CEDAR RAPIDS — Josh Hauser said his family went out to dinner one night in 1994, and his mother, who was driving in a separate car, never came home that night.
Rebecca “Becky” Hauser, 32, of Union, was shot, stabbed and beaten to death on Oct. 4, 1994, when she was pulled over on dark, rural road near Liscomb in Marshall County by four teens, who she believed were police officers. Instead, they were runaways from Missouri, impersonating police officers and driving a stolen mail carrier vehicle with lights. They killed Becky Hauser during a robbery attempt.
Josh Hauser was 10 years old at the time.
“I had begged to go with her that night,” Hauser said Thursday. “I remember waking up the next day, and mom wasn’t home ... but I went to school. My dad came to school and told me. I wanted to run away. It was shocking.”
Josh Hauser, now 33, of Sumner, northeast of Waterloo, became quiet and withdrawn after he lost his mother. Later, he started having nightmares, insomnia, anxiety and bouts of anger because, he said, he didn’t deal with his “ongoing battle” of grief and loss.
Finally, he started therapy about a year-and-a-half ago, which has made a big difference in his life.
He decided to help other children who might lose a loved one.
On Thursday, Josh Hauser and his wife, Beth, were in Cedar Rapids to donate 50 “Becky Baskets” to Horizon’s Homicide Survivors program.
The baskets contain books to deal with pain and loss, a sympathy letter, sketch pads and crayons, a journal, a stress ball and a “Becky Bunny,” a soft stuffed bunny that Hauser said symbolizes his mother.
Josh Hauser said when he and his brother would go to the cemetery to play and visit their mother, they would see bunnies. They were convinced, he said, the animals were “Mom’s presence.”
In the last few weeks, the Hausers also have donated baskets to four other homicide survivors programs in Waterloo, Des Moines, Mason City and Ames.
The couple started a GoFundMe page, raising about $5,000 and receiving other donations of about $9,000 to pay for the baskets.
The couple and about 15 family members formed an assembly line and put together the baskets in February.
Josh Hauser said growing up he didn’t talk much about what happened to his mother. He took out his anger in sports, running track at Wartburg College from 2002-06 and becoming an All-American athlete five times.
Beth Hauser said after the couple married in 2009, her husband wouldn’t talk about his childhood experience.
“He would have night terrors and insomnia to the point that he would get sick,” Beth Hauser said. “He still has them and insomnia, but it’s better. The therapy has made a huge difference.”
The memories and pain started coming back to him in April 2015 when he saw news reports about 29-year-old Lynnsey Donald being stabbed to death in front of her 7-year-old son in the parking lot of the Marion Hy-Vee. It’s what made him go into therapy.
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The resentencings last July of three of the four teens who killed his mother last July also was a pivotal moment for Hauser. His family didn’t attend the teens’ trials, but they attended the resentencings and gave victim impact statements.
“It was my chance to defend my mother,” Hauser said. “On the drive home, I just felt this release.”
The Hausers hope to make the basket donations an annual event to help other children survivors deal with pain and loss.
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