birds, performing rabbit sacrifices, doing copious drugs, and staging orgies. As a code officer would later remark about the dire conditions of the house – there was garbage everywhere, animal carcasses lying around, and blood smeared on the walls alongside satanic messages and pentagrams were painted all over the property.
Pazuzu Algarad: Timeline of criminal activities
For simplicity and clarity, we have taken the time to arrange the events that occurred sequentially. The sequence is further subdivided into three distinct categories.
Crimes and Accusations
Algarad’s run-ins with the law indicate his troubled history and he had more than a few.
May 28, 2010
Pazuzu Illah Algarad was accused of putting his mother, Cynthia Lawson, in a chokehold in the house they shared at 2749 Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons. Court documents presented by law enforcement officers alleged that Algarad regularly performed “satanic rituals” and animal sacrifices at the Clemmons home.
Pazuzu Illah Algarad, then 31, was charged with accessory after the fact of involuntary manslaughter. The charge was related to the shooting to death of Joseph Emmrick Chandler, whose remains were found in September 2010 on a boat ramp in Donnaha Park in Yadkin County. Algarad was accused of providing false information thereby misleading investigators and allowing a suspect in the shooting to stay at his home.
Psychiatrists who interviewed Algarad said he suffered from schizophrenia, agoraphobia and alcoholism, but found him mentally competent enough to stand trial. The report also mentioned that he had intentionally filed down his teeth and had poor hygiene and body odor.
“And he admitted that he bathed no more than once a year, and had not brushed his teeth in years,” the report said. “He felt such actions stripped … the body of its defenses in warding off infection and illness.”
August 23, 2011
Pazuzu Algarad pleaded guilty to misdemeanor and assault on a female and was placed on probation for 12 months.
September 22, 2011
Algarad’s girlfriend, Amber Burch, was accused of slapping and attempting to choke Cynthia, Algarad’s mother. Burch was later convicted and sentenced to 12 months of probation. Two months after the conviction, she was charged with assault and battery, with police alleging she hit Algarad in the face.
Authorities kept an eye on Algarad after his 2011 conviction. They previously issued a search warrant to investigate the backyard of Algarad’s Knob Hill house. However, without sufficient evidence, the investigators didn’t know where to look. Even a tip-off from Cynthia herself about her son’s supposed girlfriend shooting a man wasn’t enough to initiate a thorough investigation.
Soon, Algarad’s luck would run out on October 5, 2014. The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, assisted by the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, the North Carolina State University Forensic Anthropology Unit, and the Medical Examiner’s Office from Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, executed a search warrant that uncovered shallow graves in the backyard containing skeletal remains.
October 5, 2014
Authorities executed a search warrant at 2749 Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons. Crews uncovered the skeletal remains of two people buried in shallow graves in the backyard. Warrants would later reveal the two were killed in 2009.
Pazuzu Illah Algarad, then 35, and Amber Nicole Burch, then 24, were each charged with one count of murder and one count of accessory after the fact to murder.
October 6, 2014
Algarad and Amber Burch
Pazuzu Algarad and Amber Burch had their first court appearance, both asking for court-appointed attorneys. A third person, Krystal Nicole Matlock, then 28, was charged in connection with the death of one person whose body was found at the Clemmons home. Matlock was accused of helping bury the man.
October 7, 2014
County housing officials declare the house Pazuzu Algarad and Amber Burch shared with Cynthia Lawson unfit for human habitation. The house was filled with trash, mold and animal feces, according to one official.
A code officer said in a report that the house contained hundreds of dead and living flies, feces and urine that had been ground into the flooring and walls, decayed animal parts and remains, dried blood-like substance on the walls and animal cages with carcasses.
Photos also showed the front door bore markings such as a picture of a skull and crossbones and the words, “Evil will triumph.” A phrase that appeared to be written in another language might have been a clumsy attempt at “the house of devil worship” or “the house of devil worshipers, according to an Arabic language professor.
October 13, 2014
Two bodies found behind the homes at 2749 Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons were identified as Joshua Fredrick Wetzler and Tommy Dean Welch. Both men disappeared in 2009. Arrest warrants alleged that Pazuzu Algarad killed Wetzler in July 2009 and that Amber Burch helped him bury the body. Warrants also alleged that Burch killed Welch in October 2009 before Algarad helped her with the burial. Autopsies would later say each man was shot in the head.
The Forsyth County housing department said the owner of the home at 2749 Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons had until mid-February to submit proof she would make it habitable. Her original deadline had been December 2014.
Foreclosure proceedings began for the Clemmons home where two bodies were found buried in the backyard.
Wells Fargo Bank said it planned to move forward with foreclosure and demolish the home at 2749 Knob Hill Drive.
The Pazuzu Algarad house at 2947 Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons was demolished in less than two hours Friday, April 24, 2015. Human remains were found buried in the backyard in 2014.
May 13, 2015
Pazuzu Algarad was transferred from the Forsyth County Jail to Central Prison in Raleigh for safekeeping. It was the second time he had been transferred for safekeeping since his arrest on Oct. 5, 2014. A transfer for safekeeping can be for three reasons — security, mental-health disorders, or medical conditions, officials said.
Algarad’s Suicide and Aftermath
October 28, 2015
Pazuzu Algarad was found dead at 4:20 a.m. in his cell at Central Prison in Raleigh. An autopsy would later say he died from severe blood loss caused by a deep wound to a major blood vessel in his left arm, at the pit of his elbow. His death was ruled a suicide, and authorities said he used something to cut himself.
It was never clear what instrument was used. Items from his cell sent to N.C. Office of the Chief Medical Examiner included an electric razor and a clear, unlabelled bottle filled with red fluid. Algarad also had filed his teeth into points. Officials said at the time there was no evidence to support the rumor Algarad bit his arm to cause the wound.
March 9, 2017
Amber Burch, the girlfriend of the late Pazuzu Algarad, is led into the courtroom in shackles to plead guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Tommy Dean Welch, one of two men found buried in the backyard of Algarad’s house in Clemmons.
Amber Burch, then 27, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and accessory after the fact to murder. She was ordered to serve a minimum of 30 years and eight months in prison with a maximum sentence of 39 years and two months.
Forsyth County prosecutors said she used a .22-caliber rifle to shoot Tommy Dean Welch twice as he sat on a couch in the home the two shared at 2749 Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons.
Prosecutors also said that, three months before that, her boyfriend, Pazuzu Algarad, used the same rifle to fatally shoot Joshua Fredrick Wetzler. Investigators alleged the body stayed in the house for several weeks before Algarad called Burch, who was in South Carolina, to ask her to come back and help bury Wetzler.
June 5, 2017
Krystal Nicole Matlock, then 30, pleaded guilty in Forsyth Superior Court to conspiracy to accessory after the fact to first-degree murder. She was accused of helping bury Joshua Frank Wetzler.
Krystal Nicole Matlock in court
Matlock was sentenced to a minimum of three years and two months in prison with a maximum sentence of four years and 10 months.
At a point, Pazuzu Algarad was dubbed the New-Mason in reference to Charles Manson, the leader of the Cult Family infamously known for the Tate murders in the late ’60s. They both intentionally ostracized themselves from society and somehow gathered beautiful young women around them. More worrisome was the fact that they convinced these women to commit murders.
It is noteworthy to mention that Pazuzu Algarad died without giving closure to his alleged victims’ families. At the time of his death, Wetzler and Welch’s families were still awaiting answers as to why the men were killed. This has remained a mystery to date.
Subsequently, Viceland’s docuseries, The Devil You Know, tried to put the pieces together by interviewing journalists, investigators, and people who knew Algarad and his victims to get to the bottom of the story of Pazuzu Algarad. The fact remains that the true mind and thoughts of the self-acclaimed Satanist will never be known.
It’s been years since Pazuzu Algarad mirrored his shadow over Clemmons and its inhabitants. The Satan worshiper continues to live on in infamy for his bizarre and horrific crimes in North Carolina.