For six days law officers searched for this car, a missing clue in a perplexing homicide along Interstate 85 in Anderson County.
And now, here it was. Parked along a rural stretch of road outside Belton.
Behind the wheel sat John Asher Farrell Villarreal, who told an inquiring deputy that he knew the people in the house at the end of the long driveway.
The residents inside weren't as committed: They said they only knew the guy from Facebook.
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Farrell Villarreal's online profiles along with interviews of people who knew him both online and in person sketch a portrait of a 22-year-old man who police allege is behind the act of violence along one of the region's busiest corridors.
The picture that emerges by way of interviews with friends, family, acquaintances and authorities is of a young man who voiced violent thoughts, despised the government and police and sometimes imagined himself an assassin.
It's a story of fabricated "safe houses," private Facebook messages about home-built silencers, and a 17-year-old girl in south Georgia who Farrell Villarreal went to see when he set off hitchhiking Christmas Eve around 5 a.m.
Soon his path would cross with that of James Jerry Dobson II and Mary Marie Fowler. Within about an hour the Easley man and Greenville woman who offered him a lift to the state line for $25 would be shot and left for dead along the interstate.
Fowler, shot in the head, died that evening. Dobson remains at AnMed Health in Anderson where he is listed in critical condition. Doctors have removed his left eye.
He worked as a certified electrician handy at building everything from cabinets to chicken coops, his mother Barbara Dobson said.
She mourns what will become of that talent and says she can't understand why her son was shot. "It's a puzzle," she said. "It's just like putting puzzle pieces together."
To one Appalachian State University student, the Jack Farrell she knew online seemed considerate. After meeting him in person, she said she felt growing unease.
In May, after chatting online for months, they planned to meet at a political rally in Washington, D.C. She said he told her he'd get there on his motorized bike.
When he arrived in Washington about 500 miles away, he said the bike had broken down about a quarter of the way to the nation's capital. She isn't sure how he completed the trip.
The pair walked around the National Mall for a couple of days, and in that time the student said she never felt comfortable. He asked her if passersby might be federal agents and seemed paranoid of the government. She said her friends warned her something was off in the guy.
"He seemed obsessed with being around me and it was disturbing," said the student, who asked The Greenville News not to publish her name for fear of online retaliation. "When I broke up, we went to an area with a lot of security. I wasn't sure how he was going to react."
Back on campus, she said she learned he had been posting personal information about her online, including her name, phone numbers and parents' address.
In August, she went to police in Boone, North Carolina, telling them she was being harassed, according to the incident report.
No charges were filed, but Sgt. Detective Matt Stevens said he talked with the woman about going to a magistrate and filing for a protective order. Concerned about Farrell Villarreal's online boasts of weapons in combination with rants against law enforcement, Stevens said he sent information to police in Travelers Rest near where Farrell Villarreal lived.
The student opted not to pursue the matter further, in part because she didn't want to antagonize him, and his posts about her seemed to be winding down.
Chris Lee said he met Farrell Villarreal online through a forum for conservative Republicans. The friendship continued offline and some weeks Farrell Villarreal would drop by Lee's Greenville home three or four times, often unannounced and before Lee awoke.
They occasionally shot guns or trekked through wooded areas together like a couple of exploring boys, said Lee, who noted that Farrell Villarreal would sometimes voice violent fantasies that struck Lee as peculiar and inappropriate.
Sheepishly, Lee spoke of visiting an area strip club.
"I'm just watching the ladies dance and he's got this whole hit man scenario in his head. He said, 'I could take this person out and that person out and that person out with a gun with a silencer and no one would know,'" Lee said.
Lee said Farrell Villarreal expected one of the dancers to call when the club closed and became furious when she didn't.
"There were some things I should have paid more attention to," he said.
They stopped speaking after a dirt bike Lee rode went missing. Initially, Lee said he thought the motorcycle had been repossessed, until Farrell Villarreal arrived one day riding what looked like the exact same bike.
Farrell Villarreal said he'd happened to find one just like Lee's.
"That was my bike," Lee said. "I know it was. There was damage on it that was exactly the same."
They argued. It was September and the pair never spoke again.
Later that month, a 17-year-old girl in Georgia posted a photo of Farrell Villarreal on her Facebook page. It appeared to be a picture taken by him in a bathroom mirror.
"love you Jack the Killer," the girl wrote.
"love you more, Black Widow," Farrell Villarreal responded.
The pair shared an affinity for a decentralized hactivist group known as Anonymous. Together, they had a Facebook page that mashed up their names, talked about tattoos they planned to get and fawned over each other's selfies.
On the night of Dec. 23, the girl in Georgia took to Facebook, posting a photo of hair mussed over her eyes. Light illuminated her red-smeared lips and chin. "They said I can be anything with a good education," the caption read. "So I became my own vampire."
The photo sparked concern among several of her Facebook friends, including Farrell Villarreal, who expressed concern she was injuring herself.
Farrell Villarreal headed for south Georgia to see the girl, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper told The Greenville News. He left the following morning, Christmas Eve, before the sun was up.
"It appears his trip to Georgia had nothing to do with the shooting other than the means of transportation for him to get there," Skipper said.
Skipper has said investigators believe Farrell Villarreal was hitchhiking in western Greenville County early Christmas Eve morning when he was picked up by Dobson and Fowler in Dobson's 2013 Hyundai Elantra.
The three discussed a $25 fare to take the younger man to the Georgia state line. Less than 17 miles from the Georgia line, the Hyundai pulled over so Farrell Villarreal could use the bathroom, authorities said.
Investigators allege Farrell Villarreal shot both Dobson and Fowler in the car and dumped them along the southbound shoulder.
Shortly after 6 a.m. a motorist stopped after spotting Dobson. He found Fowler lying in the ditch.
Anderson County officers broadcast a notice at 10:28 a.m. to other police agencies to be on the lookout for the Hyundai.
About an hour later and 300 miles away, Farrell Villarreal arrived at a home in Fitzgerald, Georgia, according to the mother of the 17-year-old girl who had posted the Facebook picture.
Contacted by The Greenville News, the mother asked that their names not be published. She said she knew nothing of the man until he arrived at her doorstep and told her daughter, "Come on ... let's go."
"I said, 'She ain't going nowhere and you have about two seconds to get off this property,'" the mother said. "He went to the back door of his car and opened it and he said, 'We can do this the hard way or the easy way.'"
Soon after, a sheriff's deputy arrived and forced Farrell Villarreal to leave, according to a Ben Hill County Sheriff's report listing the incident as an "unwanted person."
"He just gave off an eerie feeling," the mother said. It wouldn't be the last time she would see him.
That afternoon about 3 p.m. a Georgia State Patrol trooper pulled over a speeding car on Georgia State Route 78 in Johnson County, according to Sgt. Jeff Cain.
The young man was polite and apologized for not paying attention, Cain said.
Farrell Villarreal would later tell investigators that he had contemplated shooting the trooper but decided not to because of the trooper's dash camera, according to Sheriff Skipper.
The trooper called dispatch to run the car's tag and the driver's license information, Cain said.
He might have done it himself via his laptop, but reception was nonexistent along that section of State Route 78, Cain said.
The connection with dispatch was also poor, and when he passed along Farrell Villarreal's information, the trooper thought he heard that the license and plate came back valid, according to Cain.
The trooper wrote Farrell Villarreal a ticket for driving 90 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone and sent him on his way, according to a copy of the ticket.
Only later did the trooper learn that the tag belonged to a Madza and not the Hyundai, and that Farrell Villarreal was driving on a moped license, Cain said.
A 'safe house'
After Farrell Villarreal returned to Greenville County, authorities say they believe he stashed the Hyundai at an abandoned house in west Greenville near Fletcher and Hoyt streets. Authorities described it as his "safe house."
It was a term Farrell Villarreal, himself, often used, according to people who knew him online.
Among them was Deann Radick, who lives in the north Chicago suburbs and met him through a Facebook patriot group that enjoyed discussing related issues.
Farrell Villarreal's rhetoric was so anti-government and anti-cop that moderates booted him out, she said. Still, she remained a Facebook friend.
"He tried to get me and my family to move down there," Radick said. "He would say, 'We have safe houses.' He'd say that's where he was going to be if he ever needed to hide out and where he would hide his weapons. He was very open about silencers.
"Looking back, I think, 'That was a sign and that was a sign,'" she said. "We thought at the time he was just someone trying to fit in and didn't know how."
Back in Georgia
Just before midnight on Dec. 29, the mother in Georgia said she came home early from work and found Farrell Villarreal at her home once again.
Again, the Ben Hill County Sheriff's Office was called and an officer is dispatched to "an attempted kidnapping," according to the report.
"He comes out of my yard straight to my car," the mother said. "I work at a detention center, and he saw my uniform so I don't know what he thought."
Only later did the mother learn of her daughter's Facebook account and discover she had been video chatting with Farrell Villarreal for months.
The next day, Farrell Villarreal drove to the home of Ryan Fleming, 19, another friend he had met on a Facebook forum. Fleming said Farrell Villarreal had once asked for his address, and he obliged, but forgot he had given it out.
He said Farrell Villarreal arrived out of breath, wanting to use the computer. He told Fleming something had happened when he drove down to the Georgia girl's house but was vague on the details, according to Fleming.
"I asked why he came here, and his answer was, 'I don't know. I just needed somebody to talk to.'"
They talked for about an hour. Fleming recalled that Farrell Villarreal showed off what he described as a semi-automatic rifle and three pistols, two of them with homemade silencers.
Fleming said he knew of Farrell Villarreal's anti-government views and didn't want him on the computer. He suggested the Belton Public library a few miles away.
They parted, but Farrell Villarreal didn't go far. He parked nearby on the side of the road.
About an hour later, a deputy on patrol noticed a car sitting on Clement Road by Fleming's house. The deputy, thinking it looked suspicious, ran the license plate, which came back as belonging to a different type of vehicle, according to a Sheriff's Office report.
The deputy then ran the VIN number. A hit came back for a Hyundai Elantra possibly linked to a homicide investigation.
Farrell Villarreal was placed under arrest.
His mother, Maria Farrell Villarreal, declined to talk about her son's interests or what he might have been up to on the days surrounding the highway shootings.
She said she had recently moved her son and parents from New England, an area she described as "spiritually dark."
Records show that in 2012 her parents sold their Connecticut home and purchased the house on Ledge Run Court that Farrell Villarreal lists as his residence.
His mother said she had made recent discoveries that she found troubling.
"There are questions I cannot answer, and sometimes you think you know someone and find out you didn't know them in the way you thought you did," she said. "I can't tell you what I saw on the outside versus what I knew on the inside."
She spoke of societal temptations faced by young people and said she believes the shootings are a sin before God. She said her son periodically attended church, though not as often as she would have liked.
"He had not allowed Christ to be formed in him the way Christ needed to be formed in him," she said.
A post dated Jan. 2 on her Facebook page reads, "I believe my son was intentionally targeted through cyber manipulation."
"I don't know what to say to the families (of the victims), how grieved and sorry I am, and how I cannot imagine being in their shoes," she told The News.
Dobson's mother said her son has not been able to talk since the shootings, but did communicate with hand gestures earlier this week after being sedated.
He raised his thumb and index finger into an L — the sign of a gun — then held up two fingers and followed with his hand slicing through the air, his mother said.
"A mother knows what her child is saying," she said. "He was telling me he was shot twice and he drove off. I said, 'Don't worry about it one bit. They got him.'"
On New Year's Eve, Farrell Villarreal was denied bond on charges of murder, attempted murder, carjacking and possession of a weapon during a violent crime.
Farrell Villarreal appeared in an orange jumpsuit via a monitor. During the hearing, families of the victims said they would like the death penalty pursued.
Farrell Villarreal said little:
"I want to say that I'm sorry this situation exists, and I want to say I hope we can resolve this situation in court, and I would like to have a different ending to this than my death because I don't like this situation. I'm just going to say that."