LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. – Fritz Hayes heard his wife scream and went into their house to help when he was confronted by a burglar armed with a machete who stabbed him to death, according to court documents obtained by KGW that described the Lake Oswego murder.
Investigators across Oregon and several other states were also looking for possible links to other unsolved crimes, according to Clackamas County Sheriff spokesman Adam Phillips.
Fritz and Margaret Hayes had just finished their daily morning walk on Sept 17th. Margaret went inside first. She told police when she went into their kitchen, she saw a stranger standing there, with a knife in one hand and a machete in the other, the court affidavit explained.
Then, she screamed and ran out the back door.
By the time she reached to the front yard, her husband was lying there, bleeding to death. She held Fritz in her arms as he died.
Meiser fled the area on foot and escaped police. Investigators found a bloody machete in the driveway of a home just west of the Hayes’ property. No one was living there at the time.
Officer questioned Meiser after murder
The affidavit included several interviews with officers. A Lake Oswego police officer said he noticed a man who matched the description of the murder suspect at a TriMet bus stop on Boones Ferry Rd. and SW 22nd Avenue, less than three hours after the murder. He questioned the man, who identified himself as Erik Meiser, then let him go.
“He [the officer] recalled Mr. Meiser appeared nervous and out of place,” the affidavit revealed.
There was no explanation as to why the officer did not hold Meiser for questioning or arrest him. KGW asked Sgt. Adam Phillips about that development Tuesday, and he explained that it was very early in the investigation and police at the time only had a vague description - no sketch, name or photo.
"He did the right thing by contacting him and getting that information from him," Phillips said. "We didn't have him as a suspect yet. He didn't have warrants at that time."
As the murder investigation continued, police started building a timeline of possible related events.
Police learned that a home a half mile down the road had been burglarized earlier that morning. Someone broke into the garage. Fingerprints at that crime scene matched Meiser's from a national database.
Fingerprints on the machete that was covered with Hayes' blood also matched Meiser's, according to the affidavit.
"That really was a turning point in the case for us," Phillips said.
Also sometime that same day, police believe Meiser broke into a building at 397 N. State Street in Lake Oswego, according to a court document submitted by the Clackamas County D.A.
A nationwide manhunt began and five days later, tips helped U.S. marshals track Meiser to a Super 8 hotel in Corvallis. He was captured at gunpoint. A motel surveillance camera showed officers swarming Meiser and taking him down.
Meiser appeared in court Monday, to officially face charges of aggravated murder, robbery and burglary. If convicted, he could face the death penalty.
Background: Suspect in Lake Oswego murder captured
The court documents were initially sealed during the investigation, but KGW was able to obtain copies on the day after Meiser's first court appearance.