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Father of sword attack suspect says son gripped by paranoia, obsession with sun

By BRENDAN KIRBY

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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — A man accused of killing his mother with a samurai sword and injuring two other family members on Sunday began behaving strangely days before the incident, according to his father.

Hubert Washam said he noticed sublated changes in his 23-year-old son, Damien Winslow Washam, about four to six weeks earlier. He said his son sold his beloved PlayStation games and started watching strange videos of Egyptian mythology and conspiracies.

“He started having this infatuation with the sun, listening to them conspiracy theory-type things. … He just started coming out and being in the sun, trying to get closer to the sun,” the elder Washam told FOX10 News on Friday, hours after a judge set bond for his son totaling $796,750.

Washam said his son has no criminal record except for a misdemeanor arrest in Saraland for possession of a marijuana joint, and no history of mental illness. But he added that the small changes he had noticed became more dramatic in the few days before the incident. He said Damien switched to a vegetarian diet and started using metal kick bars to block the front and back doors from the inside.

“We never had any problems out of him, and then all of a sudden, he stated acting paranoid, I guess,” he said.

Still, Washam said, he had spent the day with Damien on Sunday, and everything seemed fine. He said he left the house on Mausap Road in the Eight Mile/Semmes area about 20 minutes before the incident occurred. He said he was going to get some food and called home but could not reach anyone.

Washam said his autistic son, Desmon, then called with news that was hard to process.

“He called me and told me, ‘Mama died. Damien hurt Mama,’” he said.

The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office alleges the Damien Washam used a sword he recently had purchased to kill his mother, 61-year-old Helen Nettles Washam. The defendant also critically wounded his uncle, George Washington Nettles, a 52-year-old, bedridden man with cerebral palsy. Desmon Washam, the one who informed his father of the attack, suffered cuts to his wrist.

The defendant then led law enforcement authorities on a 20-miutes chase before they managed to stop his Honda Accord on Alabama 158.

Hubert Washam said his brother-in-law had surgery for his wounds and remains hospitalized.

Mobile County Assistant District Attorney Madison Davis said during the defendant’s bond hearing Friday that the attack came after a verbal altercation between him and his mother. She said prosecutors have information that the defendant was trying to purchase a gun before buying the sword.

“We can’t say definitively whether, you know, he was planning this attack or if it’s something that just got out of control that day,” she said after the hearing.

Hubert Washam said he does not believe his wife and son argued. Instead, he said, he believes his son – notwithstanding his lack of history of mental health – was not right when he picked up that weapon. He said his son has not contacted the family since his arrest. He said he has spoken to him only once, when detectives handed him the phone.

“He didn’t sound like himself,” he said. “That’s when I realized he possibly had some kind of mental-something going on there. … He wasn’t making any sense. He sounded crazy.”

Mobile County Sheriff’s Capt. Paul Burch said his agency continues to investigate the crime. He said investigators have not determined a motive and have not determined whether drugs played a role. Legally, he said, making those determinations are not necessary.

As for whether the defendant is exhibiting signs of mental illness, he said he has no basis to judge whether his conduct was unusual compared to his typical behavior.

Washam told FOX10 News that his son told authorities that he had been using cocaine, crystal methamphetamine and “spice.” But he said that is not true.

Instead, he placed the blame squarely on the videos his son had been watching. He showed one to FOX10 News made by Jamal Rashad, who has posted a number of black power videos to TikTok.

“He started looking at those videos, and he just changed,” Washam said.

That change, he said, was fast: “It’s like it all happened in a day or so, happened in a couple of days.”

Washam said boxes ordered by his son arrived in the two days after the incident. The contents, he said, were “disturbing.” He said he does not want to discuss the details but added that he has turned it over to the Sheriff’s Office.

Funeral services for Helen Washam, are set for this coming Wednesday at Shiloh Baptist Church in Citronelle. There will be a visitation at 10 for friends and family, followed by a funeral service at 11.

Hubert Washam, who had been married since 1991, said his wife was his best friend. He questioned whether he had missed something about Damien Washam.

“What he did is not excused by mental illness,” he said. “I can’t excuse it by mental illness. His mamma was the sweetest, kindest person ever.”

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