Police had obtained the name of one man implicated in the Serial Shooter crime spree in early to mid-July, but were unable to locate him as the body count climbed. They say they figured out where he lived only after a young Mesa woman was killed a week ago.
Initially, Samuel J. Dieteman was just one of several people whom police thought might have been associated with the string of shootings, Phoenix police Sgt. Andy Hill said Saturday.
While some investigators tried to find Dieteman, other multi-agency task force members checked out hundreds of other leads in the final weeks of the wide-ranging investigation.
“Detectives continued to try to find him, but they could not,” Hill said. “They tried a number of resources, a number of investigative techniques and tools and technology things to try to find this person.”
Dieteman, 30, and Dale Hausner, 33, were arrested at their Mesa apartment late Thursday night. Police now say they had been following them for four days — starting the day after 22-year-old Robin Blasnek of Mesa was killed as she walked alone on Gilbert Road late at night.
The year-long spree of shootings left six people dead and 17 others wounded. Blasnek is believed to be the pair’s final victim.
Other victims include a man — who police still have not identified — who was wounded by a shotgun blast while bicycling in Mesa on July 22, and the slaying of 20-yearold Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz, who was killed in Scottsdale.
Dieteman and Hausner are being held without bail on suspicion of two counts of firstdegree murder and 14 counts of attempted first-degree murder. Additional charges are pending, authorities said.
Police received a specific tip about Dieteman before July 30, the day of the final slaying, and through surveillance located him late Monday, Hill said.
“From that moment on, the minute we found where he was, then we were able to find out where he lived and everything else went from there,” Hill said. “We were on him 24/7 because if this turned out to be our suspect, we were not going to let another incident happen.”
Dieteman, and then Hausner, became the focus of the investigation when police tied them to a silver, four-door Toyota Camry that matched the description of the car used by the Serial Shooter, Hill said. Police made that connection late Monday.
Tipsters called authorities three times since June with information that Dieteman was tied to various crimes around the metropolitan area, according to officials with Phoenix police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
However, the first tip was associated with arsons at two Wal-Mart stores in Glendale on June 8. At that time, authorities were unaware of any link between the fires and the shootings, police and ATF officials said.
ATF agents released videotaped images of two men who were suspected in the arsons. A tipster identified one of the men as Dieteman, but authorities were unable to locate him or identify a second man photographed with him, said ATF senior special agent Thomas Mangan.
“The people we were trying to interview hadn’t seen him in months,” Mangan said. Authorities tried to track him through vehicle records, but they were outdated.
Authorities now believe the second man at Wal-Mart was Hausner.
The second tip, which tied Dieteman to the S erial Shooter cases, was incomplete, Hill said. The final tip, which came before July 30, finally led police to him.
Authorities were unable to immediately provide the specific dates of tips Saturday, because key investigators were unavailable.
The third source, who told police that Dieteman referred to the shootings as “Random Recreational Violence,” had no idea where he was, Hill said.
He would not disclose what investigative methods police used to finally locate Dieteman.
Still, Hill said, “from that point on, after they were able to locate him, they were immediately able to make him an investigative lead and begin to focus on him with lots of resources.”
After investigators located Dieteman, he led them to Hausner, his roommate in the Windscape Apartments at 550 E. McKellips Road in Mesa.
While some officers kept watch on the two, other investigators worked to gather more evidence against them before they could make an arrest.
Police tracked Dieteman and Hausner on Tuesday night as they drove through areas of prior attacks and watched as they slowed as they passed homeless people.
Police were prepared to shoot Dieteman and Hausner if necessary to prevent them from shooting anyone else, Hill said.
“We did not want anybody else to get shot. Everything we did from when we were able to locate him was aimed at trying to stop that. That was a very critical part of what we had to do from then on,” he said.
Dieteman and Hausner made no other late-night drives before police arrested them near a trash container at their apartment complex late Thursday night.
“There was just a lot of focus and attention and constant decision-making going on while trying to make a case — and at the same time, you have to try to protect the public. That was a very difficult time,” Hill said.