FARMINGTON — After 6 ½ years of legal proceedings and competency evaluations, the case of Jeremy Hauck came to a sudden and dramatic end Monday.
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 — accused of shooting and killing his mother and stuffing her body in a freezer — not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced him to 15 years to life at the Utah State Hospital.
Hauck's trial lasted all of five minutes.
"We're just glad he'll be somewhere where he can't hurt anybody else, and I guess that's the main thing," said Annie Call, Hauck's cousin. "Now we can start healing and get this part over with. As long as he's where he can't get out and hurt other people, that's what we want."
Hauck was 18 when he shot his mother, Laura Hauck, 52, on Aug. 5, 2006, in their Bountiful condominium. He put her body in a freezer and left the state. He was later arrested in Montana.
Hauck, now 24, was charged with murder, a first-degree felony. He was held in the Davis County Jail from 2006 until 2008 as the court proceedings moved slowly, and then he was moved to the Utah State Hospital when he was declared incompetent to stand trial.
In September 2012, Hauck was first declared competent to stand trial. A bench trial was originally scheduled in December but was then continued. Defense attorney Todd Utzinger said for many years he would seek an insanity defense.
Davis County Chief Deputy Attorney David Cole said five mental health experts had been working on a plea deal for awhile, and all agreed this was the best resolution.
"We've worked on it well over a year. When the state hospital was treating him, they came to the point where they felt they would be able to restore him to competency. When we found that out, we knew that we were going to have to have some discussions about what would happen at that time," he said. "We thought it was the right resolution. The practical effect is Jeremy spends the rest of his life in the hospital. It's where he belongs."
A determination of competency means a defendant is currently mentally fit to stand trial. A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity means the judge determined Hauck was not mentally sound when the murder occurred.
Even though technically the ruling means Hauck could at some point be released from custody, Cole said it is 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. "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."
Hauck reportedly suffered from schizophrenia and exhibited some traits associated with autism.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company