BLACK MOUNTAIN, N.C. — To neighbors, it looked like a “moonshine shack,” a little yellow wooden hut with overgrown weeds and no indoor plumbing, banged together by its owner, Robert Lewis Dear Jr.

And whenever Dear came to stay in his shack in the woods, the neighbors in Anderson Acres, a community of about seven houses along a steep, gravel road here, kept their kids inside.

“He was the kind of person you had to watch out for,” said one neighbor who asked not to be identified, saying he feared retaliation from Dear or his family.

“He was a very weird individual. It’s hard to explain, but he had a weird look in his eye most of the time,” the neighbor said.

Dear, 57, the man in custody for Friday’s shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, appears to have been a malcontent who drifted from place to place in the past couple of years. In addition to the shack, he lived in a mobile home in another town in North Carolina and a camper on a piece of vacant land in Colorado, which he shared with a woman who moved with him from the East Coast.

Some who knew him found him unremarkable, while others said he seemed delusional and aggressive.

Dear had a history of run-ins with neighbors and police, including arrests for cruelty to animals and being a “peeping Tom.” He was not convicted in either case.

“It’s just too devastating, it’s just something you can’t fathom happening,” Pamela Ross, who was married to Dear nearly 20 years ago, said in a brief interview Saturday.

Dear’s problems with the law date to 1997, when his then-wife reported to police that Dear had assaulted her, according to reports filed with the Sheriff’s Office in Colleton County, South Carolina, where Dear lived at the time.

She declined to file charges against him but told police she reported it because she “wanted something on record of this incident occurring.”

Colleton County police released reports of at least seven other incidents where Dear had disputes or physical altercations with neighbors or other residents.