by Aramie Louisville Vas
Clemmons, North Carolina is a quiet, historic village neighboring the city of Winston-Salem. An old-fashioned horse and carriage adorn the signs which welcome those who enter. It is home to clean-looking suburbs, small strip malls, moderate apartments and the rolling hills and wooded trails of a large park called Tanglewood, which lights up in spectacular display each year for Christmas.
In Clemmons, people tend to exist quietly. They attend church and speak in the way that only towns in the true south can successfully manage. It’s not a place known for shock value and surprise. Imagine the horror, then, in one Clemmons neighborhood last October when the bodies of two men were found in shallow graves behind a ranch house covered in satanic symbols and filthy with animal carcasses and mold.
The murder house sat in a modest suburb of Clemmons, on a road called Knob Hill. Neighbors had for years scrutinized the eyesore, warning their children against going near and fretting about the goings-on of such a place. For this house was not abandoned. And there was no need for made-up propaganda. According to the occupants, a man named Pazuzu Illah Algarad, 35, and his girlfriend, Amber Burch, 24, the house was a place of devil worship and dark ritual. “Pazuzu” is the Assyro-Babylonian demon mentioned in the Exorcist films; he had been born John Lawson, San Francisco native.
Graffiti and strange signage adorned the door of the house. When the pair were out in public, everyone noticed the strange, homemade tattoos covering Algarad’s pale face and both he and Amber Burch were described as having “dead-looking” eyes. For a while, Algarad wore unruly black dreads that, unmaintained, added to his ghastly appearance. He filed down his teeth to sharp points. The pair often reeked of strange odors; body stench, chlorine, shit and “something chemical”. He bathed no more than once per year. According to Algarad, bathing and teeth-brushing “stripped the body of its natural defenses”. Legend grew and various people claimed to have been inside the home and spoken to Alagarad, who at times seemed downright accommodating and even offered food to his guests. They reported that after a while, Algarad would turn the conversation down a frightening path or simply ask his guest to leave.
The home was littered with trash, said those who’d been inside, the walls covered in spray-paint and splashed with urine and blood. Every square inch was decorated with photos and strange, doctored magazine pictures which could have only made sense to Algarad. Orange traffic cones were stashed in the bathroom. Satanic sayings were scrawled everywhere. Feces littered the floors. Ancient mattresses stuffed sideways into rooms made much of the space unusable. Mold grew from the ceiling and infested the air. It was more of a hovel than a proper living space. Adding to the strangeness was Pazuzu’s mother, Cynthia, who also lived in the house and did little more than look on as insanity and sickness overtook the home at the hand of her son.
Cynthia was afraid of her son. He once tried to choke her, she said, and slapped her often. But no charges were ever filed.
Amber Burch had been a “sweet girl”, a “good friend” who had gone off the deep end after meeting Algarad. Friends who visited the house said Algarad’s behavior was provocative, always on drugs or drinking beer, and sometimes spent entire visits naked and propositioning for threesomes and sexual favors. And Burch’s friends were more than a little concerned when they learned that Algarad often sacrificed animals and ate their beating hearts. But Burch was in love with him, or so she said.
To say neighbors wanted Algarad and Burch gone was a huge understatement. Heavy metal music blared from the house. Terrible smells spilled into the neighborhood. And Algarad was already on probation as an accessory to the 2010 involuntary manslaughter charges of a man who was shot in the head and left by a North Carolina river. It was a matter of time, said the neighbors, before something else terrible happened.
Then in October 2014, law enforcement discovered the bodies of two men buried in shallow graves behind the home of Algarad and Burch. Both men had died of gunshot wounds and had been missing since 2009. According to Algarad, he had “told everyone” about the murders. But no one believed him. He also held claim to killing two sex workers. Chilling, as it’s an unusual murder who makes no pretense at keeping their actions secret.
Algarad and Burch had each shot one man, and each helped the other bury the body. A mutual friend named Krystal Matlock was enlisted to help. Algarad had eaten part of each victim before burying them.
Although everyone, including Algarad and Burch, referred to themselves as Satanists, Alagarad claimed to actually practice an ancient Sumerian religion. Throughout the jails and psychiatric hospital stays (where diagnoses of paranoid schizophrenia, alcoholism and agoraphobia were repeatedly made) Algarad always asked to be let out on the full moon in order to make his Sumerian sacrifices. Algarad’s mother, Cynthia, expressed fear that her son would commit suicide if he was not allowed to make his “dark moon sacrifice”.
Algarad, Burch and Matlock were all three imprisoned, awaiting trial. The house on Knob Hill was razed and an empty lot stands in its place. Gone are the masses of black flies and animal carcasses in cages, the strange smells, the fear and the bodies. Friends and family can but remember the victims, Tommy Dean Welch and Joshua Wexler, as a wizard with cars and a peace-loving hippie, respectively.
On October 27th, 2015, just after the full moon, Pazuzu Algarad was found unresponsive in a bloodied prison cell and declared dead at 4:20am. The cause of death was suicide. Burch and Matlock continue to await their trial, and the consequences of their actions forever weigh on the hearts and minds and in one empty lot of an average, everyday neighborhood.