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Authorities moved quickly to capture murder suspect

Whew.

That enormous exhale of relief from Lake Oswego residents was almost audible Saturday afternoon following the arrest in Corvallis of the man suspected of brutally killing a local resident on Sept.17.

Erik John Meiser, 37, is accused of stabbing Frederick “Fritz” Hayes, 57, to death at Hayes’ home on Atwater Road. Stranger-to-stranger murders are always rare. And while the death of Hayes was the third killing this year in Lake Oswego, the reality is that murders are unusual in this city.

Before going any farther, we need to take a moment to do the obvious and salute the efforts of law enforcement officials who worked around the clock to identify, then capture their identified suspect. They did it professionally and with speed.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office was the lead agency on the investigation because the crime scene was just outside the city limits of Lake Oswego. Other agencies working on the case include the Lake Oswego Police Department, Oregon State Police and the U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force. In fact, it was a team of the task force members and detectives from Clackamas County that took Meiser into custody without incident around 2 p.m. Saturday in front of a Corvallis motel.

Following the killing of Hayes at about 6:30 a.m. Sept. 17, a drawing of the suspect was circulated by law enforcement within hours. Interestingly, Meiser apparently was questioned at about 9 a.m. that day by Lake Oswego police at a bus stop on Boones Ferry Road but was not detained.

Last Thursday evening, in an unusual late-evening press conference, sheriff’s officials named their suspect, Meiser, detailed his lengthy criminal history across the nation dating to 1989 and provided several photos of what he looks like. Less than 48 hours later, thanks to a tip in Corvallis, authorities had their man.

Of course, Meiser, who is being held at the Clackamas County Jail, is only a suspect at this point in this tragic case. He is due a fair trial, and we must abide by whatever the outcome is from that.

Still, the feeling of relief is palatable here in Lake Oswego, which was rocked hard by the slaying. Memorial services were held Sunday and a prayer vigil was conducted Monday. In the grocery stores, coffee shops and on the street corners, it was the No. 1 topic in town. People worried, people wondered, people speculated and people expressed concern for Mr. Hayes and his family.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the extended Hayes family. Death often can be cruel, and losing a loved one at the hands of a murderer must be one of the cruelest ways of all. We wish we had suggestions for the community on how to be proactive against mind-numbing events like this. Besides the obvious — be on the lookout for strangers, keep your doors and windows locked, report suspicious activities to the police — it is hard to make suggestions to prevent something this unexpected.

Be vigilant, be aware, check on your neighbors and follow your instincts.

This is a sad time in Lake Oswego, tempered only slightly by the fact that the solitary suspect in this horrendous case is now behind bars.