Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Salon - Camille Kimball for Authors @ The Teague

Camille Kimball, author of A Sudden Shot: The Phoenix Serial Shooter, appeared for Authors @ The Teague in order to honor the victims, and thank the heroes who solved the case, and brought Dale Hausner to trial. She brought pictures taken during Hausner's trial, pictures of some of the crime scenes, and two retired Phoenix police detectives who had been involved in the Phoenix Serial Shooter case. Phoenix Police Detectives Darrell Smith and Cliff Jewell's contributions to the program were fascinating.

From May 2005 to July 2006, the Phoenix Shooter was credited with shooting at 27 people, and knifing two victims. Of those, eight people died. Five horses and eight dogs were shot. Buildings and cars were shot at, and buildings burned. As the back cover of the book says, Phoenix "fell victim to one of the most publicized serial killing sprees in history....Often using shotguns with buckshot, Dale Hausner and Sam Dieteman tormented the city for an entire year....They took aim at men and women, white and black, Latino and Indian, homeless and rich - even horses and dogs."

Camille said her book was a tribute to the victims, the forgotten people who were shot, and the ones who died, on the street. She showed photos of Hausner in the courtroom, and said some of the pictures showed his personality, as he peaked at her through his hands, and fidgeted with papers throughout the trial. The witnesses against him were nervous when they saw him at the table, unshackled, but they weren't aware that he was wearing a shock belt around his waist that would shoot 50,000 volts of electricity into him, if the guard needed to shock him. Family members had expressed their fear of Dale Hausner when they had to cross in front of him on the way to the witness stand.

One of the photos was of Vincent Imbordino, prosecutor, whose closing argument, included in A Sudden Shot, was so moving that people cried. There were hours of testimony, and Kimball's photos included pictures of witnesses, among them some of the women who testified. Dale Hausner was quite successful with women. One witness was a school principal and professor at ASU who dated him. He tried to use her as an alibi. Dale's ex-wife drove in from Texas to testify against him, and she was so terrified she trembled, and had to be reminded to speak loudly. Another woman who dated him was a student teacher, who denied that she was with him when he tried to use her for an alibi.

There was even a child with Hausner in the apartment when he was arrested. Kimball quoted the mother as telling her, "We were delivered from evil." Hausner himself had a little girl who suffered from an illness, and he lied to play up her illness for sympathy, saying his little girl wouldn't make it to first grade. She's in first grade, doing fine.

Kimball even showed pictures of Buddy, the burro, "the first victim she interviewed." Buddy had been shot from 30 to 40 feet away. Almost all of the animals shot had been in fenced yards, and they were shot at night. Buddy might have been the least of the victims, but he had been purchased as a pet for the owners' foster children.

Detective Cliff Jewell, the detective followed through the book, said he believed Dale and his brother, Jeff Hausner, shot all of the animals, but they only charged them for the cases where the shell cases or a bullet was left at the scene.

Included in the photos were ones of victims and their families. Paul Patrick, was shown in several pictures and he is shown in a YouTube video with Kimball.

When asked, Camille said the victims, and their families, have appreciated the book, saying they saw it as an opportunity to have their loved ones introduced to a larger audience.

After the pictures, Kimball introduced both detectives. She said usually Detective Cliff Jewell speaks first because he has the longer arc in the book, but since Darrell Smith had closest connection to Glendale, he spoke first.

Smith said he entered the case when Wal-Mart went up in smoke in June 2006, because he was investigating the arson. He became involved in the shooter cases after the fires. The ATF and fire departments worked hand in hand in the arson cases, and Smith and Kimball acknowledged Mike Blair from the Glendale Fire Department. With the Wal-Mart fires, the police now had video of cars, and pretty good ones of the suspects in both stores. Following that information, Darrell Smith received a phone call from a woman who said she thought she knew who one of the men was. Everyone met at the Phoenix Police Department because Smith had the computer equipment. They ran the information about the suspect, Sammy Dieteman, but he had no history of arrests.

Besides the fire, Smith received a phone call claiming the shooter shot at a bicycle at 89th and Camelback, and gave the date and person involved. After checking with the assault team, that was just one of the calls that didn't match the facts.

Then, the police pulled what phone records they could. As Kimball reminded us, just three years ago, they couldn't pull cell phone records like they can now.

The police hit bars and apartment complexes in West Phoenix, looking for the car from the Wal-Mart videos, but couldn't find it. They were deadended. They then joined a task force; hundreds were brought in to combat the serial shooter case. The police would sit on street corners at night, listening for shots. It didn't work. Darrell Smith said he lived in the West Valley, and he always watched for the car when he was out. He and his wife even hit bards, looking for that car. There were stakeouts, and they couldn't find the two men.

But, Smith had a "file stop" on Sammy. In July 2006, he received a call from Silent Witness. A man named Ron Horton wanted to talk to someone about the serial shooter. He said a man named Sam Dieteman was the guy doing this.

Horton, who looked like a scary man to meet, was, according to Smith, "the meekest, mildest person to talk to and interview." He said Sammy had once said to him, "Do you know what it's like to kill someone," but Ron blew it off because they were drinking in a bar. But, Ron was able to tell Detective Smith details that Sammy had told him, including that a .410 shotgun had been used to kill people, a fact the police had not revealed. Ron Horton said he was sure Sam was one of the killers, but he didn't know the second shooter. After the videotaped interview, Smith took the tape downtown, and things moved quickly. He then went back and videotaped Ron again, and he told the same story.

Darrel Smith said he did phone calls and surveillance, the interesting work, and didn't have to do the paperwork. He said the asked Ron to get Sam to meet him somewhere Finally Sammy agreed to meet Ron at the Star Dust Bar. There were hundreds of police there, hidden, when two men drove up. Sammy was dropped off, and the car left. Darrell followed the car to Metro Center, where the driver went in. The car license plate was registered to Dale Hausner. Smith followed Dale into a video store in the mall, where he stayed long enough for the police to put a GPS on Dale's car.

Smith said he wanted so badly to see the case through that he slept in his van two nights with other detectives, two nights in July. But, that night, Sam and Ron went to another bar, and then the casino at Wildhorse Pass. The police kept getting calls from Ron, reporting in. But, Sammy said he'd have a friend pick up him, and Dale came by and picked him up. Then they cruised Gilbert and Chandler for three hours. Smith is convinced they were stalking people, but it had started to rain, so there were not a lot of people out. He said as the police followed them, that was a terrible fear, that they couldn't get to them fast enough if they pulled out a shotgun and shot someone. In the wiretap room, they couldn't believe the things they heard the two men say.

Detective Darrell Smith said he never testified at the trial because everything he knew was hearsay from Ron Horton. And, Ron died before the trial, so Darrell couldn't testify, saying yes, Ron said that to me. But, in thirty-one years as a cop, he never got closer to a snitch as he did to Ron. Horton did get the reward, and, after he died, there was a fundraiser for him at the Star Dust Bar, a biker bar. Smith said he felt out of place there when he went, but the family welcomed him, and introduced him. The mayor had given a coin to everyone who worked on the case, and Smith gave his to Ron's family.

Ron Horton said when Robin Blasnek, the last victim, died in July, he knew he had to come forward. When asked, Smith said he had been involved in an incident when Ron went to pick up the reward money. The detectives knew when he'd be picking it up, and, knowing it was a lot of money, they worried about him. They went in a van, grabbed him when he came out with the money, told him they were there to protect him, and take him to his bank so nothing would happen to him. He gave away a lot of his money before he died. His friends don't regret what Ron did.

Following Detective Smith's presentation, Camille Kimball introduced Detective Cliff Jewell, "a real hero," and the main hero in A Sudden Shot. Cliff said he became involved several months earlier than Darrell. When Kimball said it was a dogged investigation, Jewell said he counted over 200 times he was mentioned in the book, so it was embarrassing. Three hundred forty-eight people were involved in the case. The Glendale Fire Department, a civilian volunteer with the Glendale Police Department, the Mesa and Scottsdale Police Departments were involved.

Jewell said Jeff Hausner, Dale's brother, lived at 91st and Camelback. Cliff believes Jeff and Dale shot all of the animals, and started shooting people. They told Sam they shot a bunch of people downtown. They all hung around the west side where Jeff lived. Camille's pictures included one of a church at 9th Avenue and Woodland, south of Van Buren. There were shootings outside that church on December 29. One witness survived, Timmy Tordai, but he was a registered sex offender, and not a good witness. They did have five surveillance cameras on a nearby parking garage, but they didn't know what vehicle they were looking for on the cameras.

Then, there were the stories they had to chase down that turned out to be false. One was a detailed story of how the December 29 shootings occurred. One was from a man who said he rode to work with the shooter.

Cliff Jewell mentioned the various cases that eventually came together, but seemed unrelated at the beginning. He heard from people in the Tolleson area about animal shootings, and someone who lost their dog gave him the casing. Dale Hausner complained that when Jeff shot someone, he put the gun too far out the window, and the casings went out the car. That's why they didn't find casings or shells at all of the scenes.

Dale Hausner took classes at ABC Bartending School in Tempe, and remained friends with someone there. When a car windshield was shot out at the bartending school, there were six shell casings found, but that case wasn't connected at the time.

When discussing serial killers, the FBI says serial killers don't change weapons. But, there was a .22 and shotguns used. It's not typical of serial killers to change weapons. Jewell had a case with dogs shot, and shell casings left. The same night, a prostitute was shot, and it was the same shell casings.

At the same time the Phoenix Shooter case was going on, the police were investigating the Baseline Killer case. Homicide was all tied up in that case, so Jewell had little help.

On April 15, he went on America's Most Wanted. He was upset that the show mentioned the .22 caliber because they weren't releasing it. He knew the shooters would then change guns.

Detective Jewell said he asked the FBI to come out and give him a profile. They told him it was a white male 18-24, alone, but the shotguns and .22s were not connected. They said, "Cliff. You're wrong. The cases aren't connected." Cliff still thought they were wrong. He got called in as part of the Task Force toward the end. He did get to call the FBI, and say, "I was right." He got his credibility back with the department. It was a fifteen month investigation.

The audience was asked if we'd heard of Charlie Starkweather, a spree killer. Dale Hausner had red hair, and was from Omaha. Charlie Starkweather had red hair and was from Lincoln. They thought Hausner was emulating Starkweather.

Dale Hausner was a serial killer with no criminal history, but profiling is based on generalities. Hausner is not stupid. He did things to change the scenario. He set dumpsters on fire, and Wal-Marts on fire.

Hausner won't talk to the cops, and didn't talk to Camille. He's appealing his conviction. On the other hand, Sam Dieteman is remorseful, and says he has no idea how he allowed himself to get involved. He met Dale through Dale's brother, Jeff. Sam lived with Jeff, and, when he had an argument and moved out, Dale went looking for him. It was that night, driving around, that Dale shot someone, then gave the gun to Sam. Sam shot Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz, and killed her.

Someone mentioned alcohol and drugs. Sam was educated, and an alcoholic. They would shoplift liquor from Target, Walgreens, and grocery stores. They stole dozens of bottles of liquor. They stole videos, and Dale sold them to people at the airport. Dale got Sam on meth.

The final question was about the caliber of the guns, and why it was a .22. We were told it was part of a game they would play, experimenting to see what the different guns would do.

But, Camille Kimball said her feelings are that their personalities and characters are specific to them. It wasn't the drugs or alcohol that made them do it.

Camille Kimball's book, A Sudden Shot: The Phoenix Serial Shooter, and the program at the Velma Teague Library, with Detectives Cliff Jewell and Darrell Smith, showed the importance of dogged police work, and heroes - heroes such as Cliff Jewell, Darrell Smith, Glendale fireman, Mike Blair, and Ron Horton, along with the victims, their families, and the witnesses in the trials.

Camille Kimball's website is at

A Sudden Shot: The Phoenix Serial Shooter by Camille Kimball. Penguin Group (USA), ©2009. ISBN 9780425230190 (paperback), 336p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wish I could have attended this program! It sounds so interesting. There are so many different parts to a crime--the victim's personal tragedy, what the witnesses might be going through, and then the heroic effort of law enforcement. Thanks for this summing up, Lesa.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Camille Kimball said...

Thank you so much for having us, Lesa. It's the most fun a girl can have, meeting the readers and connecting them to the real people in the book! Aren't those guys cool?

Also, a thank you to Joe Cerreta for stopping by and for making that yummy Jumping Cholla taffy we served. Glendale rocks!

Thanks, again, Lesa and to everyone who came. Glad you enjoyed our "private files exposed!"

Lesa said...


Anyone who writes or reads mysteries would have been fascinated by that program. I wish you could have been there, too. Very interesting!

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Camille! Thank you again for taking the time to put together such a fascinating presentation. I'm glad the guys could come with you.

And, I'm glad Joe Cerreta stopped as well!

Imani said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Lesa said...

Thank you, Nancy.