The summer of 2006 will forever be remembered here for the anxious months in which people were afraid to go outside.
Three serial killers were roaming the streets, and police had warned the public to be vigilant. The killers attacked at random, usually late at night, all across the metro area, they said.
On Friday, authorities announced that one of the suspects had pleaded guilty to two counts of murder. Samuel Dieteman, 32, also agreed to testify against his alleged co-defendant, Dale Hausner, 35, who is still due to go on trial. A third man, accused of his own reign of terror unconnected to the two others, has already been sentenced to 438 years in prison.
"It's hard to say much that's good about a serial shooter case, but this is probably as good a day as could be," Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon said. Dieteman "terrorized this community and now will never be free again to do that," Gordon said.
Dieteman pleaded guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and one count of conspiracy to commit murder. Prosecutors said his cooperation would be noted when a jury decides whether to give him the death penalty.
The penalty phase for Dieteman's case won't be held until after Hausner's trial, which now is scheduled to begin in early September. The agreement says Dieteman's testimony will be considered a mitigating factor when his own sentence is decided.
Prosecutors had charged Dieteman and Hausner with attacks between May and July 2006. Hausner is charged separately in a longer string of shootings dating back to May 2005.
Defense lawyer Maria Schaffer said that during his plea, Dieteman said he fatally shot Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz, 20, in Scottsdale on May 2, 2006, and assisted Hausner in the shooting of Robin Blasnek, 22, on July 30, 2006, as she walked from her parents' home to her boyfriend's house in Mesa.
Gutierrez-Cruz had been walking home from a bus stop when she was wounded. A passer-by found her crawling in the street saying "Help me."
Hausner has pleaded not guilty to seven murder counts and faces the death penalty if convicted. His lawyer, Ken Everett, was not immediately available for comment.
The so-called Serial Shooter case was one of two serial murder investigations that put the Phoenix area on edge for months during the summer of 2006. Another assailant dubbed the "Baseline Killer" is thought to have slain eight women and a man in a series of 23 attacks that began in 2005.
When news broke of the serial attacks during the summer of 2006, many residents pulled their kids off the streets and neighborhood groups handed out security whistles door-to-door. Families packed into hastily organized self-defense seminars to learn how to ward off attackers.
Police arrested Dieteman and Hausner Aug. 3, 2006, in an apartment they shared in Mesa. Investigators found numerous firearms in the residence, news clippings of the Serial Shooter investigation and a map of the city marked with what police said are locations of some of their attacks.
Mark Goudeau, 43, was arrested a month later and eventually accused of being the Baseline Killer. He was convicted of 19 counts stemming from the sexual assaults of two sisters and sentenced to 438 years in prison.
Goudeau still faces trial on other criminal charges, including nine murder counts, and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty. He has pleaded not guilty.
Source: AP News