Hauser murderers back in court

It’s been nearly 20 years since Rebecca Hauser, a mother of four children, was found brutally murdered on a rural road in Marshall County.

On Thursday three men convicted of Hauser’s murder will return to the courthouse for the crime they committed as juveniles.

Burt Smith, Derek Smith and Jayson Speaks were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

All three men will be resentenced following an August decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that made mandatory life sentences illegal for juveniles. Thursday’s court hearing will determine who will represent the men during the resentencing hearing.

Another juvenile in the case, Blake Privitt, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and first-degree robbery and was sentenced to 75 years in prison. All four are Missouri natives who had run away from their homes with a plan to rob people to fund their way to Canada.

The twin brothers and their companions used flashing emergency lights affixed to their vehicle to stop 32-year-old Hauser a mile east of Liscomb on Oct. 4, 1994. Hauser was just a few miles away from her rural Union home.

According to Times-Republican archives, Jayson Speaks first approached Hauser’s car and reported to his friends that she wasn’t being cooperative and told them to shoot her. Speaks was later described as ‘the driving force’ behind the murder, having packed the rifle and used the flashing lights to get Hauser to pull over.

Burt Smith fired a .22 caliber gun into the rear window of Hauser’s car striking her in the head. When his gun jammed, he stabbed Hauser at least 33 times. Derek Smith beat her with the butt of a rifle, breaking three ribs and knocking out a tooth.

The night of her murder, Hauser was returning home from a shopping trip for birthday gifts for her twin daughters and had visited the Meskwaki Casino. Her husband, Dan Hauser, said Tuesday nights were “mom’s night out” for her to do what she wanted while he took care of their four children.

Her car was discovered by a passerby who noticed her car window was shattered and that the car was occupied.

The murder investigation was led by Marshall County Sheriff Ted Kamatchus and the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation. It was in an interview with Kamatchus that Burt Smith confessed to killing Hauser.

Kamatchus said the murder investigation stands out as one of the most violent crimes of his 40-year law enforcement career.

“Time hasn’t diminished what we discovered that day,” Kamatchus said. “I hope the court remembers that the loss was real and how violent these individuals were the time they perpetrated that crime.”

The brutal crime impacted a lot of people, he said, and took away the wife and mother of a solid family.

The violent case spurred many to secure cell phones, a newer technology at the time, Kamatchus said.

“People were sacred,” he said. “They wanted the security of having a phone in case something like that would happen to them.”

District Court Judge James Ellefson will preside over Thursday’s hearing and will ultimately resentence the men on the charges.

Ellefson last month resentenced a Story County woman who began serving a life sentence at age 18 following a murder conviction in a man’s stabbing death. She was resentenced to 25 years in prison, and was on the verge of being released when an Iowa Supreme Court justice issued a stay in the case. The Iowa attorney general’s office is appealing Ellefson’s ruling.

Tom H. Miller, deputy Iowa attorney general, will represent the state for the Hauser murder case. Public defender Aaron Siebrecht is listed as the defense attorney.

“Regardless of what the Supreme Court has ruled, 20 years ago this violent crime occurred,” Kamatchus said. “They were sentenced to life because of the crime they committed.”

When a jury returned a guilty verdict for Speaks, the last of the three youths to face trial, Dan Hauser said justice prevailed.

“This brings closure to this last chapter of my book,” Hauser said. “But the main thing is, it doesn’t bring Becky back. Justice prevailed.”

Hauser did not return a call for comment by press time.