PHOENIX — A jury spared a man convicted in a series of random nighttime shootings from the death penalty and sentenced him to life in prison on Wednesday.
Samuel Dieteman, who pleaded guilty to two of six murders in the metropolitan Phoenix Serial Shooter case of 2005 and 2006, appeared stoic as the jury's decision was announced.
"I'm truly sorry for the pain that I've caused to many, many people," Dieteman, 33, said after his sentence was read. He then thanked the court for treating him like a human being.
His lawyer and family members cried as the verdict was read.
Victim agrees with verdict
Authorities say Dieteman and his former roommate, 36-year-old Samuel Hausner, preyed on pedestrians, bicyclists and animals in attacks that ended in August 2006 when both men were arrested at the apartment they shared in Mesa. Dieteman and Hausner met in April 2006 — about nine months after the Serial Shooter attacks began, and Dieteman's defense attorneys painted him as being Hausner's follower.
Paul Patrick, a victim of the shooting spree who nearly died when he was shot while walking down a street in June 2006, was in the court for the verdict and said he agreed with it.
"It's not a cause to celebrate; a mother just lost a son, and children lost their father," he said of Dieteman's family. "No hatred for the family. Too much time has been wasted on that."
Dieteman, who had been charged with murdering two people and attacking 14 others, had admitted to fatally shooting 20-year-old Claudia Gutierrez-Cruz in Scottsdale in May 2006 and assisting in the deadly shooting of 22-year-old Robin Blasnek in July 2006 as she walked from her parents' home to her boyfriend's house in Mesa.
Prosecutors had argued against a life sentence for Dieteman.
Six death sentences
Dieteman's lawyers asked jurors to consider his testimony as a key witness against Hausner, who received six death sentences earlier this year.
Testimony at Dieteman's sentencing trial included a written apology from Dieteman to Patrick, in which he said he would make "no cries for mercy." He also said he regretted his actions, including not turning in Hausner to authorities when he first learned of the shootings.
"There's so many things I would change back then," he told jurors.
Ulysses Fuentes, one of the jurors who decided to spare Dieteman's life, said he initially wanted to sentence him to death.
"I felt that what he had done was just irresponsible and there was just no excuse for that," said Fuentes, a 19-year-old customer service representative of Phoenix.
He said he didn't feel sympathy for Dieteman. "Mercy would be a better term."
Doug Budner, the jury foreman, said he also wanted the death penalty at first.
"The way I was brought up was an eye is for an eye, but as you go into the jury room, then you start seeing evidence unfold in front of you, you have to really listen and really dissect all the information out there and from there make an educated decision," said the 53-year-old aircraft mechanic of Phoenix. "We know we came up with the most lawful decision."
Dieteman's attorneys had argued that making Dieteman spend the rest of his life behind bars would be punishment enough, saying he would be one of the most notorious snitches in the prison system. While Hausner's attorneys had accused Dieteman of giving bad information to avoid the death penalty, Dieteman said he wanted to help punish Hausner.
Prosecutors, on the other hand, called Dieteman's cooperation too little, too late. They painted him as a drifter who was a willing participant, pulling the trigger and serving as Hausner's lookout.
Investigators said their big break came when one of Dieteman's drinking buddies, Ron Horton, called police to say that Dieteman had bragged about shooting people. "They called it 'RV'ing.' Random Recreational Violence," Horton told The Associated Press in a 2006 interview. Horton died last year.
During Hausner's trial, Dieteman said Hausner professed a hatred for prostitutes and homeless people as they looked for victims in areas frequented by streetwalkers. Dieteman said Hausner never explained why he wanted to shoot people.
In describing one shooting, Dieteman said he and Hausner found humor at the sight of one of their seriously injured victims, who held his stomach and appeared angry.
Dieteman previously told jurors that he and Hausner often followed news accounts of the killings because they wanted to see which leads investigators were pursuing.
In late March, Hausner was given six death penalties and hundreds of years in prison for killing six people and attacking 19 others. Hausner has denied any involvement in the attacks and suggested Dieteman might have carried out some of the crimes.
Dieteman also was a witness in a case against Hausner's brother. Jeff Hausner was sentenced in June to 18 years in prison in the 2006 stabbing of a man in a church parking lot. Authorities say the assault was linked to the Serial Shooter attacks.
Dieteman testified that he and Jeff and Dale Hausner were driving around that night when they spotted Timothy Davenport as the man was walking in west Phoenix. Davenport was slashed in the face and stabbed twice, according to court documents. He survived after being hospitalized.
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