The allegations against Minnesota native Samuel John Dieteman and Dale S. Hausner paint a picture of two men on a crime spree that sets them apart from most serial killers, say those who study such crimes.
Most serial killers work alone and enjoy seeing their victims suffer up close, experts say. But Dieteman, 30, and Hausner, 33, are suspected of firing from a distance, keeping news clippings of their deeds and describing their killings as “random recreational violence,” according to court documents released after their arrests.
That would set their motives — if there are any — apart from even Lee Boyd Malvo and John Muhammad, the snipers who terrorized the Washington, D.C., area and demanded a $10 million ransom.
The Arizona suspects were arrested late Thursday in connection with a spree that killed six. Dieteman was a petty criminal who married his high school sweetheart and had dozens of run-ins with Minnesota police, court records show. Hausner was a timid man who had lost two of his children to an automobile crash in 1994.
How the two men got together remains unclear.
By themselves, sociopaths may not always kill. But if their paths cross with the wrong person, it can trigger deadly results, said Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.
“When they operate as a team, you have to understand their relationship. The insanity in their crimes may be in their relationship, not in their minds,” Levin said. For example, he pointed to how some friends can inspire you to things you wouldn’t otherwise do.
Steven Pitt, a Scottsdale forensic psychiatrist, said it’s too early to say what the motives were in the Valley shootings and that everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But some conclusions are clear, he said.
“Suffice it to say, whatever the motivation was, it was misguided and with evil intent,” he said.
Clearly, the perpetrators were disaffected, he said, and they probably have problems such as financial troubles or substance abuse.
But Dieteman’s leap from committing petty theft to becoming a suspect in a string of killings is not so improbable, Pitt said.
“What we don’t know is what they’ve been doing in between,” he said.
Pitt said whenever killers operate in tandem, there is a power dynamic at work. “One person assumed more of a leadership role and more of a dominant role, and the other person assumed more of the role of follower.”