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Austin serial bomber’s family say they had no idea of his ‘darkness’

AUSTIN — The family of Austin serial bomber Mark Anthony Conditt said Wednesday they were unaware about the “darkness” that might have consumed him.

Conditt, 23, killed himself early Wednesday after police, who had been staking out his hotel, followed him onto Interstate 35. After a short time, authorities said, Conditt pulled into a ditch and detonated an explosive device as Austin Police Department SWAT team members approached his car.

That Conditt could be a skilled bomb maker responsible for at least six explosive devices, five of which detonated, over almost three weeks in Austin and outside San Antonio seemed unthinkable to his grandmother, Mary Conditt, she said. He was quiet, kind, and she’d never seen any signs of malice or violence in him, she said.

His motives seemed to be a mystery to some family members, and authorities.

“We had no idea of the darkness that Mark must have been in. Our family is a normal family in every way,” an aunt, Shanee, who declined to give her last name, said, reading a family statement.

“Oh my gosh, no,” Mary Conditt said, speaking on the phone from Colorado. “If anything, he’s low-key and peaceful.”

Here’s what else we know about the man accused of the deadly explosions:

He came from a tight family, grandmother says

“He’s from a family that is so tight, that works so hard to raise their children correctly. It’s just horrible,” Mary Conditt said.

She added that Mark Conditt had finished his home schooling and was now “looking forward to figuring out what most kids are — figuring out his life and visiting his family and being close to them.”

Jeff Reeb, who lives near Mark Conditt’s parents in Pflugerville, Texas, north of Austin, said he saw the accused serial bomber a week or two ago. Reeb’s grandkids used to play with Mark, he said, describing Mark Conditt as a normal kid who was a little quiet.

Family said they are praying for victims

Conditt’s family members are “devastated and broken at the news that our family could be involved in such an awful way,” Shanee said in the statement.

“We love, we pray, and we try to inspire and serve others. Right now our prayers are for those families that have lost loved ones, for those impacted in any way, and for the soul of our Mark. We are grieving and we are in shock,” she said.

Shanee, who lives in Colorado, said she last saw Conditt over the Christmas holiday.

“Christmas was wonderful. We played cards. We laughed, we went to shows together,” she said.

He sent packages from outside Austin

Though surveillance photos show him wearing a baseball cap with long blond hair coming out of it as he dropped off packages in in a mail delivery office in Sunset Valley, southwest of Austin, a Facebook photo shows Conditt with short, dark hair. Police confirmed that the man seen in the surveillance photos is Conditt.

He attended a local college

Conditt attended Austin Community College from 2010 to 2012 but did not graduate, according to school records, said spokeswoman Jessica Vess. He has not attended any classes since 2012, she said.

His motive is still unknown

Police said Conditt is responsible for the bombings in Austin, but they are still investigating why he carried them out.

How did police find him?

In the past 24 to 36 hours, authorities received information that led them to a person of interest, who later became a suspect.

They later identified the suspect’s car and spotted it Wednesday night at a hotel in Round Rock, Texas, a few miles north of Austin.

Austin bombings timeline

As officers waited for tactical units to arrive on the scene, Conditt began to drive away and later stopped on the side of the road.

It was then that SWAT officers approached the vehicle and the man detonated a bomb inside his car, Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said.

Conditt died inside the vehicle.

Did he act alone?

It’s unclear if he had any accomplices. It appears that he was alone when he drove away from the hotel in Round Rock and when he detonated a device in his car.