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Utahn who shot mother and slit her throat in 2006 seeks release from state hospital

Jeremy Hauck appears in a Farmington court, Dec. 13, 2007. Hauck was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2008 and has spent the subsequent years in the Utah State Hospital. He's now seeking conditional release.

Jeremy Hauck appears in a Farmington court, Dec. 13, 2007. Hauck was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2008 and has spent the subsequent years in the Utah State Hospital. He's now seeking conditional release. (Matthew Hatfield, Associated Press)

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LAYTON — Jeremy Hauck has been busy in the 16 years since he shot his mother twice in the head, slit her throat and stuffed her body in a freezer.

He's taken in-person classes and received professional certifications in the computer field. He's gone on outings to stores, restaurants and the library. He's enjoyed a variety of books, TV shows and movies.

Among them: "Dexter," the popular Showtime series about a serial killer who works for the police by day and murders criminals by night.

The 34-year-old's media consumption was a much-discussed point during a Friday court hearing held to consider granting him conditional release from the Utah State Hospital, where he's been a patient for over 14 years.

The court heard nearly seven hours of testimony from Hauck's doctor, social workers and from Hauck himself.

Second District Judge Ronald Russell said he'd take several weeks to consider all the evidence before deciding whether Hauck should be conditionally released.

"(This is a) weighty decision that requires careful analysis," he said.

The conditions are still under discussion, but if released, Hauck would likely be held to the same standards as traditional prison parolees, such as not possessing weapons and refraining from substance use. He'd also likely be required to submit to random searches of his residence and get regular blood draws to ensure he's taking his medications.

Hauck was 18 when he shot his mother, Laura Hauck, 52, on Aug. 5, 2006, in their Bountiful condominium. He was later arrested in Montana.

He was charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and held in the Davis County Jail from 2006 until 2008 as the court proceedings moved slowly. He was moved to the Utah State Hospital when he was declared incompetent to stand trial.

In March 2013, during what was supposed to be a routine status hearing, Hauck waived his right to a jury trial. Second District Judge John Morris then immediately declared Hauck not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced him to 15 years to life at the Utah State Hospital.

A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity means the judge determined Hauck was not mentally sound when the murder occurred.

Davis County Chief Deputy Attorney David Cole said at that time that even though technically the ruling means Hauck could at some point be released from custody, it would be highly unlikely.

"In theory, yes (he could be released). In practice, I don't think the state hospital has released somebody on one of these cases in my lifetime," Cole said in 2013. "I don't know of a case where they've released somebody on a violent crime or a murder who was not guilty by reason of insanity, period."

Hospital staff testimony

The court heard lengthy testimony on Friday from current and former Utah State Hospital staff who have worked closely with Hauck.

Paul Whitehead, a psychiatrist at the Utah State Hospital, said Hauck is the first patient in 20 years that the hospital is recommending for conditional release.

Hauck's paranoid schizophrenia is under control through medication and therapy, Whitehead said, and he's "99% sure" that some of Hauck's habits, like occasionally talking to himself when he's frustrated, are features of his autism.

These habits have never triggered anything violent in Hauck's unit, he continued, and Hauck is "very reality-based," "resilient," and "stable."

Gage Arnold, a deputy Davis County attorney, questioned Whitehead about violent videos found on Hauck's computer shortly after the murder, which included footage of beheadings, executions and even a bird killed by being placed in a blender.

But Whitehead said nothing found on Hauck's computer at that time was illegal, and he would expect many teenage males to look at similar videos.

He also addressed Arnold's questions about Hauck's consumption of violent media like "Dexter," saying it wouldn't be in Hauck's best interest to buffer him from things he'd easily find in the real world.

Hauck certainly isn't encouraged to watch violent TV shows, Whitehead said. And when Hauck's father sent him the books that "Dexter" is based on at his request, the hospital didn't allow him to keep them, he added.

But "do we keep him in a bubble?" Whitehead asked, adding later that "the Constitution doesn't stop" at the state hospital's door.

He also said he's seen Hauck show empathy since arriving at the hospital. Once, when a staffer told him that she'd recently lost a parent, Hauck told her that he'd also lost a parent, Whitehead said.

Sitting in the front row of the court gallery, a family member of Laura Hauck reacted to this detail by doubling over and shaking her head.

'I really miss my mom'

During defense attorney Todd Utzinger's questioning, Whitehead said Hauck has been allowed on outings by himself since 2018, up to three hours a day on weekdays. His preference for routine, which Whitehead also largely attributed to Hauck's autism, "is working for his clinical goals."

Community members have never reported him acting erratically and he's always submitted to blood draws to ensure that he's taking his medication regularly, he said.

As long as Hauck remains in treatment, "I would not feel endangered if he were my neighbor," Whitehead said.

Social worker Allison Schiffler said she accompanied Hauck on supervised outings once a week for two years. She's since moved on to private practice, but was "absolutely" willing to testify for him because of the "pretty incredible" success story of his treatment.

During their outings, Schiffler said she and Hauck would try new restaurants, go to movies or play with cats at the Humane Society. The goal was for Hauck to build skills like interacting with people and riding public transportation, she said.

Once, Schiffler said they saw "Blade Runner 2049," a sequel to the 1982 sci-fi movie "Blade Runner." The story features android humans called "replicants" that must be destroyed — and Hauck believed his mother was a "replicant" when he killed her, Arnold said while questioning Schiffler.

Schiffler said in order to understand if particular situations will be triggering for a patient, they have to go to places that might be triggering.

She said Hauck is "absolutely" a good candidate for release because he's had "thousands" of chances to not be compliant with treatment but has chosen to be.

Now that he has insight into his mental illness, Schiffler said she hopes Hauck can have compassion for himself and understand "he was doing the best he could."

At another point, Schiffler said she was the staffer who Hauck empathized with upon finding out she'd lost a parent.

"(He said), 'I really miss my mom,'" she recounted. "He was not himself (when the murder happened)."

One of Laura Hauck's family members left the courtroom with visible emotion as Schiffler told this story.

Hauck's testimony

Dressed in a suit and speaking in a flat, almost monotone voice, Hauck recounted how he killed his mother when he believed "data streams" put in his head by aliens told him that his mother was a "replicant."

He would "absolutely" change the past if he could, Hauck said, and will now do whatever is necessary to prevent another incident. "I've grown quite fond of sanity."

Arnold later questioned Hauck about the violent videos found on his computer and about his media consumption at the hospital. Hauck said he compulsively saved videos of all types as a teenager and that he now consumes a wide variety of media, not just those with violent content.

When questioned about a handful of incidents at the hospital in which he threatened other patients, Hauck said he only vaguely remembers them. And when asked why he deserves to be released, Hauck said he's a good person with a lot to offer society.

"I'm not the monster certain people want to portray me as," he said, later adding, "All people are a danger to some degree. I think I'm far less so than most."

Arnold said during closing arguments that everyone in the courtroom on Friday is safe from Hauck because they know who he is; but releasing him would put at risk the many people who don't know him.

"There is no level of risk this court should be comfortable with," he said. "Some things in life you should never get a second chance to do."

But Utzinger argued that a conditional release is the next step in Hauck's progress.

Hauck has a proven track record, he said, and though he acknowledged that there's always risk, the legal standard doesn't require a total absence of it.

'Society is not just a testing ground'

Speaking to the media on behalf of her family after the hearing, Annie Call, Laura Hauck's niece, said she believes Hauck spoke coldly and without remorse on Friday.

She also said her family feels that Hauck's doctors and social workers downplayed every "disgusting" thing he's done.

"Jeremy murdered his mother by shooting her in the head twice and slitting her throat, and he is streaming 'Dexter' at the first chance he can get," she said.

Call said her family is frustrated that the state has never asked them how they've felt through all the court proceedings. The prosecution did an "amazing job" showing Hauck is still a danger, but her family is worried that the hospital won't have the resources to properly monitor Hauck if he's released, she said.

"Society is not just a testing ground for (hospital staff) to test their theories," Call said. "They say he has to prove himself. Him proving himself is not murdering another person."

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