Hausner is escorted into the 4th Ave. jail, shortly after his arrest. He killed himself on death row in June 2013. / Nick Oza/The Republic
PHOENIX - Over 15 months of joyrides in 2005 and 2006, Dale Hausner and his accomplice pointed shotguns and rifles out of the windows of his car and shot 25 people, killing eight of them. Known as the "Serial Shooters," they stabbed two more men and shot and killed at least 10 dogs and horses.
When law-enforcement officers bugged Hausner's Mesa apartment, they heard him brag about being the best serial killer ever, and heard him mock his victims, laughing coldly about their final moments of life.
But in the days before he committed suicide in his cell on death row, he was writing tender goodbye letters and an existential poem to his friends and family, in and out of prison. The letters and poems are contained in recently released documents from his investigative file.
On June 19, 2013, Hausner died of a massive overdose of the antidepressant amitriptyline, also known by the brand name Elavil, though at that time it was not revealed how he obtained it.
It took nearly a year for the Arizona Department of Corrections to release its investigation into his death. It revealed very little that wasn't already known.
The mystery of where he got the drug, however, had been uncovered within a week of the suicide, on June 27, 2013, when prison officials intercepted a letter another death-row inmate had written to his mother.
In that letter, the prisoner, whose name was not released, but who had spent time in the same pod as Hausner, confessed he felt guilty and may have contributed to a death because he had shared his prescription.
By July 18, 2013, the inmate confessed to Corrections Department investigators.
Investigators also found a letter Hausner wrote to one of his cell neighbors, in which he thanked the neighbor for his friendship. "I am sorry I have to go, but you know how I feel and I am doing what is best for me," he wrote, without being more specific.
He had written similar, vaguely worded letters to his family and a friend in the days before his death, without coming right out and saying what he was doing or why.
His brother Randy speculated to The Arizona Republic at the time and again earlier this month that he would have expected his brother, who was fond of grand gestures, to have savored the platform and the spectacle that an execution would provide.
Suicide was a surprise.
Hausner, 40, had been trying to speed up his execution, which is harder than one might imagine. As soon as an inmate says he would rather die than live in prison, his sanity is questioned, and defense attorneys try to block the execution.
That was Hausner's situation.
He also had written in letters to The Republic and others, and one of his cell neighbors reported to the newspaper, that he was afraid of several inmates housed on a tier of cells above his and thought they would try to kill him, perhaps by shanking him through the food-tray doors of their cells when he was being taken to the showers.
None of that is included in the unredacted portion of the investigation's report.
Hausner and his roommate, Samuel Dieteman, were arrested at their Mesa apartment in August 2006.
Dieteman, who confessed and was eventually sentenced to life in prison, had participated in two murders during the last few months of terror. Dieteman testified that Hausner's older brother, Jeff, had participated in many of the early crimes, but in the end Jeff Hausner was convicted of only two non-fatal stabbings he committed while joyriding with Dieteman and Dale Hausner.
Dale Hausner was sentenced to death six times. He resigned himself to execution, and apparently when that didn't come fast enough, he killed himself.
At the time of his death, the Department of Corrections insisted that Hausner was found "unresponsive" in his cell and that he was pronounced dead at a hospital, as if he were clinging to life at some point.
Indeed, in the investigation file, there is a 30-minute video showing Hausner, blood trickling from one corner of his mouth, being pulled from his cell and flopped onto a gurney. He nearly slipped off a couple of times as correctional officers in riot gear wheeled the gurney down the length of the pod, through secured entries to a medical clinic, all the time doing chest compressions.
They continue the chest compressions as medical staffers insert IV catheters in an arm and a leg and apply a defibrillator to Hausner's chest as Florence Fire Department and Southwest Ambulance EMTs wheel him down a hallway, outside and into the back of an ambulance.
Despite the measures, several of the correctional officers told investigators that Hausner's arms were blue and his skin was cold to the touch from the moment they found him lifeless on the bed in his cell. He never recovered a pulse during the whole trip from cell to ambulance, "indicating he may already have been dead," they said.
The evidentiary photos in the report are testament to the grim confines of death row, a rare look inside the belly of the beast: three close walls and a perforated metal door, a bunk, a desk, a sink, a toilet. Hausner's only belongings: a TV and a row of bankers boxes stuffed under the bunk.
Prisoners talk through the walls and vents. They exchange letters, books, coffee, tea bags and other things by unraveling threads from clothing to make "fishing lines." The letter to a neighbor in an adjacent cell on the other side of an impermeable wall was emotional.
"I wish we would have known each other on the streets," Hausner wrote. "That would have been so much fun. Imagine all we could have done together. You are like a crazy little brother to me. ... You are smart, funny and a little insane. But then, so am I.
"Since I have been here, I have tried to make this place better for you. I hope when you look at our friendship, you will remember the fun and laughs we have shared. Remember that I was your friend and that I was always there for you. When you speak of me to others, please tell them I was your friend.
"Thinking about this place, the only thing I will miss is you. (And maybe the pizza.)"
Hausner included a poem with the letter.
"Death is only the beginning.
In Death I find hope,
the hope of better times,
of no memories,
of forgiveness, gotten and given.
In Death I can see my kids,
I can tell them that I am sorry
and that I love them.
No more pain, guilt or shame.
In Death, I will be able to
Death is welcomed, is needed
is longed for.
Death is only the beginning."
He signed it, "An original poem by Dale S. Hausner."
Read the original story: Files reveal details of 'Serial Shooter's' final days