Records: Bloody machete led to Lake Oswego arrest

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photoThis image provided by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office shows Erik John Meiser who has been booked into the Clackamas County Jail Saturday Sept. 22 on charges of Aggravated Murder, Murder and Burglary I.

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PORTLAND — A Lake Oswego man died in his wife's arms in the couple's driveway after the two returned home from a morning walk and interrupted a burglar, who attacked the man with a machete, newly released documents show.

Fingerprints on the bloody machete led investigators to connect Erik Meiser, a white supremacist with a long criminal history, to the killing, according to an affidavit seeking an arrest warrant.

Detective Eric Lee of the Clackamas County sheriff's office said in the affidavit the machete was found in a driveway next to the home where 57-year-old Fritz Hayes died last week.

The victim's blood was on the weapon, and a fingerprint on the handle matched that of Meiser, Lee said.

Meiser was arrested after a five-day manhunt, but court documents indicate he escaped a brush with the law just hours after the attack.

The affidavit provides the first detailed description of the Sept. 17 killing and what led authorities to Meiser, whose arrest record spans nine states and more than 20 years.

According to Lee, Margaret Hayes reported that she and her husband returned from an early morning walk and found a burglar in their home. The intruder, who had a knife in one hand and a machete in another, stabbed her husband several times and took off. Hayes had large cuts across his head, neck and face.

"Mrs. Hayes' husband died as she held him in the driveway of their home while on the phone with 911 operators," Lee wrote.

Patrol deputies discovered the machete in the gravel driveway of a house under construction. The Oregon State Police forensic laboratory confirmed the fingerprint match three days later, the affidavit said. Authorities then publicly identified Meiser as the prime suspect.

Meiser's fingerprints also were on a bicycle with flat tires that someone tried to steal from a house down the street, as well as on a water bottle found in the yard of that home, the documents state.

Hayes' killing triggered a five-day manhunt that spanned the West Coast. However, the affidavit indicates Meiser came into contact with an officer shortly after the attack — and before he was identified as the suspect.

According to the documents, a Lake Oswego police officer spoke with a man who identified himself as Erik Meiser three hours after Hayes' death. Officer Ken Engstrom said the man seemed nervous, his clothes didn't match, and he resembled the physical description of the attacker — a tall, white male with facial hair.

Meiser told the officer he was from another state and just passing through. He said he was heading to Portland, but the officer noticed the man was waiting for a bus traveling in another direction.

Three days later, police got the results of the fingerprint analysis and told the public to be on the lookout for Meiser, who has white-supremacist tattoos, including one on his knuckles that spells out "Neo Nazi."

Meiser was captured Saturday outside a Corvallis motel. He is being held without bail on charges of aggravated murder and burglary.

Authorities in Ogden, Utah, have an arrest warrant for Meiser that accuses him of aggravated assault at a bus stop on Sept. 8. Ogden police said the victim's face was "severely slashed" with a razor-style knife.

Meiser appears to be a transient. His last known address was in Colorado. A spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Corrections said Tuesday that Meiser finished serving an 18-month sentence there for criminal trespass in July 2011.