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An Alabama man who killed his mother and attacked relatives with a samurai sword, was brainwashed by “cult”-like online conspiracies about the Egyptian underworld, his family said.
Damien Winslow Washam, 23, is accused of murdering his mother, Helen Nettles Washam, following the deadly sword attack on Sunday, police said. His 42-year-old brother, Desmon Washam — who is autistic — as well as an uncle with other disabilities were injured during the incident.
Washam, who was in possession of the Japanese-style katana blade after he was tased by authorities following a highway pursuit, is currently hospitalized, according to the Mobile County Sheriff.
County sheriff's deputies were dispatched to a property in the 6700 Block of Mausup Road in Eightmile, Alabama on Jan. 16, following reports of the alleged sword attack.
Upon their arrival, they found Helen Nettles Washam dead. Washam’s brother, Desmon Washam, suffered cuts on his wrist during the alleged altercation. The alleged attacker's uncle, George Washington Nettles — who is bedridden and suffers from cerebral palsy — was found with several lacerations to his face and transported to the hospital in critical condition.
“He may need surgery and he’s breathing on his own,” Hubert Washam, Damien Washam’s father, told Oxygen.com on Wednesday. “[He has] a bad laceration to the face, knocked a few teeth out. He can’t really talk and communicate. We don’t know how he is yet.”
Damien Washam fled the scene in a Honda Accord but was later stopped by authorities on Highway 158 following a police pursuit. The highway chase ended after Saraland Police deployed spike strips, disabling Washam’s car. He again attempted to flee on foot and was ultimately tased by a Mobile County Sheriff’s deputy.
Washam was then transported to a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.
The samurai sword allegedly used in the attack was recovered from the Honda Washam was driving. An image of the katana blade, shared by law enforcement, shows the sword resting on the vehicle’s ripped passenger seat next to a pair of crumpled acid washed denim jeans and a plastic bag.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Washam hadn’t yet been booked into a county detention center, a spokesperson for the Mobile County Sheriff’s Office confirmed. Officials say he’ll be charged with murder, attempted murder, assault and attempt to elude following his release.
The family is now mourning the death of Helen Nettles Washam, a former substitute teacher, described by loved ones as a “sweet, loving, mother" and baffled as to what could have triggered the sword attack.
“We’re broken, I’m broken,” Hubert Washam, the victim's husband, added. “I don’t know how I’m going to make it…I’m the one who walked in here and found her like this. I can never get that out of my head.”
Hubert Washam, who said that he and his wife married in 1991, described his partner as a “super dedicated” mother to their four children.
“She just was a sweet, innocent person,” he described. “She was just very kind and sweet. With her kids, everything she did."
He said that Damien Washam has no known mental health issues or past criminal record, apart from a prior arrest for minor marijuana possession.
The 23-year-old, however, had previously ordered and had delivered to the family's a horde of “disturbing” and “deranged” items, including a knife, “torture-type” brass knuckles fitted with spikes, a poster of Osiris (the Egyptian god of the underworld) and a statue of another Egyptian deity.
Hubert Washam, who said he’s since turned the items over to investigators, noted that several packages for his son arrived following his arrest.
“When I opened it up I just was hurt because maybe it seemed like there was something disturbing going on with him that we didn’t pick up on,” Hubert Washam said. “He ordered something he definitely has absolutely no use for. I can’t understand why he would order it unless he was planning to kill us all.”
Washam’s father now suspects his son may have been plotting the alleged attack after becoming enamored by Egyptian mythology and online conspiracies.
“It’s something he got into,” Hubert Washam said. “I don’t understand it. Crazy stuff — Egyptian gods of the underworld. He ordered that sword, another knife, other stuff that looked like he was planning to kill us all and burn the house down. I just wish I could ask him now what the heck was all this stuff for.”
“He had started listening to some crazy group of people, like a cult or something,” his father added. “Evidently, he had sent links to his sisters and were telling them about it, talking about the sun, and getting energy from the sun. It was just something he got into four weeks, six weeks ago. I don’t understand it.”
The Mobile County Sheriff's Office declined to comment on the open case on Wednesday. It’s unclear when Damien Washam will appear in court. Attorney information wasn’t immediately available for him.
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