It seems that when John G Anderson, 59, of Elm Mott TX, joined a picture-sharing Web site, it was a good place to share his artwork and political views. After sometime though, he chose to block certain people from his page because of insults and foul language. Some of those people retaliated by making obscene digitally altered pictures of him and posting them. Anderson, who went by the screen name "Johnny Darkness" began to trade barbs with Fire Controlman 2nd Class Petty Officer Russell Tavares, 27, of Dahlgren VA. Tavares went by the screen name "PyroDice" and things evidently boiled over when Anderson called him a nerd and posted a digitally altered picture of Tavares looking like a nerd.
Now most reasonable people would have just let it go as just being a silly, online argument, something that happens all too often these days. Tavares though, obtained Anderson's real name and hometown from Anderson's Web page about his Museum of Horrors Haunted House and set out to right the "wrong." He took leave from his post as a weapons systems operator at the AEGIS Training and Readiness Center in Virginia and hit the road. He said that he had only planned on pointing a shotgun at Anderson and then shooting his computer.
All along the 1,300 mile trip from Virginia to Texas, Tavares posted photos he had taken of various "welcome" signs he passed at the state borders, as if to prove he meant business. Tavares's attorney, Susan Kelly Johnston, had said that his trip to the Waco area was a last minute decision on a cross-country trip to visit family in Arizona and he had never intended to do any harm.
"I didn't think anyone would be stupid enough to try to kill anybody over an Internet fight," stated Anderson.
Instead of doing what he had planned and childishly "get back" at Anderson, Tavares posted a final picture of a "Welcome to Texas" sign and then threw a gasoline soaked piece of plastic foam into the back of Anderson's mobile home and lit a fire. The 2005 fire caused $50,000 in damage to his trailer and computer equipment and Anderson, an ex-Marine who had served in Vietnam, suffered smoke inhalation while trying to put the fire out.
James Pack, an investigator with the McLennon County Sheriff's Office tracked Tavares down after contacting several other people involved in the dispute and then matching phone records to place him in the Waco area. Tavares told investigators that Anderson had insulted his online friends for too long and that he had spread viruses.
Tavares was discharged from the Navy in 2006 after a nine year career with them. He was sentenced this week to seven years in prison after pleading no contest to arson and admitted he had set the fire. He couldn't let the feud end even at his sentencing, he was ordered to erase photos he had taken with his cell-phone of Anderson, while they were in the courtroom.
"He lost everything - all over an Internet squabble," said an investigator.
I wonder if Tavares has ever heard the old saying. "sticks and stones may break my bones....... but names will never hurt me." That 1,300 mile drive has gotten him seven years to ponder the deeper meaning of that wisdom.