Bill Greene/Globe Staff
SUDBURY – Neighbors said today that terrorism suspect Tarek Mehanna never struck them as someone who had violence in his heart – or in his future.
Media gathered outside the suburban home
Cafic Maalouf, 47, who lives down the street from the Mehanna family, said he spoke with Mehanna within the past few weeks as the 27-year-old was cutting the lawn on his family’s home on Fairhaven Circle.
Sometimes, the neighbor said, when you meet people, their eyes provide insight into the type of person they are. Some people, he said, “have this devilish, evilish look in their eyes. He’s not like that,’’ said Maalouf, who is Lebanese-American. “You could see the kindness in his eyes.’’
Shortly after 1 p.m., a woman believed to be Mehanna's mother emerged from the house, wearing a scarf over her head, dark glasses, and large hoop earrings, and was picked up by a limousine.
"He's a very good guy. He's innocent," the woman said as she got in the car.
Maalouf said he approached the car and asked if he could do anything for the family. He said the mother answered, "Just pray for us."
Paul McManus, who lives directly across Fairhaven Circle from the Mehanna family, said he was shocked and stunned to learn of the allegations, especially that Mehanna is being accused of plotting to use automatic weapons on civilians.
“He was everyday normal,’’ McManus said. ”When he was out walking, he was friendly, neighborly.’’
McManus, who spoke with Mehanna’s father after the son was arrested last year on lesser federal charges, said the new, more serious charges against Mehanna have shocked him. “I can’t believe there’s a terrorist living across the street,’’ he said. “You wouldn’t have thought it."
McManus said he was not fearful for his own family, but concerned about the impact of the arrest on Mehanna’s.
He said the father shared only a small amount of information, telling McManus the earlier arrest was a coincidence growing out of brief contact had had had with an acquaintance.
Mehanna lives with his parents on the circle, a cul-de-sac off Hudson road. According to neighbors, his father is a professor at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. Tarek Mehanna was a graduate of that school.
According to another woman who lives on the street, Tarek Mehanna did an internship in the pharmacy at the Walgreen’s drug store in Marlborough within the past few years.
“It’s heartbreaking,’’ she said of his arrest.
This morning, a woman drove up and was allowed inside the Mehannas home by a woman believed to be the suspect’s mother. The woman picked up a young child and then left without speaking to reporters. Neighbors said Mehanna's mother runs a licensed family day care center in the home.
A silver Mercedes Benz sedan was parked in the driveway of the yellow house, which has a two-car garage. Another woman left in that car at about the same time Mehanna's mother left.
As news of his arrest – and the allegations of terrorism were made public – the narrow street was flooded with television satellite trucks, cameras, and Sudbury police while television helicopters droned overhead.
Paul LaGrassa has lived on Hudson Road since 1958 in a small ranch across the street from the Mehanna home. He said he had a passing acquaintance with Mehanna, and never had any direct contact with Mehanna's parents.
But, he said, he welcomed the federal investigation. “We have to worry about homegrown people,’’ he said. “You don’t understand it, but it does happen.’’
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