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Troubling portrait of Alabama gunman emerges

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[March 13, 2009]  GENEVA, Ala. (AP) -- The investigation into the recent life of Alabama's gunman paints a troubling portrait of a depressed young man who couldn't hold a job and was a self-proclaimed survivalist who ordered instructional videos on how to commit violence.

At a news conference Thursday night, state law enforcement officials said Michael McLendon, who quit his job last week, had talked in recent days about being depressed about his failure to become a Marine or a police officer.

But the district attorney of neighboring Coffee County, where McLendon lived in an isolated rural home with his mother, described a man who may have been planning his actions.

In that home, where McLendon set his mother's body on fire to begin his killing spree, District Attorney Gary McAliley said investigators found the DVDs and a spiral notebook containing names of people McLendon had worked with and list of things he felt they had done wrong to him.

The weapons enthusiast and self-proclaimed survivalist joined the Marine Corps in 1999 but was discharged a month later for fraudulent enlistment. Four years later, he tried to join the Samson Police Department, but couldn't complete some of the physical requirements at the state police academy.

Other jobs also didn't seem to suit him. He resigned from at least two -- one at a metals plant in 2003, the other at a sausage factory just last week. Lists found in his home of people and places he felt wronged him included both businesses and some co-workers.

Though they have learned more about McLendon's behavior in the days before the shootings, authorities said Thursday they still don't know what set him off.

"I don't think anybody could have anticipated this by looking at him and interacting with him," McAliley said. "But certainly he had a volcano inside of him."

Investigators said they found a two-page, handwritten letter in which McLendon admitted he had killed his mother and said he planned to commit suicide. He also mentioned a family dispute over a legal issue but didn't reveal plans to kill anyone else. Authorities said McLendon may have had a dispute with family members over a family Bible.

McLendon started his two-county rampage across rural southern Alabama by burning down the home he shared with his mother. Authorities said results of forensic tests have not yet determined when Lisa McLendon was killed, but they do know her son set her on fire on their couch before driving away.

In the remains of the house, investigators found dozens of soot-covered DVDs on how to commit acts of violence, including how to shoot into a moving car and building a homemade gun silencer. McAliley said they appeared to be serious, not a joke. One of the victims was driving when he was shot and killed.

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After he burned down the home, he drove about 12 miles southeast to Samson and gunned down three relatives and the wife and 18-month-old daughter of a local sheriff's deputy on the front porch of his uncle's home. He turned his gun next door and killed his 74-year-old grandmother and sent panicked bystanders fleeing and ducking behind cars.

McLendon then drove off, spraying bullets and killing three more bystanders.

Police caught up with McLendon in Geneva, about 24 miles from his mother's home, at Reliable Products, the metals plant he quit in 2003. Following a shootout with police, he walked into the business and killed himself.

People who spoke to McLendon before the shooting, including the unidentified confidant, knew he was despondent but did not feel he would turn violent, even though he spent his free time at the local firing range, said Jerry Conner, chief of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. He had no criminal record and the only complaint neighbors had was that they were worried about their cows because he was constantly behind his home shooting.

The information investigators have gathered "gives a window into what happened," Conner said. "But this sort of violence and rage, it just boggles the mind."

[Associated Press; By BOB JOHNSON and MELISSA NELSON]

Associated Press writer Kate Brumback in Montgomery and Jay Reeves in Samson contributed to this report.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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