The morning of March 2, Stephan House saw a strange package on his front porch in Austin, Texas. He sent his 8-year-old daughter back inside to brush her teeth before they left for school.
About 7 a.m., the package exploded, sending shrapnel everywhere.
“She ran to the door and saw him sprawled out and blown up, and she was only 8,” said House’s brother, Norrell Waynewood, in an interview with The Daily Beast.
Neighbors heard the blast and rushed over to grab House’s screaming daughter as they tried to perform CPR on him after calling 911, but it was too late.
“Mom never had the opportunity to grieve,” Waynewood said. “She hasn’t had the chance to seclude herself and process it. She’s holding together to make sure everyone is taken care of.”
After several weeks of five fatal and injurious bombs that terrorized the area, police in Austin say they’ve caught the man responsible, 24-year-old Mark Anthony Conditt. Conditt blew himself up when police cornered him in Round Rock, Texas early Wednesday morning, authorities said.
But House’s brother, Waynewood, said their family doesn’t feel relieved.
“My mom does not feel safe,” said Waynewood. “His wife and his daughter do not feel safe. They’ve left their homes.”
“I’d be totally happy if this is the end, I just don’t feel like it is,” he added, noting that his mother is worried Conditt may have had potential accomplices and doesn’t believe police have kept them in the loop on the investigation.
“Having that much knowledge and being that skilled,” Waynewood said, has left his family terrified that Conditt did not act alone, despite police announcing on Wednesday that Conditt built all of the explosive devices himself. No other suspects or persons of interest have been named by police.
But the family’s lack of trust in authorities started early on in the investigation for the House family.
“When it first happened, we didn’t feel like police were taking our family seriously,” said Waynewood.
When he arrived in Austin after racing from New Mexico to get home, Waynewood was shocked to find that there were no police apparently monitoring his family, when a targeted explosion had happened just hours earlier.
“If there’s been an explosion or bomb, and my family was targeted, why was there no guard outside? Why are they alone?” he said. “I don’t know officer protocol, but I want to believe if there was a family threatened like that, they would be protected.”
Then, police treated House like a suspect in his own death.
“We can’t rule out that Mr. House didn’t construct this himself and accidentally detonate it,” APD Assistant Chief Joseph Chacon told reporters at the time, noting that there was no continuing threat to the public.
“I do not believe that we have someone going around leaving packages like this,” he said.
They had “lulled the public into a false sense of security and not kept them on high alert,” thus playing down his brother’s death, said Waynewood.
“Once he was painted as doing it to himself, people lost respect for him,” he continued. “People stopped offering to help out at the funeral, stopped giving money, stopped helping.”
“Even close friends backed up,” he said.
House’s family says they were heartbroken by the damage that caused because he was such a remarkable man.
“He was an athlete, started his own hedge-fund account from scratch,” said Waynewood. “He was an academic, the type of guy who just wants to push. To be better, to make whatever situation you have better.”
“His whole life was for his daughter, for making her life better. For her to be a leader, for her to be educated,” he added. “That was it.”
House’s mom, Melonie House, created a GoFundMe page for Stephan’s daughter.
She described Stephan as “a caring and devoted father,” whose death “left us all traumatized and devastated emotionally.”
“His whole purpose in life was to provide the best possible opportunities for his family to enjoy a fruitful, love-filled life,” House wrote on the page, which had Wednesday afternoon raised just over $2,000. “I loved my son dearly and my only concern and purpose now is to protect and do all I can for my granddaughter.”
“This unforeseen tragedy has left his dreams for his wife, who is a local school teacher, and his 8-year-old baby girl shattered, replaced only with heartbreaking uncertainty.”
“His daughter is now left fatherless,” she said.