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Murder suspect caught; family offers thanks

Erik John Meiser arrested Saturday in Corvallis


by: VERN UYETAKE - Ruth Hayes-Arista, whose brother was murdered last week in Lake Oswego, hugs Carl Kautz, the boyfriend of her niece Emily Hayes, left, on Monday. Also pictured is Frederick Hayes Sr., father of the late Fritz Hayes.The alleged murderer of a Lake Oswego man was behind bars this week, bringing the surviving family some closure and helping restore some of the sense of security lost in the random attack.

Erik John Meiser, 37, faces charges of aggravated murder, robbery and burglary in the death of Frederick “Fritz” Hayes Jr., 57, a recently retired high-tech engineer and longtime Lake Oswego resident.

Hayes was attacked by an intruder with a machete and a knife at his house on Atwater Road in an unincorporated pocket of Clackamas County, when he and his wife, 56-year-old Margaret “Maggie” Hayes, returned from an early morning walk with their beagles Sept. 17. He died in his wife’s arms in the driveway outside of their home, where they raised their three children over the past 25 years.

Maggie Hayes, who was not injured, worked with detectives to develop a sketch of the intruder, a tall white man with a patchy beard and who was wearing some sort of head covering.

The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office launched a nationwide manhunt after identifying Meiser as its only suspect during a late-evening news conference Sept. 20. The FBI joined the search the following day. Meiser was described as a white supremacist with a criminal history in 10 states. He is also wanted in connection with a knife assault in Ogden, Utah, on Sept. 8.by: SUBMITTED - Erik John Meiser

A tip led authorities to Corvallis, where they arrested Meiser outside of a Super 8 motel at gunpoint on Saturday, and he was arraigned Monday in Clackamas County Circuit Court. No longer sporting any beard and with his dark, shoulder-grazing hair parted down the middle, he appeared by video from Clackamas County Jail, where he is being held without bail. His next scheduled court appearance is this Friday.

Speaking in the Hayes’ front yard on Monday, the family thanked law enforcement for working around the clock to identify and capture the suspect. Ruth Hayes-Arista, one of Fritz Hayes’ three siblings, said that because of community efforts to help, “we’ve been able to make it through.”

Family members were in different locations when they learned about Meiser’s capture. Where Maggie Hayes was staying, Hayes-Arista said, “The yells were so loud they could probably hear it in downtown Portland.”

Hayes-Arista was at lunch with others, and each “hoisted a glass” to law enforcement and to “the relief of the whole thing.”

She said she didn’t want the killing to define memories of her brother.

“Our family’s desire is to know there’s closure to this,” she said. “Just knowing he won’t be able to hurt anybody else, that is the most important thing.”by: VERN UYETAKE - Members of the Hayes family stood together Monday to thank the community for its support and law enforcement for the speedy capture of a murder suspect in the death of Frederick Fritz Hayes. His sister Ruth Hayes-Arista is in front. Behind her, from left, are David Arista, Hayes-Aristas husband; parents Frederick Hayes Sr. and Catherine Hayes; Emily Hayes, Fritz and Maggie Hayes eldest; her boyfriend, Carl Kautz; Sarah Hayes, the middle of the Hayes children; her boyfriend, Greg Colligan; and Nathan Hayes, the youngest of the children.

‘A real reflection of the strength of this tight-knit community’

Back home in Washington on Wednesday, Hayes-Arista stressed that family members greatly appreciate how the community rallied around them in the days following her brother’s death. That response, she said, “was a real reflection of the strength of this tight-knit community.”

A neighbor came to Maggie Hayes’ aid before emergency responders arrived. Neighbors also welcomed the family into their homes. Friends of friends, friends of neighbors and Lake Oswego Rotary Club members made sure they all had plenty to eat.

In addition to the memorial service held at Oregon Episcopal School’s chapel on Sunday, a candlelight vigil at Lake Oswego United Church of Christ, within blocks of the family’s home, brought people together to mourn and to remember Fritz Hayes, a recognized high school lacrosse official who became involved with the sport while his three children were attending Oregon Episcopal School. He also helped coach youth referees and served on the state lacrosse officials board.by: SUBMITTED - Frederick 'Fritz' Hayes of Lake Oswego was a well-known high school lacrosse officiant who also coached youth referees.

Although the Hayes’ son must return to college, their two adult daughters will be in the area, Hayes-Arista said.

“Filling the house back up with good family was an important part of all of this,” she said, noting Maggie Hayes “definitely wants to stay in the community.”

And though Hayes declined to be interviewed, Hayes-Arista said she had a message she hopes to communicate: “She said, ‘This man took Fritz, but he is not going to take my wonderful memories.’”by: VERN UYETAKE - A memorial has blossomed at the Atwater Road home of Fritz Hayes, who died after a brutal encounter with an intruder Sept. 17.

In addition, she said Maggie Hayes “is so thankful to the police, EMTs who arrived and the amazing detectives who treated her with such kindness and respect.”

From the paramedics, sheriff’s deputies, police officers, firefighters and detectives to neighbors and other community members, everyone has shown a tremendous amount of care and respect, Hayes-Arista said: “That made a huge difference to her in the time after all of this occurred.”

Law enforcement maintained a presence in the neighborhood afterward — “You could tell they really wanted people to know they had an eye on things” — and, rather than locking their doors out of fear, friends and neighbors came together, Hayes-Arista said.

“That’s why the community could get through something like this; this one person and this terrible thing that he did cannot tear apart a community that does that,” she said. “When people reach out for each other and continue to help each other and help strangers and do those small things, that kind of hate cannot exist.”

Court records provide new details, link suspect to bloody machete

Court documents released this week provided the first details of what happened when Fritz Hayes was murdered and what led investigators to suspect Erik Meiser.

According to information used to obtain an arrest warrant, the murder still appears to be a rare case of random violence. Meiser has no apparent ties to Oregon, the document states.

As the couple returned from their morning walk on Sept. 17, Maggie Hayes entered the house first and went into the kitchen, where she encountered a tall white man holding a knife in one hand and a machete in the other. She 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.

Fritz Hayes died in his wife’s arms while she was on the phone with 9-1-1.

Officers found a bloody machete lying in the gravel driveway of a vacant house under construction next door. Fingerprints on the weapon tied Meiser to the scene, authorities said, and the blood was identified as Hayes’.

A Lake Oswego police officer actually interviewed Meiser that morning, before officials had named the suspect, records show.

Officer Ken Engstrom told investigators he saw someone who matched the murder suspect’s description at about 9 a.m. Sept. 17 at a bus stop at Southwest 22nd Avenue and Boones Ferry Road. Meiser gave his name and said he was from either California or Colorado and was passing through the area.

Engstrom said he thought Meiser appeared “nervous and out of place, and stated he was heading to Portland even though he was waiting at a bus stop, which headed the opposite direction,” according to court records. “He also thought Mr. Meiser’s pants did not match his shirt and appeared odd or out of place.”

Detectives also believe Meiser is linked to two burglaries in the area reported the morning of Sept. 17.

One was about a half-mile away from the Hayes’ home. A resident reported hearing someone on his porch at about 4 a.m. Later, he found a bicycle had been taken from its rack in his unlocked garage, but it was ditched, apparently because it had flat tires. The bike and a beverage bottle left at the scene had prints matching Meiser’s, according to court records.

And at Northwest Bujinkan, criminal mischief was reported at 8:46 a.m. Sept. 17 after someone smashed a glass door at the martial arts studio on State Street. News reports have suggested a machete was stolen from the studio at the same time.



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