After months of agonized waiting, the family of Timothy Hauser closed one page in the Bartlesville man’s violent disappearance: A hunter found the 62-year-old man’s body Saturday in a dense thicket about a quarter mile away from where he was beaten and robbed early Aug. 9 a few miles west of his home city.
“We’re going to leave him here one more night,” Osage County Chief Deputy Cartwright told Hauser’s niece, Melanie Anderson, who has trudged over miles and miles of rough terrain looking for her uncle’s remains and relentlessly tracked down leads as to where his body might lie.
A deputy was assigned to keep the area secure overnight Saturday until the anthropologist and medical examiner arrived Sunday morning, after which the remains were gathered up.
Lawmen are certain, based on clothing and past injuries, the body is that of Hauser. To avert lengthy DNA testing that could keep Hauser’s remains from being returned to his family for several months, they gathered X-ray and other medical records of Hauser’s to compare with steel implants he had from back and wrist surgeries, Cartwright said.
The body was found around 1 p.m. Saturday by a man bowhunting with his daughter on a nearby section of land. He hit a deer and was tracking it to the north when he ran out of gas in his four-wheeler, and decided to take his daughter back to town and continue the search by himself, said Anderson, who met with the hunter to thank him for allowing her family to find some peace.
When he went back to look for the deer – which he never did find – he came across the body in a dense briar patch that deputies had flown over with a helicopter in August. The vegetation at the time concealed the body.
Hauser’s family has suffered greatly and deputies have worked hundreds of hours looking for him.
“Now, everything is out of my hands. There’s nothing left for me to do,” Anderson said. “I just have to wait, and that’s scary.
“I don’t know what to do with myself. I was always looking, even on a simple walk with my kids. Constantly looking. When this happens, you don’t do anything that’s not related to him.”
Three people have been charged in connection with the assault on Hauser. Trysta Shaffer, 28, and Rusty Boyd Petty, 41, were both charged with conjoint robbery and admitted assaulting Hauser with a bottle and a tire iron, though each claims the other dealt the fatal blows. Shaffer grew up in Skiatook but both of the primary defendants lived in Bartlesville at the time of the assault. Also charged with being an accessory after the fact: Kathleen “Kat” Roland, 36, of Bartlesville. She is accused of sheltering and clothing Petty and Shaffer after they committed the assault.
It had been expected that Shaffer and Petty would be charged with murder following a preliminary hearing, and the recovery of Hauser’s body would appear to cinch that. The preliminary was to be heard Dec. 6, but Petty wrote letters to the judge and to his lawyer claiming that he suffers from mental illness that peaked the night he and Shaffer robbed Hauser after the left the Osage Casino near Bartlesville and robbed Hauser of cash. He is to undergo a mental evaluation and a post-competency hearing is set for Jan. 18. A new date of Feb. 7 was set for the preliminary hearing for Shaffer and, assuming Petty is found competent, should be held for him at the same time.
“Hopefully, they will get the justice they deserve,” Anderson said. “There are text messages of them setting it up; it’s premeditated in every sense of the word. Witnesses said they asked for help to do it the week before.”
On Saturday, as word spread that Hauser’s body had been found, his younger relatives gathered in a pasture several hundred yards from the thicket where he lay. They hugged, cried, and talked to lawmen – who also got a round of hugs.
Anderson, who took off from her job at Walmart as soon as she heard the news, was relieved that her other uncle, Hauser’s brother Ralph, will finally be able to get some peace and that a funeral could be held for the long-missing man who was adored by his family as an outdoorsy man who would give anyone the shirt off his back – and often did.
But she worried about the deputy who would be out all night protecting the scene well across a field from CR 3425 where Hauser had been assaulted and were deputies found his Social Security card and a few other items from his wallet in August. She wanted to know who would care for the deputy as he stood watch all night, and offered to bring him dinner and hot coffee.
That’ll be all right, Cartwright reassured her: His supervisor will keep an eye on him.
On Sunday, however, Anderson was insistent, and brought deputies pizza and drinks.
“She would not have us eating Vienna sausages,” Cartwright said. “If we had kept saying no, I think she would have brought us a buffet.”
Hauser’s family has not yet set a date for his funeral because they are unsure when the body will be released. They are hoping to lay him to rest on Jan. 15, which would have been his 63rd birthday.