ITALY, Texas -- If Hosam Maher Husein Smadi is a terrorist, he completely fooled folks in this small North Texas town.
Known in Italy as "Sam," the 19-year-old Jordanian accused of trying to blow up a Dallas skyscraper, cast the vibe of a ladies man with his slick hair, loud techno music and pistol-shaped belt buckle studded with small diamonds.
"He liked to party, even dance," said Tabatha Rogers, who lived near Smadi in a neighborhood of small domelike rental units. "He was like your average teenager who wanted to have some fun."
As Smadi made his first appearance in court Friday, friends and acquaintances struggled to reconcile the friendly young man they thought they knew with the one portrayed by authorities as a jihadist willing to trade his life to kill Americans.
Pleasant, funny and laid-back, Smadi had an accent but spoke English without trouble. He worked full time at Texas Best Smokehouse, a travel stop off Interstate 35E in Italy. He showed American interests, often stopping to talk to a neighbor about cars.
"He had us over for steaks one night, and we just cooked out on the grill and sat up till 2 or 3 in the morning," neighbor Chris Husack said. "He never talked about politics, religion or anything that would make you think he was angry or dangerous. That’s why this blows everyone’s mind."
Smadi’s father, Maher Hussein Smadi, told The Associated Press that his two sons came to the United States in 2007 on student visas.
Hosam Smadi lived in a small apartment complex in Santa Clara, Calif., from June 2007 to October 2007, according to a computer records search.
Smadi moved into his Morgan Meadows rental unit — known as "domes" to people who live in them — in April 2008, according to David B. South, owner of Morgan Meadows. He passed the company’s customary sex-offender and criminal-background check, South said.
Neighbor Danielle Wilborn said she and Smadi often waved at each other. The only unusual thing she noticed about him was that he often backed his car up close to his door and moved things between his trunk and his home.
"The only time I caught a glimpse inside his house all I saw was a bed and a table," she said. "It looked pretty simple."
Simple and clean, friend Kellye Kines said. He kept his home spotless and usually asked visitors to remove their shoes before entering.
"He was a clean freak," she said. "He liked to have everything organized and where it should be."
Neighbor Bill Zimmer said Smadi seemed even-tempered. Zimmer recently told Smadi to turn down the music blaring from his car stereo, and Smadi quickly complied.
Morgan Meadows never received any complaints about Smadi, South said. However, he had fallen about six weeks behind on his rent. Most units rent for $105 a week with all bills paid.
On Wednesday — the day before authorities say he tried to detonate what he thought was a bomb — Smadi agreed to move out and pay the back rent but had not done so, South said.
"Next thing we know the FBI was here," South said. He said he had not been inside Smadi’s unit since authorities arrived.
Friends said they knew Smadi was Muslim because he didn't eat pork and occasionally told them that he was fasting and couldn't eat, drink or swear. Kines said she thought he worshipped in Dallas on Fridays but didn’t know where.
However, Jamal Qaddura of the Tarrant County Community Forum said he was briefed by the FBI on Friday morning and was told that Smadi "has no connection to the Dallas-Fort Worth Muslim community whatsoever."
Smadi didn't talk much about his past or how he ended up in Italy, friends said.
Smadi told friends that his job kept him busy and that he worked 55 to 60 hours a week. A manager at the Smokehouse said the business would have no comment other than a written statement.
"The Texas Smokehouse is shocked and saddened by the attempted act of terrorism in downtown Dallas yesterday," it read. "We applaud the efforts of the FBI and United States Attorney and are thankful that the authorities were able to catch the individual and prevent a tragedy."
One worker, Bridgett Davis, said she had spoken to Smadi by phone Thursday morning, a few hours before his alleged detonation attempt. He was supposed to work a shift starting at 3 p.m.
"He didn't seem weird at all. He seemed normal," she said. "I am floored. I am heartbroken."
Rogers, Smadi’s neighbor, said she saw only one indication that Smadi might have another side. It was Friday, while she was watching television news footage of Smadi going to his court appearance.
"He was making, like, evil eyes at the camera," she said. "That's the first time I had ever seen him look like that. That didn't look like Sam."