Victim: Rebecca J “Becky” Schnitzler Hauser, 32
Murderers: Blake Privitt, Burt Smith, Derek Smith, & Jayson Speaks
Murderers’ ages: 15
Crime date: October 4, 1994
Crime location: Union, Iowa
Crimes: Impersonating police, armed robbery, and murder
Murder method: Shooting, beating, and stabbing over 30 times
Sentence: Privitt-75 years with parole; B. Smith, D. Smith, and Speaks–life without parole (LWOP) later reduced to life with parole
Incarceration status: B. Smith–incarcerated at the North Central Correctional Facility; D. Smith–incarcerated at the North Central Correctional Facility; Speaks-work release
The four 15-year-olds impersonated police and tricked Becky into pulling her car over. They then robbed and murdered the young mother. Privitt got a reduced sentence in exchange for testifying for the prosecution while the other three were sentenced to LWOP. However, the LWOP sentences were later reduced. Speaks has been granted work release. His release has devastated Becky’s family.
July 25, 2016
MARSHALLTOWN, Ia. — Josh Hauser showed a photo of his children sitting next to their grandmother’s gravestone as he told a courtroom in Marshalltown on Monday about all the experiences his family has missed, and all the pain they have felt, since his mother was murdered 22 years ago.
For his six children, visiting their Grandma Becky has always involved visiting the cemetery, he said. His loving mother has missed weddings, graduations, Christmases and other meaningful family events with her four children and her grandchildren, he said.
“My mother will never get her life back,” Hauser said during one of several emotional testimonies by members of his family at the courthouse Monday.
They were providing victim impact statements before the resentencings of the three men convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Rebecca Hauser, who was shot and stabbed in her car Oct. 4, 1994, after stopping for what had appeared to be a traffic stop.
Jayson Speaks, Burt Smith and Derek Smith were all 15 years old when they were found guilty for Hauser’s death and sentenced to life in prison without a chance of parole.
But the three were resentenced Monday to life in prison with eligibility for parole, based on a recent Iowa Supreme Court ruling that declared it unconstitutional to sentence juveniles to life without parole.
Through several emotional statements, the Hauser family said Monday that the resentencing of Hauser’s killers strips them of some closure they felt knowing that the men could never be released from prison. They also emphasized that the murder still hurts them after 22 years.
“While the courts have the ability to take away these life sentences, I will forever have mine,” Josh Hauser said.
Several of Hauser’s family members compared the pain her death has caused to a life sentence, saying they think about her every day. Her parents, her husband, some of her children and other relatives spoke.
Josh Hauser talked about how he has suffered nightmares and a panic attack in the years after his mother’s death, a result of the trauma. Denise Lynk, Rebecca Hauser’s sister-in-law, said she feels like vomiting every time she has to drive along the road where Hauser was murdered.
“I lost my wife, my best friend, my love,” said Dan Hauser, Rebecca’s husband.
Some family members cried during the hearing.
“My mind is constantly searching for answers to the unanswerable question: Why?,” Lynk said. Other family members posed the question as well, and some asked for apologies from Speaks and the Smith brothers, who were all in the courtroom during the family’s statements.
Upon being resentenced, all three men apologized to the Hauser family, expressing regret for their actions.
“I feel shame,” Burt Smith said. “I feel like I have betrayed a community, and like I have betrayed my family.”
Jennifer Miller, Marshall County attorney, who was representing Hauser’s family, also apologized to them, acknowledging during the court hearing how painful it was for them to relive Rebecca’s death.
“The state will resist any request for parole from any of these defendants in the future,” Miller said.
Judge James Ellefson also recognized how difficult the hearing was for Hauser’s family before he separately sentenced each defendant to life with the possibility of parole.
“The killing was brutal. It made absolutely no sense,” he said.
Several of Hauser’s family members said they believe the law changes that led to the resentencing are unfair.
Even at age 15, Hauser’s killers should have known murder was wrong, her family members said.
The hearing Monday came after federal and state court rulings that radically changed the sentences young killers are eligible to receive. The life-without-parole sentences that Speaks and the Smith brothers had received after their first-degree murder convictions are typically the mandatory sentence under Iowa law for that crime.
But the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 banned mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile killers, in a ruling based partly on scientific evidence that children’s brains are developing through their teenage years and they often lack maturity and impulse control. An Iowa Supreme Court ruling in May took life-without-parole sentences entirely off the table for the state’s juvenile killers — leaving decisions about releases from prison entirely with the Iowa Board of Parole.
To support the Hauser family Monday, Lyle Burnett attended the resentencing. His brother, Tim Burnett, was murdered Nov. 29, 1992, at the Drake Diner in Des Moines. Joseph White Jr., who was convicted in that killing, is scheduled to be resentenced next month, Lyle Burnett said.
“My family, along with everybody’s family that has to go through this, this just kills us,” he said of the resentencings. “It’s just so unfair. … You kill somebody, it should be life without parole.”
On Oct. 4, 1994, Speaks, the Smith brothers and another friend stopped Hauser’s car on a rural county road, using emergency lights on top of the group’s Chevrolet Blazer. The teens were all from Kirksville, Mo., and were trying to run away to Canada. Speaks suggested getting a new vehicle when the Blazer began having problems near Marshalltown, leading the group to rob Hauser.
It was Burt Smith who shot and stabbed Hauser, 32, after she asked to see identification from Speaks, who had approached her car after she pulled over, according to trial testimony.
Later, the Blazer broke down, and the teens called their parents in Missouri and asked to be picked up. Their parents contacted police in Marshalltown, and the runaways were briefly held at the station and released before they became suspects in the slaying.
The fourth Missouri teen involved in the killing, Blake Privitt, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and robbery charges and is serving a maximum 75-year sentence at a correctional facility in Rockwell City. He was most recently denied an opportunity at parole in December.
July 25, 2016
MARSHALLTOWN, Iowa —
Three men convicted of brutally murdering Marshall County mother Rebecca Hauser 22 years ago were resentenced Monday.
Jayson Speaks was just sentenced to life in prison with a chance for parole. Burt Smith and Derek Smith also received that same sentence.
Rebecca’s husband Dan read a victim impact statement to the court.
The state recommended the sentence of life in prison, saying it was one of the most brutal murders the prosecutor had ever seen.
Twin brothers Burt and Derek Smith along with friend Jayson Speaks were 15 years old when they committed the murder and have been in prison for two decades without the possibility of parole.
The men will be resentenced Monday due to a 2013 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that applies to all prisoners who were given mandatory life sentences before they turned 18.
Hauser was in the wrong place at the wrong time when four 15-year-old boys posed as police officers and pulled her over on a county road in Marshall County. During the robbery, they shot her, brutally beat her and stabbed her more than 30 times.
“She was found sitting up with her head on the driver side window,” Thomas H. Miller, the lead prosecutor in Hauser’s case, said.
Miller helped convict all four suspects. Three suspects were convicted of first-degree murder, giving them an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole.
“It was a high-profile case in Iowa,” Miller said.
Twenty-two years later, the three convicted murders — now men in their 30s — will get a second chance when they go before a Marshall County judge Monday. The judge is expected to sentence them to life with the possibility of parole.
“One concern I have is that victims and victim survivors,” Miller said.
Miller said the resentencing destroys any sense of closure the Hauser family received 22 years ago.
“When murderers are resentenced decades and decades later, that sense of finality in the criminal justice system is decreased,” Miller said.
December 24, 2020
MARSHALL COUNTY, Iowa —
One of the men convicted in the brutal 1994 killing of Marshall County mother Rebecca Hauser has been granted work release, according to the Iowa Department of Corrections.
Hauser’s son and Marshall County’s sheriff reacted to the news with disappointment Thursday.
Agency spokesperson Cord Overton confirmed that on Wednesday, Jayson Speaks, 41, was transferred from the North Central Correctional Facility in Rockwell City to the Nelson Center in Cedar Rapids for work release.
Hauser was in the wrong place at the wrong time when four 15-year-old boys from Missouri posed as police officers and pulled her over on a county road in Marshall County. During the robbery, they shot her, brutally beat her and stabbed her more than 30 times.
Speaks and two other boys were charged with first-degree murder in the killing and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The other teen took a plea bargain to testify for the prosecution.
A court resentenced them to life with the possibility of parole in 2016 after both the U.S. and Iowa Supreme Courts ruled that [mandatory] life-with-parole sentences were unconstitutional for juveniles.
KCCI spoke to Hauser’s son Josh over the phone Thursday. He was only 10 years old when his mother was killed. He said the news of Speaks’ work release was particularly difficult given its timing; His family was about to spend its 26th Christmas without Rebecca.
Josh Hauser said his family feels “more victimized” by the process.
“It seems backwards the way the justice system works now,” he said.
Hauser said he understands giving people second chances, but his mother did not get a second chance.
Marshall County Sheriff Steve Hoffman called the news “disappointing.”
“Victims of violent crime have shared with me what they go through. They live with the losses every single day and the parole process is like ripping off a Band-Aid and making them relive it again,” Hoffman said in a statement to KCCI. “The process loses sight of the people who really matter — the survivors. To find that Jayson Speaks has actually been paroled is appalling.”
Hoffman was dispatched to the scene on Oct. 4, 1994, the day Hauser was killed, while he served as a Marshall County deputy.
“When murderers are resentenced decades and decades later, that sense of finality in the criminal justice system is decreased,” lead prosecutor Thomas H. Miller told KCCI after the 2016 resentencing.
Miller commented Thursday on Speaks’ work release, saying while he hopes Speaks is able to become a productive member of society, there is no doubt his move to work release causes more pain.
“There’s a reason for the U.S. Supreme Court to give juvenile murderers a second chance at life,” Miller said. “But I’m not sure they or any of us truly appreciate the pain that that inflicts upon the victims whose lives are lost.”
He described Hauser as a “remarkable young woman.”
“Becky Hauser lost probably 50 years of a very productive life, not to mention the harm that was done to her family, Jayson Speaks lost 25 years of his freedom,” Miller said. “I’m not sure it was a proportional tradeoff.”
Overton said the Department of Corrections had no comment Thursday regarding the transfer.