herald

Monday 18 December 2017

Neighbours 'hardly noticed' mystery killer in their midst

Neighbour Ron Sweningson speaks to media outside the home of Stephen Paddock
Neighbour Ron Sweningson speaks to media outside the home of Stephen Paddock

In the quiet cul-de-sac where Stephen Paddock lived, even his immediate neighbours say they didn't know him.

Some say they never set eyes on the man accused of spraying an outdoor concert with bursts of gunfire from high above in a Las Vegas hotel window on Sunday, killing 58 and wounding more than 500, before shooting himself.

Tracing Paddock's footsteps in Mesquite, the Nevada desert retirement community about 90 miles north east of Las Vegas, provides scant clues about why, according to authorities, he carried out the worst mass shooting in recent US history. Hardly anyone noticed the man.

"Nobody knew him. I literally never saw him," said a neighbour who lives two doors down from Paddock's home and who declined to be named.

"The house was so quiet, we thought they were snowbirds," he added, referring to retirees who spent the winter months in warm-weather places like Mesquite.

Litter bins were put out on the street before anyone else was awake, leaving no opportunity for casual chats with neighbours living just feet away.

Yard work was done by gardeners, pizzas went directly to the door and, as far as anyone knew, Paddock never took part in bingo or any of the social activities provided by the community.

Paddock was a man of few words who never sought to interact with others beyond his live-in companion, Marilou Danley (62), a former casino employee described by authorities as a person of interest in the investigation.

Neighbours immediately next to Paddock's mustard-coloured stucco home, landscaped with stones and desert plants, displayed a sign on their door: "We did not know him."

The mangled remains of Paddock's garage door sat in his driveway, after authorities searched the home on Monday, uncovering a cache of 19 firearms, explosives and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

Paddock, who worked as an apartment manager and aerospace industry worker over the years, was known as an avid gambler. He would venture out of his Mesquite home frequently to play poker at the local casinos, where regulars recalled his face but little more.

The 64-year-old would often stop at Starbucks. According to one barista, Paddock appeared "rude" when he ordered a mocha frappucino for Ms Danley, instead of letting her order for herself.

Paddock seemed more sociable to those who delivered him pizza from Domino's 14 times in recent months. A good tipper, Paddock paid cash and always ordered two medium mushroom pizzas with extra cheese.

Relationships

Ms Danley, who was in the Philippines at the time of the attack, returned to the US late on Tuesday.

Paddock was known to have had previous relationships, none of them recent.

Court records show that he got married in 1977. The couple separated in 1979 before their divorce was finalised in 1980 in Los Angeles County.

Five years later, Paddock married again, separating in 1989 and divorcing in 1990, also in Los Angeles County, according to existing court and public records.

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