EL MIRAGE, Ariz. - It was a mysterious murder in El Mirage.
The victim, Thomas Retzlaff, was once accused of online stalking and harassment after being embroiled in a nasty legal battle with a former member of the Proud Boys.
The 55-year-old was found dead by El Mirage Police in his home after his newlywed wife called in a welfare check. Investigators won't provide many details at all, but the county medical examiner is ruling it a homicide.
Surveillance video captures moment police arrive
Ring surveillance video on the night of Sept. 1 showed when El Mirage police officers were investigating the house Retzlaff lived in near Dysart and Cactus Roads.
Retzlaff's dog can be heard barking in the background.
"More police came, and that's when I suspected that something happened," a neighbor said. "Something serious happened in the house."
Retzlaff's body was later discovered.
A neighbor said that she has known Retzlaff since she moved in a few years ago. She said she last saw him on either Aug. 21 or 22, a week prior to the welfare check.
At the time, she learned that Retzlaff had married a young woman who used to be his roommate.
The home is apparently vacant at this time, and an eviction notice is left at the rental property's door by a Maricopa County Constable.
Retzlaff's son, Collin, spoke with FOX 10 over the phone. He said he also called police after not getting a response from his dad.
"I mean, it was just like eating us inside," Collin said. "I wanted to know…what happened to him?"
Police released few details on what happened
In an email response, El Mirage Police wrote:
Meanwhile, Collin said he has not been able to enter the home, and he is not getting answers from investigators.
"It doesn't seem like they're doing anything," said Collin.
Ex-Proud Boys member accuses Retzlaff of being a stalker
So, who is Thomas Retzlaff? A Texas lawyer is not holding back about who Retzlaff was.
"I was a victim of stalking by this man from approximately March of 2017 until about, I would say, nine months prior to his death," said Jason Van Dyke. "We really didn't have anything to do with each other after the litigation ended."
Van Dyke is a former member of the Proud Boys, a far-right all-male group born in the midst of the 2016 presidential election. Van Dyke admits he served as the group's lawyer, but denies current involvement.
"First of all, I haven't been involved in the Proud Boys in almost three years now, and I'm glad I haven't been involved in that," he said. "I wanted nothing more to do with them."
In March 2018, Van Dyke filed a $100 million defamation lawsuit in federal court, accusing Retzlaff of calling him a Nazi and a pedophile online. Retzlaff had filed complaints with the State Bar in Texas to block Van Dyke from a job as a county prosecutor.
A judge denied Retzlaff's motion to dismiss the case, and court documents say Van Dyke made a promise to Retzlaff:
By March 2020, Retzlaff motioned to dismiss Van Dyke's lawsuit, again accusing him of targeting him in a murder plot.
He cited an audio recording obtained by an FBI informant revealing Van Dyke had members of the Proud Boys chapter in Arizona watching him.
Van Dyke denies the alleged assassination plot.
"There was a conversation that occurred with my roommate," Van Dyke said. "I was in a very dark place in my life. I was in therapy, I was not in the best state of mind."
Ultimately, a judge dismissed the case in November 2020 - calling it all 'spiteful litigation.' Van Dyke says he was relieved to find out about Retzlaff's death, and said that El Mirage Police have not contacted him.
Retzlaff's son defends his father
Despite Retzlaff's internet persona, Collin said that is not the man he knew.
"I know that he used to be a really helpful person," said the victim's son. "I know that for a fact."
Neighbors had no idea about the intense legal battles involving Retzlaff, nor do they know about criminal allegations involving Retzlaff. According to Maricopa County court records, Retzlaff was facing charges of identity theft, forgery and computer tampering prior to his death.
"He was a good person. I cannot imagine anybody hurting him and why," said one neighbor.
Collin said his father did not deserve to be killed, and he continues to wait for a break in the case from police.
"I have no idea. They don't tell us anything," said Collin.
We have reached out to El Mirage Police for an interview regarding Retzlaff's death, but a spokesperson declined, and no further updates have been provided.
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