What made 64-year-old Stephen Paddock smuggle automatic weapons into his room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas and fire on the crowd of country music fans on Sunday night?
Did he really snap, as his brother said on Monday?
Stephen Paddock was retired, owned four homes and lived in a 55-and-over community in a small town called Mesquite, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas on the Arizona state line. His brother Eric, who lives in the Orlando area, said Stephen had moved to Nevada two years earlier, from Viera, Florida, to escape the humidity and to gamble.
Viera is a planned community in Brevard County on Florida’s east coast, about an hour from Orlando. Former neighbors of Paddock’s in Viera were interviewed by the Orlando Sentinel and told the paper that Stephen was “real friendly” and “very outgoing” and had handed them a key to his home, telling them he was a professional gambler and wouldn’t be around very much.
In an interview with reporters outside his home on Monday, Eric Paddock said his brother wasn’t interested in much of anything except gambling.
“No history of anything — couldn’t give a s*** less about politics, religion, pointy-hatted people, etc., etc.,” he said. “He just wanted to get a freaking royal flush.”
He went on to say that Stephen had no military training and “was not an avid gun guy at all,” saying he had no idea how his brother could have had a fully automatic weapon, as had been reported, though he acknowledged that the two were not very close and didn’t speak very often.
“An asteroid just fell out of the sky,” he said. “We have absolutely no [idea] why in the world he would do something like this.”
He went on to say that Stephen was “just a guy” and that he must have “snapped.”
But “snapped,” as others have observed, does not seem to tell the whole story. Paddock would likely have needed at least a couple of days to haul 23 weapons, including several rifles, from his home in Mesquite to the Mandalay Bay and to set them up to inflict the maximum number of casualties in the shortest amount of time.
The massacre of 58 concertgoers, the worst shooting in American history, appeared carefully planned, not the result of a sudden flash of anger, or a bad mood.
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So the question seems to be: What happened to Stephen Paddock in the last two years, since he’d been living in Nevada?
One thing that happened is that Stephen Paddock acquired a girlfriend, a woman named Marilou Danley, age 62, who described herself on her LinkedIn page, which has since been taken down, as “a gambling and casino professional.”
Did Paddock meet her in a casino when he was gambling?
Authorities said that Marilou Danley was in the Philippines at the time of the massacre, which occurred about 10 p.m. Sunday night in Las Vegas. Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Monday that authorities had made contact with Danley and no longer considered her a “person of interest.” But on Tuesday, after NBC reported that several sources said Paddock had wired $100,000 to Danley in the Philippines a week before the massacre, Lombardo held another press conference, saying Danley is a person of interest.
(Lombardo said Danley was in Tokyo when she was located, though it appears this may have been a misstatement, as Japan’s chief cabinet secretary told reporters on Tuesday that he was not aware of this report, and that Japan was not aware of any information about Danley’s presence in the country.)
A newspaper in Brisbane, Australia, reported that Danley is an Australian citizen originally from the Philippines. The Gold Coast Bulletin interviewed an old neighbor of hers in Australia, who described Danley as “bubbly, petite and full of life.”
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Other old friends of Danley’s in Australia said she had been married to an Australian, who has since died, and that she moved to the United States more than 20 years ago.
One of Danley’s sisters, Liz Werner, still lives in Australia. She didn’t want to talk to a reporter with the Bulletin, however, saying, “I can’t comment at the moment. I can’t say anything. I’m sorry, sorry.”
It’s unknown if Danley still has family living in the Philippines, and what other connections she still has there.
The Philippines is a majority Catholic country that has a restive Muslim minority, living mostly on three islands in the southern part of the country. Islamic terrorism has become an increasingly acute problem for the country, with two Islamist terrorist groups, Abu Sayyah and Rajah Solaiman, kidnapping and beheading Westerners and carrying out other atrocities.
The president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has won the support of Islamist separatists in the Philippines, and has said terrorism is not to be blamed on the Middle East, and also that America has brought terrorism on itself.
It’s not known if Danley is religious and what her religious affiliation might be.
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In the U.S., Danley seemed to settle down and begin living a normal life.
The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that she was married to an American named Geary Danley from 1990 until 2015, when they divorced.
Danley worked in casinos in Nevada for a time, and sometime in the past two years moved in with Stephen Paddock, sharing his home in Mesquite. Some sources are reporting that she moved in with him in the spring of this year.
“LVMPD detectives have made contact with her and do not believe she is involved with the shooting on the strip,” the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said, according to WSB-TV.
Lombardo said authorities believe Paddock used Danley’s identification during his stay at the Mandalay Bay.
And why did authorities say so quickly that Danley was not a person of interest and was not involved in the massacre? Do they believe she did not have foreknowledge of it, either? How could she have lived with Paddock and failed to notice that he was amassing a large number of guns? What does she know about his state of mind, his political beliefs?
Danley flew back to the U.S. on Tuesday night, escorted by FBI agents, and was being interviewed by the FBI on Wednesday morning, according to Fox News.
Who Was the Woman Saying Everyone Would Die an Hour Before the Massacre?
If it seems odd to some that the girlfriend of the mass murderer was about as far away as you can possibly get from Las Vegas without leaving planet Earth on the night of the massacre, and that law enforcement appeared to quickly clear her of any involvement in the shooting, the reports of a Hispanic-looking woman at the concert warning everyone of their impending death are surely stranger still.
A young woman named Brianna Hendricks was interviewed near the concert venue after the massacre. She told KSNV, the NBC affiliate in Las Vegas, that a Hispanic-looking woman had been escorted out of the concert before the shooting started after telling people that they were all going to die.
“So there was a lady who pushed her way forward into the concert venue into the first row, and she started messing with another lady and told us that we were all going to die tonight,” she said. “It was about 45 minutes before the shots were actually fired, but then she was escorted out by security.”
“Obviously she was telling us that either to tell us to warn us, or to tell us that we were all gonna to die and she was part of it, so …”
Hendricks said she was in Las Vegas to celebrate her 21st birthday. She described the woman as appearing Hispanic, and said she was with a man, her boyfriend, who also appeared to be Hispanic. She said both were short, about 5 feet 5 or 6 inches tall.
Who were they? How could they have known of the attack?
Were they friends of Paddock? Were they acquainted with someone who knew what Paddock was planning? Was the woman a housekeeper at the Mandalay Bay who had seen Paddock’s weapons stockpile? How many others also knew? If this woman wanted to save people from being killed, why wouldn’t she have called the police?
Was Paddock Somehow Linked to Islamist Terrorism?
A source with knowledge of the case told CNN on Tuesday that there is no known link between the massacre and overseas terrorism or terror groups, and Aaron Rouse, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Las Vegas office, said: “As this event unfolds, we have determined to this point no connection with an international terrorist group.”
But within hours of the shooting, ISIS issued a statement, calling Paddock “a soldier of the Islamic State,” and the terror group’s so-called news agency, Amaq, released a statement saying Paddock had converted to Islam several months ago.
Newsweek noted that in May, ISIS released a video showing the Las Vegas Strip as a potential target. The video showed footage of the strip and called on supporters to conduct attacks with knives and vehicles.
Is it possible that Paddock converted to Islam quietly, without telling his brother? Is it possible he was radicalized without having direct communication with ISIS?
Some news outlets have reported that he has been dating Marilou Danley since the spring of 2017, about the same time ISIS says Paddock converted to Islam. What is the relationship between Danley and the change that came over Paddock, which led to his massacre of so many innocent Americans attending a country music festival?
To understand what happened in Las Vegas on Sunday night, Americans need to know why it happened. To prevent something like this from happening again, law enforcement must discover what it was that drove Stephen Paddock to want to murder and maim scores of Americans he’d never met.
(photo credit, homepage images: Youtube / Marilou Danley’s Facebook; photo credit, article images: Youtube / Paddock Family’s Facebook)