BOUNTIFUL — A man who was committed to the Utah State Hospital after killing his mother and stuffing her body in a freezer more than a decade ago may be released soon.
Jeremy 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.
After Laura Hauck failed to show up for work and family members had not heard from her for a few days, police were called and asked to conduct a welfare check. Hauck's body was found frozen solid in a basement chest-style freezer.
Jeremy Hauck was charged with murder, a first-degree felony, and held in the Davis County Jail from 2006 until 2008 as the case slowly progressed. Once he was declared incompetent to stand trial, he was moved to the Utah State Hospital.
Then in 2013, Hauck was found not guilty by reason of insanity and was sentenced to 15 years to life at the Utah State Hospital.
Now, the Utah State Hospital believes it's time to work out a game plan to release the 31-year-old.
His attorney says he's not a criminal, he has been treated and should be released. But the Davis County attorney says he is "alarmed" by the idea and some family members are also concerned about him being released.
During a May 20 court hearing for Hauck in 2nd District Court, attorney Todd Utzinger said he has been receiving updates every six months for the last several years on his client's progress. The most recent report included a request by the hospital to discharge Hauck, but it also referenced a transitional plan to facilitate him moving to Washington, where his father lives.
"I think we all kind of anticipated where this was going to head. And that is the state hospital needs to provide for our discussion, some sort of a written plan to explain what it is that will be in place in Washington, monitor Mr. Hauck, make sure he has the support in place that needs to be there, particularly for the medication issues,” he said in a recording of the hearing.
A hearing was originally scheduled for Monday to go over the hospital's proposed "plan of action" to release Hauck. On Wednesday, attorneys for both sides agreed to put off the hearing to give hospital officials more time to develop a detailed transitional plan.
Although the killing was horrific, Utzinger said Hauck was not of sound mind when he did it.
"He’s not a criminal. He’s a person who committed a terrible act while in a delusional state, and that’s why he was found not guilty by reason of insanity. So we treat those people differently. They’re not being punished, they’re being treated,” he said.
People are sent to the Utah State Hospital to be rehabilitated, not warehoused, he added. In Hauck's case, Utzinger said his client's schizophrenia went undiagnosed until after his mother's death. He started receiving treatment almost as soon as he was arrested.
"After it was diagnosed and they started treatment, they’ve been working on it for the past 10 years or so with medications, and they’re actually giving him more and more responsibilities at the state hospital and more and more freedoms in terms of what he was able to do at the state hospital. And he’s been improving steadily,” Utzinger said.
Hauck has been stable for the past few years, according to his attorney.
"From (the hospital's) point of view, what I think they’re saying is consistent with the statute that contemplates trying to restore people. They’ve been able to do that with Jeremy. They believe he's reached a point that he’s stable and able to function in the community and so should be given that opportunity to be discharged."
The Utah State Hospital has been instructed to "provide a more detailed written plan to explain what will be in place in Washington to monitor Mr. Hauck and make sure he has support in place that needs to be there, particularly for the medication issues," court records state. "The transitional plan, like a plan of sobriety, will highlight trigger factors and risks in the environment, how they will be dealt with and have it tie back to his diagnosis."
Utzinger said Hauck plans to move to Washington to live with his father after he is released.
Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings, however, isn't as enthused about the situation.
"We are very alarmed by the state hospital’s planned course of conduct and want to address all options," he said in a brief statement on Hauck's proposed release.
Some of Hauck's relatives are also alarmed.
Brian Garlock, Hauck's cousin, wrote on Facebook: "This is absolutely horrifying and ridiculous. He was no more insane than any other murderer who gets sent to prison to pay the consequence for the behavior. Not to mention the claim that he is safe to return to the community now."
Garlock believes Hauck has been "hiding behind a diagnosis to avoid accountability."