Dimebag's Killer Was A Stranger In His Neighborly Hometown

Many remember Nathan Gale as a quiet, sometimes eerie, loner.

MARYSVILLE, Ohio — In a small town where

people greet you by name at Maggie's Restaurant and

where the guy who runs the local pawn shop will do

what he can with your wife's wedding ring because he

knows you need the cash for Christmas, Nathan Gale was

a stranger in plain view.

([article id="1494740"]Click for photos from Marysville, Ohio.[/article])

His apartment at 111 1/2 E. Fifth St., half a block

from the downtown shopping district's single

stoplight, put him right in the heart of this

close-knit community of 16,000 residents. But even

though he spent hours every day hanging out at the

restaurant and tattoo parlor near his apartment, most

of those who came into contact with Gale said they

barely remember exchanging a word with the 25-year-old

who opened fire at the Alrosa Villa in nearby Columbus Wednesday night, killing former Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott and three others before being gunned down by police (see [article id="1494653"]"Dimebag Darrell, Four Others Killed In Ohio Concert Shooting"[/article]).

The ex-Marine lived alone in the apartment above an

abandoned storefront, a block away from M&M Pawn and

Loan, a narrow, one-room shop whose walls are stacked

high with audio and video equipment, DVDs, a dozen

electric guitars and a row of shotguns. "I only

remember him because he had those thick glasses and he

used to come in here with some of the kids from the

tattoo parlor," said manager Darren Fry, 28.

Fry was quick to pull down a semiautomatic rifle from

the wall and explain that Gale used to come in and

handle the gun, which Gale said reminded him of a

weapon he used while in the Marines. Though Gale never

bought a gun from the shop, Fry said, the young man

left a lasting impression. "He seemed a little

disturbed," Fry recalled as a nearby customer, whose

fiancee once lived next door to Gale, shook his head

silently in agreement. "He made me a bit uneasy. I

wouldn't want to sell him a gun anyway."

Next door to M&M, at Lee Dog's Locker Room Saloon &

Grill, where Gale's mother, Mary Clark, used to work,

the impression was different. "He seemed like a really

good guy," said bartender Teresa Speakman. "He was

just real quiet and he never bothered anybody."

Two days after the shooting spree, it was hard to walk

down Main Street without running into someone who

either knew Gale or had run into him from time to

time. Several shoppers said they remember his hulking,

hooded figure walking quickly up and down Fifth Street

several times a day, often dressed in the same outfit

for days in a row.

Though Gale was never arrested for a violent offense, Marysville Police Chief Floyd K. Golden said his officers had contact with him a number of times. Gale was stopped twice for driving with a suspended license, most recently on November 17, when police spotted him acting suspiciously in his car. While stopped at a red light, Golden said, Gale failed to go when the light turned green, causing officers to pull him over and issue a citation.

"When you live in a small city or village, you run

into the same people and problems pretty often,"

Golden said. "But over the past seven to eight years

there were no real serious problems with him. He was

not the kind who drew a lot of attention." Golden said

Gale's charges ranged from criminal trespass in 1997

for skateboarding at the local Kmart to a June 1999

charge for criminal trespass for repeatedly sleeping

in a local park.

Most shocking for Golden, and for many in the town,

was that one of their own would be involved in this

kind of crime. "You have thefts, disorderly conduct

... but this is a shock to the community."

A woman who answered the door at the town's Eagles

lodge, which was in full swing mid-day Friday,

confirmed that Mary Clark worked at the social club

but would not say whether she was on duty. At

Maggie's, just two doors down from Gale's apartment,

the talk of the day Friday focused on the murders and

the negative attention on the city. Still, several

patrons went out of their way to say they planned to

attend Gale's funeral to support his grieving mother.

Waitress Cathy Bender said Gale used to stop by the

restaurant three or four times a week to eat. "He was

in here two weeks ago today, sitting at the bar,

talking to my 3-year-old grandson and asking him about

his Hot Wheels cars. He said, 'Have you been a good

little boy for Santa Claus?' It made me think he was a

kind person, but everyone who came into our tattoo

parlor across the street knew him and thought he was a

bit odd."

Bender co-owns the Bear's Den Tattoo Studio with her

husband. The shop, across the street from Maggie's, is

where Gale spent hours each day in the months leading

up to the rampage.

"I never saw him with anybody," said Cathy Bender's

daughter, piercing artist Autumn Bender, 25. "He

didn't have direct conversations with anybody, and he

would look down a lot to avoid looking at people."

Autumn Bender pierced Gale's ear on November 26 and

said he would come in several times a day, every day,

and talk to himself or his imaginary dog. "His friends

started to distance themselves from him over the years

because of his talking to himself and how he changed,"

she said.

Not long ago, Gale came in and spoke to Autumn

Bender's father, fellow ex-Marine "Bear" Bender, about

wanting to get a tattoo of a Marine emblem; he quickly

changed his mind, though. Autumn Bender said Gale gave

the staff at the Bear's Den "the creeps," but as

different as her assessment of the Alrosa Villa

shooter was from her mother's, her brother's was even

more striking.

The night of the concert, 23-year-old Lucas Bender and

fellow tattoo artist Bo Toller were confronted by an

unusually agitated Gale. "He came in around 6:30 the

night of the show and he asked Bo if he could buy some

tattoo equipment," Lucas Bender said. "Bo explained

that you had to be an artist and that we didn't sell

that equipment. He stared at Bo and just threw down

the magazine he was looking at and said, 'Bullsh--,

man!' I thought that was weird, because he was usually

so quiet and eerie. He called Bo a liar and then he

left."

Lucas Bender described other odd behavior, such as

when Gale would come in and stare at the security

camera in the far corner of the store for minutes at a

time. Mostly, though, the quiet young man made Bender uncomfortable, partly due to his size and difficulty to read.

"Just three or four days ago he came in here and was

hanging out as usual and I told him this was not a

hangout spot and he had to leave," Lucas Bender said.

"After he left, a bunch of my friends were hanging

around and they started making fun of him, saying,

'What's wrong with that guy?' But I didn't make fun of

him. I like to profile people behind their backs and

most of the time I'm right," he said, staring

intently. "I said they should stay away from a guy

like that. I said he's like those Columbine kids, and

you never know if he might mow somebody down some

day."

Thursday night, Lucas Bender ran into one of his

friends who had been making fun of Gale a few days

earlier. "He just stared at me and was kind of

freaked."

For fan reaction to the Alrosa Villa slayings, check

out [article id="1494700"]"Hundreds Of

Fans Gather At Club Honor Dimebag Darrell"[/article]

and You

Tell Us.

For artists' reactions, check out [article id="1494699"]"Ozzy, Dave Mustaine, Jonathan Davis Remember Dimebag"[/article].

Click here for more on the tragic death of Dimebag Darrell and the Ohio club shooting.