"Received with the body are miscellaneous papers and books, two strawberry shortcake rolls, a red marker, a box of colored pencils, a packet of sugar, a black watch, an electric razor, and a clear unlabeled bottle filled with red fluid."
-Autopsy Report of Pazuzu Illah Algarad
Photo: Excerpt of Autopsy Report of Pazuzu Algarad
Ah yes, the musings of the true Antichrist. Clearly this man was blacker than night through his soul- bearing not one but TWO strawberry shortcake rolls into the afterlife.
How did we end up with a sweet toothed “avowed satanist” committing suicide by biting into his own forearm, while in the very secure custody of North Carolina law enforcement? (Who you’ll come to find out handled this case with amazing swiftness and utmost attention.)
The story starts in foggy San Francisco on the morning of August 12th, 1978.
John Alexander Lawson was born to parents Timothy J. Lawson and Cynthia Priddy Lawson, a loving couple who had been married for seven years.
He was active, energetic, fiery, ambitious, and unafraid to take what he wanted. He enjoyed being the center of attention and was persuasive with his friends and entertained crowds as he pleased. In alignment with his astrology as a Leo, he was known to be charismatic and that charisma turned much darker as he grew up. Even with the highest of optimistic traits and inborn infectious personality, his upbringing would undoubtedly open the doors to using his nature against others in the most unholy of ways.
John’s childhood was seemingly troubled. After moving from California to North Carolina his parents got divorced in 1990 resulting in reported trauma to the only child. Other claims allege sexual abuse and neglect, which isn’t difficult to believe as he was the child of a newly single mother over 3000 miles away from where he called home, those those claims were never followed with any legal action.
The divorce came during the most formative years in early adolescence forcing John to either assume a more responsible role in the household or fade into the background while his mother made ends meet, either way creating an unhealthy relationship in which he was both the prime focus and the heaviest burden to his mother. Their relationship became increasingly complex as John grew into adulthood.
After the divorce Timothy, John’s father, returned to his native state of California and within a few years Cynthia remarried. According to the marriage certificate Cynthia married a man by the name of John Larry James in Cocke County, Tennessee where they reported their home address as:
2749 Knob Hill Drive
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The three lived in a decently sized home which at one point was equipped with an in-ground pool and boasted of homey dark wood paneling complimentary of the decade in which the home was purchased.
In addition to the alleged traumas of earlier childhood, feelings of abandonment and challenges that come with new step-parents and strained relationships, especially in only children households… this was a recipe for disaster. And disaster it became.
Sometime in the mid 1990s John began going by the name Paz or Diablo- possibly a revolution against the use of his name in romantic context within his home, it’s associations with the bible and the banal commonality that accompanies the name we literally use in society to denote the nameless “John Doe”. He was desperate for an escape from the trauma, which lead directly into the first phase of his evolution.
The name Pazuzu was selected because of its association with the legendary Mesopotamian King of Demons: “the Demon of the Wind”, anthesis to Archangel Raphael, and most notably known in pop culture as the demon that possessed the girl Regan MacNeil in the movie the Exorcist.
His name was legally changed from John Alexander Lawson to Pazuzu Illah Algarad in 2002.
Paz became heavily involved with drugs and dropped out of West Forsyth County High School. Along with his newfound interest in substance abuse, he became obsessed with horror movies and heavy metal music.
DISCLAIMER: Interest in heavy metal music, the occult, or horror movies does not create a murderer or satanist of any kind.
“He wanted to be the bad guy”
A former classmate stated about Paz in this phase of his life.
After Paz dropped out of school he was unable to find any employment opportunities in the generally poor area in which he lived. With no further education and a lack of adequate male role models or attention, Paz began selling drugs to associates and classmates. His personality made a few major shifts- as one does when in the throes of addiction.
“There was something about him that just made me feel terrible” claimed one of his known drug clients, “His presence made me feel uneasy.”
Following trend (this was the late 90s) his fashion choices relied heavily on rock band tee shirts, wide legged jeans, and pants dripping with chains. (As seen here in his Cradle of Filth shirt)
Paz became interested in the Occult and satanism. He began with satanic themed tattoos over his body, some of which included “SATAN” on his forearm, the number 666, and a black dragon.
Paz was well known for his alternative sense of style, with many articles noting his preferences: “Decorated with Hot Topic Satan stuff like mall rat incense burners and statues of demons” - Staff at the Camel City Dispatch when describing his home in the early 2000s.
Ah, yes, Hot Topic Satan Stuff, the gateway drug to ritual murder of course.
Speaking of ritual murder, Paz began a series of ritual sacrifice (not quite murder)- generally that of a rabbit or similar small animal- monthly by the bank of the Yadkain River. He claimed eating the still beating heart of an animal gave him a rush better than drugs, and he continued this monthly practice for years to come.
In addition to animal sacrifice Paz and his friends partook in mutual bloodletting in nearby graveyards attempting to follow ritual black magic as written by another of his idols Alistair Crowley. Diving deeper into the occult, Paz decided Satanism as written by Anton Lavey in the Satanic bible was not “hardcore” enough for him, and his belief system evolved into Theistic Satanism.
Sidenote: Satanism as prescribed by LaVey is not a belief or following in the actual theological being of Satan, it is an atheistic religion defined by a core ethic of “do as thou wilt”- free will being the key tenant. Satanists as part of the modern Church of Satan are largely pacifists with no ritual practice in their belief system. By contrast Theistic Satanism is a belief in the theological being of the Christian Satan, the angel named Lucifer cast out of heaven for the desire of free will and power. This sect of satanists also called Luciferian are characterized by fetishistic rituals often involving blood or violence and are closely associated with what is known as “Left Hand Path” magick or black magic.
While his interest in the occult and non-mainstream religion is an interesting aspect to this case, and certainly a major part of the outward personality of Paz, it does not excuse his behavior. Regardless of the religion or morality he would have claimed to follow, this man was haunted by his situation, an addict and sufferer of multiple mental illnesses all of which were only exacerbated by poverty and drug and alcohol use.
During his young adulthood, Paz was diagnosed with depression and schizophrenia, for which he was prescribed medication. His self harm was no secret nor were his ritual sacrifice practices of which allegedly his mother was well aware.
“Paz was raised by his mother. She has supported everything he has done and buys him rabbits to sacrifice every full moon. He only showers once a month and that’s the day of a full moon and before he sacrifices the rabbit. Then he drinks the blood of the rabbit as he worships the “evil gods”.... He likes to drink blood when he can. His mom would find blood for him to drink. I’m unsure how she gets the blood or even what kind of blood it is… I think his mom is as guilty as him because she has allowed this behavior as long as he has lived with her”
Bianca Lee Heath added her comments on the now defunct page of Paz. She was known to have lived in the Knob Hill house with others for about a month in the year 2005.
In contrast to this statement Paz himself claimed to his psychiatrists during a mandatory evaluation that he only bathed once yearly and hadn’t brushed his teeth in over 10 years as these activities stripped his body of its natural defenses.
There is some interesting side-note religious interest that comes up coinciding with a deeper interest in occultism and theistic satanism. Just after 9/11/01 Paz began to falsely claim he was of Iraqi descent. He changed his clothing style and added parts to his facebook page representing Islamic extremist ideals and openly claimed to be practicing the Islamic faith. As far as is recorded he never actually attended any religious gathering was part of the Muslim community anywhere online or offline except in his personal social media claims.
It appears these claims were simply to enhance the image of “bad boy” or “dangerous” considering the zeitgeist after the attacks on the World Trade Center. His use of yet another set of beliefs to further his external perception shows how clearly he was very ethically unattached to any of the systems he claimed to have represented or been involved with. The only lasting practice that was consistently reported were his ritualistic sacrifices. Even his considered use of magic wanes with his growing drug use and instability over time, though he never stopped claiming its use either.
By the mid 2000s Paz had gotten much deeper into body modification in association with his outward persona of danger and charismatic darkness. He covered much of his body in tattoos including facial tattoos, piercings and split his tongue. He also used a Dremel tool to carve his teeth down into pointed needle like shapes, the decision that would eventually allow him to commit his final act.
At some point in the mid 2000s Paz became inspired by the likes of Charles Mason, famed cult leader known for his harem of female acolytes who were willing to kill. In the same vain, Paz began to invite others, especially younger females, to live in his home- women he would lovingly refer to as his fiancees.
One such fiancee was Amber Burch, nicknamed “Bubbles”. Born in 1990, Amber was known as a church going Christian girl raised well within the Bible belt and not known to get into trouble.
When she met Paz their relationship seemed to progress quickly as she engaged in rituals, orgies, and moved into the Knob Hill house.
Alongside Amber, another fiancee took up permanent residence, joining in the polyamorous relationship of the couple. Krystal Matlock was of similar age to Amber and shared an upbringing in the bible belt with no prior interaction with law enforcement or drugs.
During this time Paz was well known for sharing stories of committing murder, including the claim that he murdered two prostitutes and ate part of their bodies before burning the rest. His claims were generally disregarded by his followers, including the even more disturbing claim that he had the remains of another body in his basement covered in kitty litter and bleach to cover the scent- though the prevailing opinion is the scent within the house from the non-death-related activities.
Paz was not known to have been charged with any of the murders which he claimed to have committed, though he did have other contact with police.
In 2008 Paz was convicted of Larceny, a crime for which he was placed on probation for the next few years. This becomes important, as usually those placed on probation face at least some modicum of scrutiny in their personal lives by law enforcement. This initial conviction, while not his first run in with the police, was his first major offense.
The Knob Hill house was shared by Cynthia, Paz, and a series of other “roommates” and friends who stayed informally for various periods. The walls inside the home were covered in spray paint and what appeared to be blood written on the walls. Everything from horror movie quotes to musical lyrics to seemingly satanic or occult symbols graced the walls in various mediums in a less than artistic layout.
In addition to the wall decoration, general junk was disorganized and strewn throughout the home. Multiple animals lived at the house and were poorly cared for urinating and defecating on the floors regularly. Following suit with the animals, Paz also was known to relieve himself both through urination and defecation inside the house on the floors in the corners of the rooms, often in front of others.
The house, understandably, smelled horrible. The scent of death and waste permeated all the way to the neighbors homes, potentially one of the reasons the atrocities committed were so difficult to discover.
Here is a full video tour of the Knob Hill house in October of 2014: https://youtu.be/2VtOB-rsjEY
In July of 2009 Paz shot and killed his first and only confirmed human victim, Joshua Wetzler, 32. The motive and situation surrounding this murder are unknown to this day.
Fiancees Amber and Krystal assisted Paz in burying the body in the backyard of the home, apparently with the knowledge of Cynthia at the time as well. A neighbor by the name of Allen Billings was reported by his daughter to also have assisted in the burial of the body, however no charges were brought against him and the allegation remains largely unfounded.
On August 3rd, 2009 Terena Billings, daughter of the neighbor Allen, told the Forsyth County Sheriff's office that her father had helped bury a corpse in the yard of Pazuzu in the month prior. No search or follow up to this tip was recorded by law enforcement in any way. Paz was still under probation at this time and his house and practices were well known in the area, so a lack of follow up by police in this very first tip was more than a misstep by officers. If this tip had been treated appropriately perhaps the next murder could have been avoided.
Several months later in October of 2009 Amber shot and killed Tommy Welch, 31, again with no known motive. The trio also buried this body in the backyard at the time of death, not to be discovered for over 5 years (To be clear this is not because these were some acts of genius criminal mastermind, the conditions in the home and state of poverty in the community was simply abhorrent enough to not draw any less than completely necessary attention from law enforcement apparently.)
After the murder rumors of the killings circled town and he was well known as the drug dealer that got away with murder. Paz enjoyed the attention this drew and continued to brag about this along with other murders.
On February 9th, 2010 a woman by the name of Stacey Carter called the Sheriff's Office to inform them that she had been told the body of her boyfriend and father of her child, Josh Wetzler, was buried on the property. Finally this tip prompted a bit of a response.
In 2010 the police did in fact come search the property, less than a year after the murders occurred, however due to some excellent and thorough old fashioned police work, the officers somehow MISSED THE GRAVES clearly and openly in the backyard. They were so well hidden…
This image is from 2014. FOUR YEARS AFTER the initial search, and the graves are still clearly evident. In addition to the human remains found in the yard in 2014, numerous animal bones were discovered backing the multiple claims of ritual sacrifice.
Between 2010 and 2014 police in Forsyth county would receive multiple direct tips stating there were bodies buried in the backyard of the Knob Hill home. Tips were received from people who stayed in the home including friends of both Amber and Paz separately, and even Paz’s own mother Cynthia called the police in November of 2011. Despite the growing number of consistent reports, law enforcement made the incredibly responsible decision to simply ignore the tips and the existence of the Knob Hill house almost entirely.
Rewind back to 2010, Paz narrowly escaped the discovery of the victims in the initial search by police, however now he found himself in a different kind of trouble.
Over the winter, one of the roommates who was staying in the house for a short period named Nicholas Pasquale Rizza was on the run from charges of involuntary manslaughter. The body of his victim, Joseph Emmrick Chandler, was found on the bank of the Yadkain River near where Paz had often practiced his rituals. Nicholas had shot Joseph resulting in his death, and Nicholas took sanctuary with the local well known murderer: Paz, and his house of horrors.
Paz proceeded to lie to police and misdirect them during an active investigation, unsuccessfully attempting to protect his friend. He committed this act while on probation and under sufficient scrutiny from the Forsyth police (or as much scrutiny as they could muster) to warrant further investigation resulting in arrests of both Paz and Nicholas.
Nicholas was found and convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to one year and one month in prison. Paz was subsequently charged with accessory after the fact and sentenced to serve further probation- clearly a punishment that was deterring him from any involvement in crime whatsoever.
Despite his growing poor reputation and the conditions of the home, Paz continued to live it up proclaiming his behavior at the time to include “cutting himself and his buddies, drinking the blood of birds, doing copious drugs, performing ritual sacrifices, staging nude orgies, and letting people do whatever they pleased to his abode.”
In a statement by Amber she claimed “He shot up coke and heroin and drank 18 beers a day minimum.”
Paz was required to undergo a mandatory psychological evaluation following the involuntary manslaughter case, in which he was further diagnosed as agoraphobic, alcoholic, and side order of a renewed diagnosis of schizophrenia. The doctors also made a point to note his hygiene practices including the full bodied aroma involved in the interview.
During his evaluation he was open with psychiatrists about his "Sumerian religion" that involved monthly sacrifice, and even asked if he could leave their custody in order to take part in his black moon ritual.
Despite his presentation, Paz was simply prescribed medication and declared capable of assisting in his own defense in a court of law- his hygiene, religion, relationships, and living conditions were not deemed severe enough to warrant intervention by social services. Generally this means he was not afflicted enough by any of his existing illnesses or situation to impair his knowledge of right and wrong. He understood what was happening in the court and understood the importance of the situation, at least from a legal standpoint.
While his understanding of the proceedings and the law may have been clear, the fact that these licensed psychologists did not further intervene in this clearly dangerous, unhealthy, and volatile situation simply goes to show the lack of care or effort put into this ongoing case and the value of his life as a whole. While his experience with the mental health system is not unique, it is a sharp reminder that better care (or at least the simple step of giving a damn about other humans in the world) would probably prevent an incredible amount of violence and pain in this day and age.
Apparently his history, his admittance to ritual sacrifice and drug use, and his known association with a now convicted murderer was not enough to warrant any deeper of a look into the situation reported by multiple bystanders about the bodies in the yard by any governmental service or private party.
In 2011 both Paz and Amber were accused of assault on Cynthia. Paz was convicted of misdemeanor assault on his own mother, for putting her in a chokehold. Situation surrounding the altercations is unknown.
Amber was accused of slapping and attempting to further beat Cynthia however she was not charged or convicted of the action or whether this assault was separate from the assault involving Paz and his mother.
Cynthia declined to pursue prosecution for further assaults stating she was fearful of her son’s behavior and religious practices. At the time of these incidents Cynthia and John Lawson were reported as owners of the house, and apparently still resided within the chaos alongside Paz and his fiancees. During her report of this conflict Cynthia also openly claimed there were bodies buried in her very own backyard. Her claims on the matter of the bodies were never formally acknowledged or follow up with in any way.
Again there was no further intervention by law enforcement or by social services to make sure there was a safe and stable environment for any of the parties involved in this conflict.
Rumors continued to swirl around town, no doubt circulated by Paz and the fiancees themselves, about ritualistic cannibalism. Many such rumors claimed a continued practice of murdering prostitutes and vagrants and then dining on their flesh. Apparently the feast wasn’t limited to inner circle, as multiple reports of ritual murder continued appear both online and offline, including reports by the criminal masterminds themselves. One such genius was known to hang out at the house appeared online as Nate Nefarious.
Nate apparently indulged in some of the reported culinary adventures in the house, reporting to his facebook page a milestone event.
Nate went on to comment on different forums about his time in the Knob Hill house under his alias.
“Yep, Pazuzu is his legal name. His house is disgusting, his dogs piss all over the floor, drunk people piss on the floor, they poor beer all over the place and don’t clean it up… it’s crazy, as soon as you walk in it smells like rank old dog piss, body odor and feet. It looks so normal from the outside… except for the front door. Even from a distance, especially from the road, the jet-black painted door seems like nothing but a void or a black hole. It doesn’t even look like there’s a door there, just a menacing hole left there to suck passerby in. Once you walk in you immediately sense a very different kind of energy; it’s certainly dark, but not necessarily evil (IMO). Simply a very free, chaotic kind of liberating vibe-- the kind of chaotic freedom that people not entirely in control can get carried away with, if anyone can possibly understand my meaning.”
During this time, apparently Paz also made liberal use of social media including banners on his Facebook page claiming "antichrist" and excerpts about his ritual practice.
Finally, in 2014, the Sheriff’s office received a tip apparently juicy enough to warrant another peek at the Knob Hill house (you know, because they hadn’t received any other tips.) Matt Flowers, Iraqi war veteran, reported the location of two bodies in the yard of this well known informal graveyard. Matt had been a friend and classmate of Paz after serving in the military overseas, and had several associates in common.
On October 5th, 2014 the skeletal remains of two bodies were found in the backyard of the Knob Hill home.
Specialists were called in from North Carolina State Forensic Anthropology Unit as well as agents with North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation for assistance in preserving what was left of the bodies and to aid in the “investigation”. The bodies were transported to nearby Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center for positive identification by the medical examiner’s office.
Five years after the date of their murders the bodies of Tommy Welch and Joshua Wetzler were officially found.
According to reports the bodies were recovered from their original graves with no indication of any disturbance after the point of burial, meaning the bodies were surely in their graves at the time of the 2010 search.
Pazuzu Algarad was arrested and charged with the murder of Joshua Wetzler and for accessory after the fact of the murder of Tommy Welch.
Amber Burch was charged with the murder of Tommy Welch and accessory after the fact in the burial of Joshua Wetzler.
Both Paz and Amber were taken held at the Forsyth County Jail with no bond allowed.
During trial Amber claimed she suffered a form of Stockholm syndrome and had no choice but to take part in the murders. She also made claims about being addicted to drugs with little knowledge of right and wrong. She did not plead with an insanity defense however, and was convicted. She is now serving a minimum sentence of 30 years.
Krystal Matlock was arrested for two counts of accessory after the fact and is serving a minimum sentence of 3 years for her part in the burial of the bodies.
Paz was held awaiting trial for the year from October 2014, until October 2015. During that time he received treatment for his mental illnesses, and was placed in secure custody according to records.
The night before the beginning of his trial he committed suicide by biting open his forearm and bleeding out on the floor in his private prison cell. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system and again he had been previously deemed capable of assisting in his own defense.
His autopsy report detailed scars and prior self inflicted injuries indicating his mental health treatment was likely nowhere near adequate, nor was his security in custody.
However, his pension for sweet treats was apparently still well intact.
After this horrific conclusion to the case, documentary filmmaker Patricia Gillespie began work on a five part series entitled “The Devil You Know” which premiered on Viceland on August 27th, 2019. While the series covers the case of Pazuzu Algarad, it is more centered on the damming situation and behavior of law enforcement and the mental health system.
The main claim of Gillespie’s first solo writing/directing/producing project focuses on issues which arose from the “satan worshiping” headlines of the case which seemingly outweighed the gross mishandling of the cases of Wetzler and Welch over the course of the 5 years they were missing. It also presents the economic and social injustice between the town where the crimes were committed and the town where they were investigated, with moving sequences of Stacey Carter, girlfriend and mother to the son of victim Josh Wetzler- who was left without answers for 5 years.
Check out the trailer for the docuseries here: https://youtu.be/CCnKDDEsn60
A huge thank you for all the amazing other journalists, researchers, and bloggers for putting together some amazing content about this crazy case. Take a moment and check them all out!
About the Author:
Nollie King is an aspiring author and true crime writer with works appearing in numerous magazines and websites regarding topics such as vampirism, serial murder, cannibalism, and the Occult. Hailing from Gilbert, Arizona, Nollie enjoys horror movies, gardening, and culinary adventures (not of the human variety). She appears on instagram as @the_nollister and twitter as @TNollister.
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