News Segment


December 16, 2004

The mother of Nathan Gale, the man who gunned down founding Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell Abbott and three others at an Ohio nightclub last week, says her son was mentally ill.

In an interview with Columbus, Ohio, television station WCMH Wednesday, Mary Clark revealed that her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia while he was serving in the Marines, leading to his discharge in 2003.

“He came home with the medications, and I don’t know if he took them or not,” Clark said, refusing to show her face on camera. “I have such remorse for those families, and I am so sorry that they are losing their loved ones.”

Authorities are still trying to determine exactly why Gale, 25, charged the stage of Columbus’ Alrosa Villa nightclub on Dec. 8 and shot Abbot at point-blank range as his new band, Damageplan, launched into its set.

Also killed in the resulting fracas: a bouncer, Jeff Thompson, 40; Alrosa Villa staffer Eric Halk, 29; and fan Nathan Bray, 23. Two others were wounded. The assailant, a native of nearby Marysville, was shot to death by a police officer who responded to the 911 call.

Clark said she was wracked with guilt–having given her soun the 9mm semiautomatic handgun he used in the rampage. She says she presented the pistol to her son for his military service–and before he was diagnosed with the disorder.

“When he came home, for Christmas, the year he was in the service, I was so proud of that man for cleaning up his life the way he did and I bought him that gun,” Clark told the station. “I’ll never, never be able to live that part down.”

Clark said her son had a troubled youth. He struggled with “drug issues” and was a huge fan of Pantera–perhaps too much.

She also confirmed comments made last week by Gale’s former friends, who said Gale had come to believe Abbott stole lyrics Gale wrote for Pantera songs.

“He had it in his head that those were his lyrics. And nobody was going to change his mind,” Clark said.

The ex-Marine once told a friend he considered suing Abbott, claiming the musician “stole” Gale’s identity. The lawsuit never happened, but his friend broke off contact with Gale as a result. It was at that point, said his mother, that Gale appeared to come to his senses.

Clark speculated her son was “afraid…or ashamed…or didn’t believe” he had the mental disorder, which is characterized by delusions and hallucinations, noting that she discovered a notebook in his apartment in which her son wrote that he “could not see [his] own thoughts.”

Clark refused to divulge details about her son’s funeral, but she did praise Officer James D. Niggemeyer, who confronted Gale alone and shot him as he held a hostage onstage.

“I give that man credit,” Clark said. “He saved, you’ll never know how many lives he saved.”

Abbott, meanwhile, was laid to rest at a private funeral service held Tuesday in his hometown of Arlington, Texas. That was followed hours later by a public memorial at the Arlington Convention Center attended by several thousand fans and many of Abbott’s metal contemporaries.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Eddie Van Halen was among those paying tributes, downing shots with Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde while reminiscing about Abbott.

“I’m here for the same reason as everyone else, to give some love back. This guy was full of life. He lived and breathed rock and roll,” said Van Halen.

He then played a profanity-laden message Dimebag had left on Van Halen’s cell phone after the two had jammed.

“I just wanted to give you a…call to tell you thank you so…much, man, for the most awesome uplifting, euphoric, spiritual rock ‘n’ roll extravaganza ever,” Abbott was heard saying.

Said Wylde: “A whole part of my life is gone.”

Among those performing at the public memorial were surviving Pantera members Rex Brown and Abbott’s brother, Vinnie Paul, who was also the drummer for Damageplan and was nearly shot during the attack. He told the audience that his brother “went down” doing what he loved.

Former Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell performed tributes at both the public memorial service and the private one held earlier that day.

Other artists who turned up included members of Slipknot and Fear Factory. Former Pantera frontman Phil Anselmo, whose falling out with Abbott led to the breakup of Pantera, did not attend at the request of Dimebag’s family.

However, in an emotional statement, the singer offered his condolences to the family, calling the slain guitarist “the most beautiful person in the world…[and my] best friend” and adding he “loved him like a brother loves a brother.”

“I never got a chance to say goodbye in the right way and it kills me,” Anselmo was quoted by MTV as saying. “I wish to God I could’ve gone to his funeral, but I have to respect his family’s wishes, and they do not want me there. I believe I belong there, but I understand completely, I’m so sorry.”

Josh Grossberg courtesy of E! Online