EDMOND, Okla. — Neighbors today said they began calling mailman Patrick Sherrill "Crazy Pat" years ago, when the strange, hulking man began prowling their yards at night in camouflage fatigues and peering wordlessly into their windows.
He confirmed their worst fears Wednesday by coolly slaughtering 14 co-workers and himself in a post office massacre. (Story, Page 10.)
Few people who knew him expressed genuine surprise at the massacre by the 44-year-old mail carrier. They said they had suspected him of stealing pets and trussing them up with baling wire so his Dalmatian could mutilate them. They recalled his standing behind the screen door, ignoring his elderly mother's cries for help when she fell on the front steps.
"He was never happy, not with himself, not with his fellow workers, not with the world," said Mike Bigler, 36, who worked with Sherrill and was among those wounded in Wednesday's attack.
"He'd gotten so he didn't talk to anybody," said Charles Thompson, 24, who grew up across the street from the modest, white house where Sherrill lived 27 years. "He just lived in his own little world."
Sherrill's world appears to have been a lonely, unstable one that revolved around his fascination with weapons, radios and bicycles. Since his mother died several years ago, Sherrill had lived alone.
A former Marine and a member of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, Sherrill had an undistinguished military career but was a small-arms instructor and was considered an expert marksman.
Job Performance Warning
Since April, 1985, he had been a mail carrier at the Edmond Post Office, and on Tuesday, he had been warned by supervisors that his job performance was unsatisfactory.
Wednesday morning, Sherrill was up before dawn, according to his next-door neighbor, Willy Brannon, who saw lights on in the house when he left for work at 4:45 a.m. "That was kind of unusual. His front door was open."
Brannon, 62, had had a series of run-ins with Sherrill. Brannon's wife, Crystal, 29, was afraid to go out on the front porch when her husband wasn't home. She complained that Sherrill stared at her and made suggestive remarks.
"Sometimes, he'd be coming right up here in the front and peeping through the windows at her," Brannon said.
Other neighbors also reported having called the police on several occasions over the years to complain about Sherrill's peering through windows.
Disappearance of Pets
Charles Thompson and his brother, Don, 29, who lived in Sherrill's neighborhood, said their most vivid memory of him involved the disappearance of neighborhood pets about 14 years ago.
The brothers said they rescued one dog that had been tied by all fours to Sherrill's back fence, later saw him carrying off another dog and found a dead cat trussed up in his garage on still another occasion.
The worst, Charles Thompson said, was when the children "untied a dog paw and tail from his fence. That's all that was left. It had been mutilated."
The Thompsons said they believed that Sherrill's normally passive Dalmatian, Freckles, was trained to attack the helpless pets.
Today, stunned survivors walked past flags at half-staff and a wreath-dotted lawn and went back to work at the Edmond post office.
"You keep expecting these people to show up for work," postal worker Steve Brehm, 47, said of those slain in the massacre in this quiet Oklahoma City suburb of 50,000.
"It's like they're on vacation," Brehm said of the dead.