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Suspect In Massacre Is a ‘Fruitcake,’ Neighbors Say

April 25, 1987

PALM BAY, Fla. (AP) _ A man accused of murdering six people in a shooting rampage at two shopping centers is a sullen loner with a hair-trigger temper who fired shots in the air when youngsters walked in his yard, neighbors say.

″The kids were all afraid of him,″ said Eucal Grant, 68, who lived three doors from William Bryan Cruse. ″I considered him off his head - crazy. He just acted crazy. No one talked to him, not even his next-door neighbors.″

Neighbors said that about a half-hour before the rampage Thursday, Cruse fired shots when two teen-agers cut across his property, and a bullet hit a 14-year-old playing basketball across the street. He was in fair condition today.

Police said Cruse, 59, on Thursday walked through two shopping centers, shooting anyone in sight and littering the pavement with bodies. The first two police officers on the scene were among those killed.

Cruse was overpowered in a supermarket by police early Friday after three hostages were either released or escaped. Thirteen people were injured, two critically, in the rampage.

Cruse was ordered held without bond in the Brevard County Detention Center in Sharpes on six counts of murder, 10 counts of attempted murder and several other counts, including kidnapping,

Neighbors of the college-educated former librarian said he once dug up a neighbor’s lawn in anger and threw a swing set into a ditch.

In addition, Grant said that on Tuesday, Cruse carried a gun as a chased a child down a street in the modest, racially mixed neighborhood of single- family homes.

″He was a fruitcake,″ said 14-year-old Derrick Suarez, who said Cruse once fired shots into the air when he saw the boy and a friend crossing his yard.

Records in Kentucky show that in 1949, Cruse’s father, W.B. Cruse sprayed bullets inside the empty home of a prosecutor, The Orlando Sentinel reported today. No one was injured.

The elder Cruse was sentenced to five years in prison. Both he and Cruse’s mother, Dora, are dead.

Several of Cruse’s neighbors said that Cruse repeatedly yelled at their children, and they gathered signatures last year on petitions complaining about him, but police said they never received any.

In addition, neighbors said more should have been done about a complaint last week by Ron Stearn, who told police Cruse chased his 6-year-old son in a car and made lewd gestures. Police Chief Charles Simmons said the April 17 incident was minor.

Palm Bay police said Cruse had no criminal record in Florida. Police in Lexington, Ky., had a record for a man with the same name and birthdate as Cruse. That man was arrested in 1978 on a first-degree assault charge and was picked up in 1980 on public intoxication charges.

Cruse, whose wife, Millie, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, was born and raised in Irvine, a small town near Lexington. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in history in 1951 and a master’s degree in library science in 1954.

His first library job was as chief librarian in the Dare County Library in Manteo, N.C. His half-brother, Frank B. Thompson of Lexington, said Cruse moved to Palm Bay in 1985.

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