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Feb. 18, 2020

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Hazel Dell rapist to be freed from prison; victim terrified

Hass terrorized neighborhood in late 1980s

By , Columbian Breaking News Reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Karen, who was threatened as a teenager by serial rapist Brian Ashley Hass, is concerned about his pending release from prison. Hass has said he plans to live in the Vancouver area, where he will be required to register as a sex offender. (Photos by Nathan Howard/The Columbian)
Karen, who was threatened as a teenager by serial rapist Brian Ashley Hass, is concerned about his pending release from prison. Hass has said he plans to live in the Vancouver area, where he will be required to register as a sex offender. (Photos by Nathan Howard/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A serial rapist who terrorized Hazel Dell in the late 1980s, and was later convicted of multiple crimes in Clark County and Oregon, is set to be released from prison next month. At least one of his victims is still terrified.

Brian Ashley Hass was one of two violent sexual predators who scarred the community decades ago. David Jay Sterling, whose rape victims include boys and girls, was resentenced in August to serve five life sentences for a 1982 crime spree.

But Hass is due to be released Dec. 6 from a Washington prison.

One of his victims was Karen, a woman who has lived in the area for many years. She spoke Monday about the attack, but didn’t want her full name or image published.

She said that before Hass attacked and tried to rape her in her bed at her childhood home, she didn’t give much thought to random, violent crime.

“I didn’t believe the bogeyman existed,” said Karen. “Afterward, I never went anywhere alone. I suffered from (post-traumatic stress disorder), which got better with counseling, but I can feel all that coming back. He’s here. He’s really getting out,” she said.

According to a letter Karen received from the state Department of Corrections, Hass plans to live in Clark County. A corrections official told Karen that Hass does not have a permanent residence.

Hass’ post-release requirements include registration as a Level III sex offender, defined by the state as a “potential high risk to the community (who) are a threat to re-offend if provided the opportunity.” Contacted Monday, a corrections spokesperson did not have more information in time for publication about Hass or his general requirements upon release from prison.

Karen went to bed at her Hazel Dell home on Friday, Nov. 13, 1987, and awoke to find a stranger in her bedroom. He was holding a knife to her neck, she said.

Terror seized her body and she could not move. She knew she could easily knock over her belongings on a nightstand to wake her parents, but she was focused on the stranger’s knife. She said she pleaded with Hass to leave her unharmed and offered him money. He replied by threatening her.

Luckily, her mother heard voices and wondered if the kids were up late and had fiddled with the thermostat. She walked down the home’s hallway to check, which scared the intruder and prompted him to flee.

Hass apparently came back the next night, tried to enter the home and was unsuccessful, Karen said. He moved on to a new victim, a few blocks away.

In November 1989, a Clark County jury convicted Hass, then 25, of first-degree rape, first-degree burglary and first-degree assault for the attack of a 21-year-old Hazel Dell woman in her home.

By then, he’d already received a maximum 20-year sentence in Oregon for rape. After his arrest in that case, officers here connected him to the Hazel Dell cases.

Five attacks

The rape of the 21-year-old woman was one of five sexual attacks blamed on a single unknown man at the time, which prompted Hazel Dell homeowners to form neighborhood watch groups. Hass had been living in the neighborhood, according to The Columbian archives.

Following his conviction, then-Deputy Prosecutor Michael Kinnie told a judge that Hass lacked remorse and should be imprisoned for many years because “he’s going to take a knife and he’s going to rape more women.”

Hass often spoke assertively on his own behalf during the case and claimed he was wrongfully convicted, according to The Columbian’s archives. His sentencing was postponed at least once at his request.

Hass’ tone reportedly changed at his sentencing hearing. He stated he was sorry for the “pain and anguish” he had caused. Prosecutors had asked for a sentence of 14 years, which was above the standard range of eight to 11 years. But Clark County Superior Court Judge Barbara Johnson sentenced Hass to two decades in prison, primarily to protect residents from a man with “a propensity for serious, violent crime.”

State prosecutors said at that time that they expected to charge Hass in another Hazel Dell case. In May 1990, he was charged with the attempted rape of Karen. He was convicted two months later on four charges and sentenced in September to another 20 years.

Recalling the trial, Karen said Hass was angry. Giving testimony was difficult; she could not communicate with her family while in court because they were all present when Hass broke into their home, and as a result, they were all witnesses.

“He was looking through me with his eyes. He was not passive, not remorseful. He was sorry he got caught,” Karen said.

Karen said she has never known the 21-year-old woman Hass raped. She said she wants to know how the woman is doing, how she’s dealt with the trauma over the years.

For Karen, Hass’ attack robbed her of being a teenager who cared about friends, her boyfriend and her path in life. Suddenly she was an adult, living in a scary world. When Karen was a teenager, she said everyone in town knew each other; people were not worried about locking the windows on their homes. Hass took advantage of that security — he sneaked in through the laundry room window.

The upcoming release of Hass has made Karen feel vulnerable. In response, she and her family have been preparing. She recently had another surveillance camera installed on her home. Her husband has tried to convince her to buy other forms of self-defense.

DOC has provided Karen with a “safety plan checklist” that encourages changing the locks on doors, removing easy-to-hide-behind shrubs and getting a dog or dogs.

Beyond her plans, Karen worries about Hass’ less-than-desirable release conditions, and whether they are setting someone up to be victimized.

“Even if he has been reformed, and he wants to be a law-abiding citizen, what chance does he have just being let out on the streets?” Karen asked.

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