Too Close To Home: Pazuzu Algarad – Clemmons

Ella-Brooke Morgan, Features Writer

Profiling the most twisted criminal cases in North Carolina.
Trigger warning: graphic content and sensitive mental health topics
In 2015, Raleigh Central Prison Inmate 1094467 was planning. Having resided in the limited space of a jail cell for just under a year, the misery Pazuzu Algarad was feeling seemed infinite, like a void that would swallow him up. The confinement was an opportunity to reflect and to repent for his crimes, to think about the lives he cut short and irreversibly transformed. Instead, Algarad made a different decision: he would abruptly end the anticipation building up toward his trial and end his life. On Oct. 28 of that year, Algarad was discovered by a prison guard in the early hours of the morning, lifeless, with blood loss coming from an arm wound.
Algarad is still remembered as young John Lawson by some faculty members at West Forsyth High School. The story of the student-turned-Satanist murderer floats around campus in quiet conversations even today, like a dark cloud – present, although it’s uncomfortable to acknowledge that he once walked these same halls.
Former West Forsyth art teacher Pat Spainhour’s recollection of Lawson is crystal-clear. “I can even remember his seat within the classroom,” Spainhour said. “He did not give me any trouble, as he was usually absent. When I asked ‘Where is John?’ other students would say, ‘Do you mean Diablo?’ That was the name he was using at the time.” Lawson dropped out in his freshman year and started selling drugs to support himself.
As a child, Algarad lived with his mother, Cynthia James, and was a happy, athletic child who enjoyed playing community baseball and football. However, early into his teen years, the family moved from Florida to North Carolina, James remarried, and the darkness in Lawson began to emerge. Gone were the days of baby blue eyes and flowing blond locks; Lawson started dressing more in a more Gothic style, shaved his head, and began to hang out with “the wrong crowd,” as James would tell WGHP FOX8 in an exclusive interview. Concerned, James drove Lawson to receive a psychiatric evaluation. His medical records indicated that he showed signs of severe agoraphobia, a general fear of situations or places where one may feel they have no control. James also noted that Lawson had schizophrenia and other mental illnesses since childhood, and she attempted to find him treatment but could not afford much.
By the time he was 18, Lawson had changed his name to Pazuzu Algarad, with “Pazuzu” referring to a demon that appears in “The Exorcist.” Algarad donned a jihadi mask after the 9/11 attacks to inspire fear in the community of Clemmons. Some believe that James was involved in Lawson’s rebranding and was a Satanist herself, although these rumors are not proven. Algarad’s Knob Hill home in Clemmons is now gone, having been demolished after being deemed “unfit for human habitation.” In the small residence that he shared with his mother, Algarad and other friends would scrawl Satanic symbols on the walls, urinate and defecate wherever they pleased, leave animal corpses lying around, and excessively drink – a habit he sustained since the age of 13. Algarad, by this point, was unrecognizable, his collection of face and body tattoos growing, his tongue forked, his teeth sharpened, and his habits more outlandish as time passed. Algarad, whose agoraphobia had gotten so bad that he never left the Knob Hill house, was said to have performed rituals involving killing small animals, such as rabbits, and drinking their blood as “sacrifices” to an obscure god, which his mother described as “a dragon.” His god is believed to have appeared in Mesopotamian myths, and Algarad claimed to be a part of that ethnic group. When Algarad stayed in the now-closed Raleigh Dorothea Dix Hospital, he informed interviewers of his practices. James was worried Algarad would kill himself if not allowed to perform the “dark moon sacrifice,” which, according to her, required the slaughter of a living thing.
The situation became even more sickening when Algarad met Amber Burch and Krystal Matlock, the two women who would end up being his “spiritual wives” – and his murder accomplices. Burch would not only be his common-law partner but the mother to his child, who remains anonymous. Algarad, Burch, and Matlock were all charged with murder in 2014 for the 2009 slayings of Joshua Wetzler and Tommy Welch. Their bodies were found in shallow graves beside the Clemmons residence, and the police never identified a motive. Algarad was initially locked up in Forsyth County Jail but was moved to Central Prison for “safekeeping reasons,” the specifics of which were never released to the public.
Above all, the community in which Algarad lived was shocked by this gruesome turn of events and the crimes being committed under their noses. As one of his childhood neighbors said to WGHP FOX8, “Everyone knew little Johnny just ain’t right.”