Until now, Samuel John Dieteman was a small-time criminal. Raised in the small towns of southern Minnesota, he attended alternative school, married his high school sweetheart and became a hell-raising father with his share of troubles with alcohol and the law.
Now, Phoenix police say he’s one of the two Serial Shooters, who authorities say cased targets in the Valley and marked them with blue and red dots on a map.
As investigators attempt to solidify their case against Dieteman, 30, and alleged accomplice Dale S. Hausner, a picture of how the former could be linked to a horrific killing spree is emerging.
An informant told police Dieteman and Hausner, 33, traded places when they worked on the streets. One drove while the other took aim and fired, police say. Then they would switch.
But no authorities have yet publicly speculated — and perhaps no one will ever know — what could have led Dieteman to graduate from misdemeanor trespassing and drunken driving in southern Minnesota to calculated murder and arson in the Valley, as authorities now allege.
Wooden tulips line a trailer home at Summit Park in St. Peter, Minn., where Dieteman’s former in-laws live. A man there declined to comment.
A neighbor said Dieteman would visit his in-laws, Freda and Jerome Iverson, when he was married to their daughter, Dorothy. Dieteman would “kick up his heels every now and then, raise a little hell, have a couple beers,” said the neighbor.
His ex-wife could not be reached for comment.
As a young parent in his 20s, Dieteman “seemed caring” with his daughters and would take them fishing and camping, the neighbor said. The St. Peter neighbor said she didn’t think Dieteman was capable of killing people.
Just down the road in St. Peter, Dieteman attended public school. Paul Peterson, principal at St. Peter High School, said Dieteman was a student at the city’s alternative school for grades eight and 10, but was in the main high school for the ninth grade. Peterson could not recall qualifications then for attending the alternative school.
James Hughes, assistant principal at the high school for 20 years, said he couldn’t remember any specifics about Dieteman, but recalled his name Saturday morning the moment he heard the news. “I can’t tell you that I know him from good or bad,” he said.
Dieteman’s father, Scott Dieteman, moved to Madison Lake, Minn., nestled on crystal blue waters east of St. Peter. Several attempts to reach Scott Dieteman were unsuccessful.
Scott Dieteman’s neighbors said he moved to Madison Lake about three years ago with his girlfriend. He works part time in his scrapmetal workshop next to his house.
Although neighbors have met his daughter, they’ve never met his son.
Several local residents socializing at Madison Lake’s Trail Blazer Bar & Grill said they didn’t know the Dieteman family but were amazed one of their own was a serial killer suspect.
Jen Schave, 28, was following the news of the case way before it “hit home” for her in Minnesota.
“I’m shocked. I had no idea that was going on,” she said, but “anywhere you go, there’s bad people. It’s a crappy world we live in. I’m just glad it didn’t happen around here.
The mayor of the town of some 10,000 learned Saturday of his own connection.
“When I first heard it, I was shocked, and then it looked like he was the son of one of my classmates,” said Mayor Tim Strand in a phone interview. He attended St. Peter High with Dieteman’s mother. “I find it hard to believe that someone from this little town — about as average as you can get — is connected with something like this.”