Photo Left: S.E. Roberts
Several months had passed since Bob Krug's badly-burned and battered body had been discovered in the charred remains of his old shack 30 miles northwest of Bend.
Deschutes County Sheriff S. E. Roberts had spent countless hours and many sleepless nights trying to unravel the mystery behind the old hermit's murder in late March of 1919. But after checking out dozens of leads and a number of possible suspects, Roberts found himself no closer to cracking the case than that cold March day when Bob Krug's body was pulled from the fire-ravaged shack.
The coroner's office investigation revealed that Krug's death was no accident. Although a man in his mid-70s, Krug had a reasonably strong heart, ruling out the possibility that he may have collapsed and knocked down a gas lantern which touched off the blaze.
The medical report showed that Krug was bludgeoned with a blunt instrument by an unknown assailant who then apparently set his shack on fire to destroy fingerprints and other evidence of the crime.
Although Roberts had other duties to tend to, he always managed to keep his hand in the investigation. One day in September 1920, while conducting still another search of the Krug Ranch, the veteran law enforcement officer spotted something odd in a stream not far from where the victim's shack once stood. He reached down into the water and pulled out a blackjack.
Convinced he had found the long-missing murder weapon, Roberts began searching Bend-area pawnshops, secondhand stores and other businesses which might sell such a weapon. Luckily, he stumbled across one second-hand store owner who recalled selling a blackjack. It was the only one he had sold in the last two years. The purchaser was Deschutes County rancher Jack Weston. He was the same man who, along with his partner, was the first to report finding Bob Krug's burnt body more than a year earlier.
Roberts had never suspected Weston or his partner of committing such a brutal crime. After all, they were the ones who reported stumbling across the gutted shack and they were good friends of the old hermit. They even offered to help Roberts and his men track down the killer.
Weston reportedly told the storekeeper that he needed a blackjack for protection up on the hill where he ranched. He did not want a gun for fear it might go off accidentally and kill someone.
But Roberts had a hunch Weston was covering his real motive. He paid a visit to Weston's ranch, but found only the partner there at the time. Roberts bluffed Weston's partner into thinking the Sheriff's Office had enough evidence to convict both men of Bob Krug's murder. Unnerved by the prospect of being implicated in a crime he did not commit, the nervous partner told Roberts that Weston acted on his own. Weston believed the old man was hiding a large stash of money in his cabin. He went to Krug's cabin one night and demanded the money. When Krug said that he didn't have any money, Weston told his partner he beat Krug to death with his blackjack, set the shack on fire, threw the murder weapon in the creek and returned home.
The killer's partner told Roberts that Weston threatened to kill him if he told authorities about the Krug murder. Roberts waited at the ranch until Weston returned later that day and arrested him for the murder. Weston was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment on Nov. 21, 1920.
TRAGEDY IN TERREBONNE
Rod Houser was scheduled to work that Sunday -- June 28, 1987 -- at the U.S. Forest Service Sisters Ranger District station. The 53-year-old Houser had taken a job as a firefighter in the Deschutes National Forest just two months earlier and he was always reliable and eager to work.
But Houser asked for this Sunday off because some friends from California were coming up to visit him and his wife, Lois, at their rural home near Terrebonne, about six miles north of Redmond.
Lois Houser already was on vacation from her job at the U.S. National Bank in Redmond, and she had been busy cleaning and preparing her home for their visitors from California.
But when Rod Houser failed to show up for work Monday, his boss Lou Wainer began to worry. It was not like Houser to skip a day's work without notifying someone. Wainer called the Houser home Monday night, but got no answer. When Houser failed to show up Tuesday, Wainer began to panic. He called Houser again Tuesday, and still no answer.
Then, that night, Wainer got the tragic news: Rodney and Lois Houser had been shot to death in their home. Multiple gunshot wounds. Their home had been ransacked. The bodies were discovered by their daughters who had gone to the house that night to check on their parents.
A special homicide team was created to investigate the murders, consisting of detectives and officers from the Redmond and Bend Police Departments, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Department and the Oregon State Police.
Ron Brown, a Deschutes County Deputy District Attorney, reported a preliminary autopsy showed Rod and Lois Houser died one to two days before their bodies were found. No arrests were expected soon, Brown said.
News of the Houser's violent deaths sent shock waves through the tiny community of Terrebonne. People who knew them well were puzzled why any person, or persons, would kill the likeable couple.
Rod Houser had been involved with his brother, Douglas, of Portland, in a series of land investments. But Rod Houser enjoyed physical, outdoor activities, too. He served in the Korean War and earned the Bronze Star. His life took a bad turn later, however, when he contracted polio and was told by a doctor in Japan that he would never walk again.
Yet, in spite of the odds, Rod Houser was determined not to live the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He worked continually, exhaustively, to build up his body strength. Months of exercise and hard work stretched into years, but eventually Houser taught himself how to walk again. But not content to just walk, he kept working, building up his foot speed, and miraculously became a marathon runner.
By the time he applied for the firefighters position, Houser had the strength and stamina of fellow firefighters half his age.
And through it all, Lois Houser was there, encouraging him on. People at the U.S. Bank and the bank customers she dealt with on a daily basis saw the same friendly, helpful qualities in Lois Houser that her husband saw everyday.
Well-liked and outgoing, she had worked in the sales department at the Redmond bank branch for eight years and was considered one of its most valued employees.
Now, both she and her husband were suddenly gone. Who would have done such a thing, towns people asked themselves. Robbery was the apparent motive, or maybe burglary, judging from the condition of the house.
But through diligent police work, the homicide team had pieced together enough leads and evidence to arrest three young, 18-year-old men on murder and robbery charges, less than two weeks after the fatal robbery.
Randy Lee Guzek and Donald Ross Cathey, both of Redmond, and Mark James Wood of the Crooked River Ranch were charged with two-counts of aggravated murder and two counts of first-degree robbery.
Guzek, who pled not guilty, was sentenced to death after being found guilty of the murders in a jury trial. He appealed the sentence but the judge ruled against him. He remains on death row. Cathey and Wilson pleaded guilty to the crimes and were given life sentences. All three are in the Oregon State Penitentiary.
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