Message from murdered man's widow: Life can go on

Message from murdered man's widow: Life can go on

LAKE OSWEGO, Ore. - It's been three months since a Lake Oswego woman's husband was brutally murdered in their home and this weekend she found the courage to talk to KATU about the trauma of her personal tragedy.

Maggie Hayes did so, in part, because of the violence we saw last week, both locally and nationally. She wants people to know that life can go on.

Her husband, Fredrick 'Fritz' Wheeler Hayes, Jr., 57, was killed in September.

"What happened to me was so random and senseless," she said. "This man was in my house. He didn't even know whose house he was in. And he's nuts. But I paid the ultimate price for complacency."

Maggie explained that she and her husband left their home the morning of Sept. 19 without locking their back door - a move she regrets. When they returned, they found a stranger in their home and it was her husband, Fritz, who became the target of a brutal attack.

"I knew from Fritz' injuries that I could not save him but my automatic training kicked in for first aid," Maggie said. "I mean that goes way back. And he was bleeding - he had a cut to his neck and other injuries. He bled out is basically what happened."

In the days that followed, Maggie said she was barely functioning. She relied heavily on her family and friends for strength and was grateful to the first responders at the scene. In fact, she was in the midst of thanking many of them last week as Jacob Roberts opened fire at the Clackamas Town Center and the 9-1-1 calls came in.

"I was at the Clackamas County Sheriff's Department meeting with Mark Nicolai and Michael Copenhager and Chief Roberts," she said.

And then a few days later came the news out of Newtown, Connecticut. Maggie grew up in Massachusetts and said her heart aches for the people of Newtown.

"There's not a bigger wake-up call," she said. "I don't know what else we can do after Connecticut. My God - innocent children are gunned down. But who are the shooters? The man that killed Fritz, he didn't use a gun. He used a blade. That was his signature - he used blades. He is being investigated for three other murders - Kelso, the guy in Ashland, that was totally random and out of the blue with no evidence whatsoever. And then Utah and who knows how many others. The man is nuts. But the gift of Fritz' death is that this man was apprehended. He will never hurt anybody again."

That ability to see the gifts in tragedy, to see the purpose in pain, may be Maggie's gift.

"I let myself feel everything," she said. "I feel joy. I feel laughter. I feel pain. I cry. I feel sadness. And music is a wonderful thing to help bring out that feeling."

There is irony here. In her husband's death, Maggie found a strength she never knew she had and discovered an outlook on life she might never have known.

"I didn't live it fully because I didn't allow myself to," she said. "Now I can honestly say that I love myself and I'm proud of myself. And my husband's up there and he's proud of me too. He's like 'go get 'em girl.' "

The suspect in Fritz' murder, Eric Meiser, was in court last week. A judge ruled that he was not able to aid in his defense and she ordered him to be be sent to the Oregon State Hospital for a mental evaluation.

Meiser's mental state came into question during a previous court appearance in November when he had an odd exchange with a judge.

Meiser's stepfather told KATU at the time that his stepson had been diagnosed with schizophrenia a long time ago and that he was delusional.