Joseph "DJ Too Tuff" Hicks was spinning records under I-95 during a graffiti party at South Philadelphia's FDR Park in 2013, when he met the man who allegedly killed his own wife with a crossbow Sunday night.
"The first thing he said to me was, 'I see something familiar when I look at you. It looks like you may be going through a bit of pain,' " Hicks recalled. "He said, 'If you want to learn a different way to live, I have something to offer you.' "
Hicks, of the Philly hip-hop act Tuff Crew, said in an interview Thursday that Paul 'Ku Ku' Kuzan offered him a life of sobriety and a room to rent in his house on the 3100 block of Willits Road.
"He had substance-abuse problems and so did I," said Hicks, 47. "He was an NA [Narcotics Anonymous] expert. He's like an NA Jedi."
For four months in 2013, Hicks said, he lived with Kuzan in the yellow rancher in which Kuzan now is accused of killing his newlywed, Pamela Nightlinger, 42, with a crossbow.
During those four months, Hicks said, he never saw Kuzan use drugs or alcohol. He said that Kuzan told him that he previously used everything from meth to PCP, although the alleged murderer's drugs of choice were crack and alcohol. Hicks said he can't get over the brutal crime of which Kuzan, 41, is accused.
"The only explanation has to be a relapse," said Hicks, who attributes his own recovery largely to Kuzan. "I can't believe it, because he's warned me and hundreds of other people about s--- just like this."
Hicks - who's been shot, stabbed, and served time in jail - said Kuzan took him to Narcotics Anonymous meetings in Kensington, where Kuzan would meet women.
"He would pick up these chicks either in the program or prostituting on the sidewalk, and he would say, 'There is a better way to live your life,' and he would end up moving some of these chicks into the crib," Hicks recalled.
"I think he liked prostitutes because . . . they raised his self-esteem and he convinced himself he was doing something good."
Hicks said that Kuzan often held informal recovery meetings in his back yard and "wanted to have control over other people that had addiction problems."
Kuzan once asked him a bizarre question, Hicks said.
"When I was living there, he said, 'Come here. Do you think if I drank two bottles of Robitussin, does that qualify as a relapse?' " Hicks recalled.
Kuzan admired Hicks and Tuff Crew - best known for their 1988 hit "My Part of Town" - so fanatically that he had "Too Tuff" painted on the back of his house by a graffiti artist while Hicks lived there.
"He loved the s--- out of me. Ku Ku would drive me everywhere," Hicks said of Kuzan. "He was a superfan, but he knew all of the words. He wasn't just a fake superfan."
But one day, about four months after Hicks moved in, he returned home to find all of his belongings missing from his bedroom, he said.
"So I walked into [Kuzan's] room and he was sitting on the bed, naked, with an ax handle in his hand with no ax head on it, holding a cellphone and crying," Hicks said.
When Hicks asked Kuzan what happened to his things, Kuzan claimed there had been a home invasion, but Hicks said he later found his belongings in the garage. He said Kuzan told him he had to move out because he was fighting for custody of his two kids and he needed the bedrooms for them.
They didn't speak again until about five weeks ago, Hicks said, when he decided to give Kuzan a call.
"I thanked him for giving me an opportunity to get clean and stay in a clean environment," Hicks said. "The last thing he said to me was, 'Wings up!' like keep your wings up, you're an angel."
When Hicks heard that Kuzan allegedly had killed his wife with a crossbow, he said, he was "shocked beyond imagination."
"I'm hurt right now," Hicks said, "because the s--- he taught me, it seems like he forgot."