Taking safety precautions because of the serial killings turned the life of 24-year-old Melanie Thomas upside down. “I dropped all my night classes at school so I didn’t have to drive home late at night,” she said, “and I go home at 9 o’clock or earlier.”
Thomas said she lives down the street from where 22-yearold Robin Blasnek was shot at Grandview Street and Gilbert Road in Mesa, and called the crimes “sick and wrong. It makes me sick to my stomach.”
East Valley residents interviewed by the Tribune about the capture of suspected serial killers Samuel John Dieteman, 30, and Dale S. Hausner, 33, reacted with a mixture of outrage and relief. Police believe the two went on a yearlong crime spree that resulted in at least 36 shootings and six slayings.
Some residents said they stayed mostly in their homes and changed routines
to avoid becoming the next victim.
Anthony Valle, 33, who lives less than a mile away from where a man was shot July 22 while riding his bicycle at Stapley Drive and Brown Road, is relieved that the men are behind bars.
“I have three kids so I feel safer now,” he said, while waiting for a bus at the same intersection. “I’m happy that the police did their job, and the community also.”
Valle said his family didn’t change their routine much but avoided going out at night, and he kept a close watch on his three children.
“We’re relieved,” he said. “With a big R.”
Blasnek was the last victim in the Serial Shooter spree. On Saturday, hundreds of her family members and friends crowded into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Harris 2nd Ward, in Mesa for her funeral, which came two days after the arrests.
Many celebrated the capture of Hausner and Dieteman while mourning the loss of a woman who worked with disabled children and volunteered at her church.
“I’m sad that there’s so much turmoil in their lives that they felt that they needed to do something like this to someone they didn’t even know,” said Mesa resident and 12-year family friend Kathy Odom. “It’s sad that they would do something that would destroy so many lives and take so much joy away from people.”
Blasnek had three sisters, one of whom died 10 years ago in a crash.
Carol Jean Carpenter’s son married Blasnek’s sister, Tara, and said the family was relieved the suspects were captured and no one else was hurt.
“We feel blessed no one else was going to get hit again,” she said. “Now justice can take over.”
The men admitted using a shotgun to kill Blasnek on July 30 in Mesa and 20-year-old Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz in Scottsdale on May 2, court records say. The men are being held on two counts of first-degree murder and 14 counts of attempted murder.
Scottsdale resident Christine Mathews, 35, said she has regained some sense of security. Gutierrez-Cruz’s murder at Thomas and Scottsdale roads hit close to home.
“It makes you rest a little easier,” she said, as she pumped gas near the intersection.
Still, Mathews has not let her young daughter walk the dog at night, and will continue to take precautions until another serial criminal still at large — the Baseline Killer — is apprehended.
The Baseline killer has evaded police for a year, committing 8 slayings and 23 rapes and robberies.
- Tribune writer Christian Richardson contributed to this report