October 27, 2014 12:00 PM

Every street has its secrets. Behind the blacked-out windows of the redbrick house on suburban Knob Hill Drive in Clemmons, N.C., with the jack-o’-lantern outside and the skull image permanently affixed to the door, something was happening that no one in the neighborhood could imagine. “They seemed like a regular family with a young boy, but over the years the boy went astray,” says neighbor Keith Bryson, who watched as “that boy” became a man with a split tongue, teeth filed into spikes and a fascination with evil. “How did we not know that there were bodies buried across the road?”

When the bones of two missing men were found in shallow graves in the home’s backyard on Oct. 5, the evolving monster behind the door became very real. Forsyth County Sheriff’s officers arrested the former John Lawson, 35—now known as Pazuzu Illah Algarad, referencing a demon in The Exorcist—and his self-proclaimed wife, Amber Burch, 24, for murder in connection with the killings of Joshua Wetzler, 32, and Tommy Welch, 31. A day later Krystal Matlock, 28, was arrested as an accessory after the fact. Says Chief Deputy Brad Stanley: “At least we have stopped the chain of violence.”

Authorities say they have watched Algarad since 2010, when he was charged as an accessory after the fact for allowing the assailant in an involuntary shooting death to stay at the house. A year later, in 2011, he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault for choking his mother, Cynthia Lawson, now 63, who lived with Algarad and Burch. Those who grew up with Lawson recall “a weird goth kid,” says Jorge Carde, 34, a former classmate at West Forsyth High School. “After Columbine he started wearing a trench coat just like the killers.” After his parents divorced and he dropped out of school, Lawson legally changed his name and embraced the Pazuzu persona. “He had a pentagram and ‘666’ tattoos all over his body,” says Bryson. “He told me he practiced satanism.”

A visitor to the home—where police found garbage, mold and animal feces— told WGHP-TV the influences went much further. “About once a month, usually on a full moon, they sacrificed at least one rabbit, and he would eat the heart out of it,” he said. “You could tell when his demons needed something from him, because they took over.”

How Burch, who grew up in Rock Hill, S.C., attended Bible study and played bass in her high school’s string orchestra, became involved with Algarad is unclear. (Burch’s own criminal history includes charges for manufacturing and distributing drugs.) And the alleged role of Matlock, who acquaintances say has a child and is expecting another in December, has shocked friends. “She was quiet but always dependable,” says a friend who worked with her at a local restaurant. Nick Pappas, a cook who gave Matlock a place to live for six months, says, “I can’t imagine her picking up a shovel and burying a body.”

Whatever drew the trio together, police say their crossed paths were deadly for victims Welch, last seen leaving his brother’s residence for his own home less than a mile away, and Wetzler, a Mocksville, N.C., resident who shoed horses for a living and left behind a 5-year-old son. After reports of Algarad’s satanic rituals surfaced in town—and Wetzler didn’t call home for Christmas or his mother’s birthday—his former girlfriend alerted police. “They seemed to know all about Pazuzu,” says Wetzler’s mom, Martha. Although a 2010 search with dogs of Algarad’s yard found nothing, “I just always knew something was wrong.”

While police continue investigating, those who know Algarad say he’s finally getting the notoriety he craved. “He wanted everyone to think he was evil and that he could brainwash people,” a friend of Matlock’s says. “I bet he’s enjoying this.”

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