NEW BERLIN, Wis. – When chipmunks got into Terry Ratzmann's (search) garden, he set up traps to catch them. But his neighbor said he kept the animals alive and let them loose somewhere else.
"He couldn't even kill a chipmunk. He was that kind of individual," said Gene Herrmann, who lived next door to Ratzmann for about 30 years.
The man police say killed seven people and then himself during a church service Saturday was described by neighbors as quiet and devout.
He liked to tinker about his house and garden, said Shane Colwell, another neighbor who knew Ratzmann for about a decade.
Ratzmann, 44, lived with his mother and sister in a modest, two-story brown home about two miles from the suburban Milwaukee (search) hotel where police say he opened fire during a service of the Living Church of God (search).
Ratzmann, a computer technician, went to church every Saturday, Colwell said, and had lived in the same house his entire life. He was so devout that he skipped Colwell's wedding because it was on a Saturday, the same day as services at the church, which belonged to a denomination focused on "end-time" prophecies.
"He wasn't a dark guy. He was [an] average Joe," Colwell said. "It's not like he ever pushed his beliefs on anyone else."
Church members, though, said Ratzmann struggled with depression for years and stormed out of a service two weeks ago, possibly because he was upset over a sermon. Investigators were not sure what set him off.
"Terry suffered from depression, on and off. When he was really depressed he didn't talk to people. Sometimes it was worse than others," said Kathleen Wollin, who was sitting at the front of the room during Saturday's service.
Rosemarie Malchow, another neighbor, said he rarely talked to anyone except Colwell. She would sometimes wave at him, but he rarely waved back, and she would see him leave his house on Saturdays dressed in a suit and tie.
Investigators say Ratzmann also may have been on the verge of losing his job. He worked for an employment agency and had been assigned to a health care company.
Agents who searched Ratzmann's home found three computers containing many encrypted files. They also found a rifle and ammunition.
Police questioned Ratzmann's mother and sister on Saturday. Ratzmann's aunt, Pat Ratzmann, said her nephew's parents divorced about 20 years ago, and his father died about 12 years ago.
Nearby residents remembered watching Ratzman tend his large backyard garden in the summer.
"Usually, he had his hands full digging up flowers and stuff," neighbor Mark Malchow said. "You could tell he had a green thumb."
Ratzmann built his own greenhouse, and neighbors said he shared his homegrown vegetables with them. Colwell said Ratzmann raised trout and designed a system in which he used trout waste to fertilize his greenhouse plants — including tropical plants and Venus flytraps — then recycled the water back to the fish tank.
A week ago, Colwell helped Ratzmann fix his truck. Herrmann said he took good care of his house and three dogs.
"He never bothered anybody around here," he said.