Meiser sentenced to life in prison
Erik Meiser was sentenced to life in prison Tuesday for the 2012 slaying in Lake Oswego of Frederick "Fritz" Hayes Jr.
Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Katherine Weber sentenced Meiser on Tuesday afternoon to concurrent sentences of life in prison with a minimum of 25 years and up to 20 years under the supervision of the state's Psychiatric Security Review Board.
According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Owen, Meiser will be transferred to prison when the board determines that he is ready to leave the hospital. The time he serves in the hospital will count toward his prison sentence, Owen said.
Meiser was found guilty last month of murder and second-degree burglary and guilty except by insanity on two counts of first-degree robbery, one count of first-degree burglary and one count of second-degree burglary.
Hayes, 57, was killed after he and his wife Margaret returned from an early morning walk with their beagles to find Meiser burglarizing their Atwater Road home. Margaret Hayes entered the house first and went into the kitchen, where she encountered a tall white man — later identified as Meiser — holding a knife in one hand and a machete in the other.
Margaret Hayes screamed and ran out the back door, around the same time her husband was coming in the house from a different direction. She looped back to the front and found her husband "bleeding profusely," with "several large cuts across his head, neck and facial area," a detective wrote at the time.
Fritz Hayes died in his wife's arms in the driveway while she was on the phone with 911.
Meiser's attorneys, Jenny Cooke and Robert Huggins, emphasized the role that Meiser's mental illness played in the crime and argued Tuesday that he could receive the most effective treatment at the Oregon State Hospital, where he has been held for several years since the 2012 attack.
"It's not prison that's the answer," Cooke said. "It's treatment."
Meiser has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, with symptoms including auditory hallucinations. At one point, the defense played a video of an interview with Meiser after the attack in which he admits to committing the murder but asserts that he did it to protect his children, saying that he had been told by voices in his head that they would be killed if he didn't comply.
Cooke and Huggins also raised concerns about the treatment of inmates with mental illness at state prisons, which they said could undo the progress that Meiser has made with treatment.
Meiser, in shackles, was present but did not speak during the proceedings. He sat almost motionless during the three-hour hearing, staring at the desk in front of him.
Margaret Hayes also attended the sentencing hearing and read a passionate victim impact statement about Fritz Hayes's life. He had retired mere months before the attack, she said, and the two of them had been planning new ways to travel and become involved in the community.
"We were ready to enjoy the next phase of our lives together," she said. "Life was good, and then in a matter of seconds, it was awful."
She discussed the impact of her husband's death on her family; she struggled with depression for a long time afterwards, she said, and their son dropped out during his final year in college. The whole family continues to struggle with the pain of his absence, she said, and Meiser needs to be held accountable for it.
"Fritz is a pile of ashes while you're being treated and cared for," she said directly to Meiser.
She also contested some of the arguments made by Meiser's defense attorneys about his rehabilitation in the years since the attack. She stated that Meiser likely preferred the prospect of serving out his sentence in "the comfort of the hospital," and asked Weber to sentence him to prison instead.
"Erik Meiser is not to be trusted," she said. "Do not be lulled into complacency."