MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Oct. 20 is a tough day for Susan Huson. It’s her husband’s birthday and the date he was murdered five years ago.
“Instead of a party, I got a dead husband,” she recalls of the day in 2012 when she lost her husband of 23 years.
Police still don’t know what happened after Valley Cab driver William “Huey” Huson picked up his last fare late that night in downtown Medford. After he was reported missing by his company’s dispatch, police found his taxi, bloody and abandoned, at about 5 a.m. the next day.
A few hours later, Huey’s body was discovered dumped in a field in north Medford with a single gunshot wound to the head.
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That his killer still hasn’t been identified compounds the grief Susan struggles with to this day.
“I pray every single day, ‘Please Lord, give the person that did this a conscience,’ ” Susan said. “I need closure.”
Medford’s police Chief Randy Sparacino said investigators are “not giving up.”
“We continue to follow up on leads. In fact, we conducted interviews last week on the case,” Sparacino said.
The problem, according to Medford police Lt. Justin Ivens, is that despite the leads detectives have followed, there’s “no smoking gun.”
Police don’t know who flagged Huey for a ride outside Howiee’s on Front at 10:41 p.m. the night he was killed. Because of what happened to Huey, Valley Cab owner Craig Owen said “flag” rides aren’t allowed anymore.
“He said he had a flag, and that was the last we ever heard from him,” Owen said.
Today, riders must call dispatch first and provide their phone number and destination — even if they’re standing next to the cab, said Owen, who’s been a taxi driver since 2005 and has owned Valley Cab since 2013.
Owen worked for a competing cab company at the time Huey died but remembers him from breakfasts at Witham’s Truck Stop as “the nicest guy ever.”
Huey’s Ford Crown Victoria taxi was found at 5:02 a.m. Oct. 21 near Hawthorne Park beneath the viaduct. Three hours later, his body was found in a field near Helo Drive near East Vilas Road. Susan believes Huey had been driving when he was shot in the head, and that his body was dumped in the field where he died. Some loved ones leave flowers there, but not Susan.
“I can’t bring myself to go there,” Susan said. “He’s not there anyway.”
Owen said the unsolved case is extremely frustrating for him and his six-driver fleet.
“We know the police are going above and beyond,” Owen said. “I don’t think they take murder lightly, but at the same time it is frustrating.”
Police are also frustrated.
“A homicide is one of the most impactful crimes on a community and a family. When one happens in our community, we put forth all the resources possible to solve it,” Sparacino said in an email. “It is frustrating that we haven’t been able to solve the case.”
“Someone out there obviously knows what happened,” Ivens said. “We’d like nothing more than to figure out who’s responsible for this.”
Sparacino and Ivens couldn’t speak about evidence in the case, but just after the shooting, police received an anonymous letter written on receipt tape and placed in a makeshift envelope. Police haven’t released details about what the letter said, but Sparacino said they still don’t know who wrote it.
The suspect description hasn’t changed since 2012: a white male between 25 and 35, 6-feet-1 and between 170 and 190 pounds with pockmarks and acne on his face. That night he’s believed to have worn a black baseball cap, black jacket and jeans.
Susan believes someone knows what happened but is afraid of Huey’s killer. Withholding the information makes them “just as guilty as the person who did it,” she said.
According to Owen, technologies that make keeping a close watch on drivers possible today were in their infancy five years ago. Surveillance cameras at parks, homes and businesses are far more common today. And a smartphone GPS program allowing Owen to keep tabs on drivers from dispatch wasn’t feasible in 2012. Though smartphones existed then, most drivers used flip phones.
“There’s cameras at every street corner now,” Owen said.
Cameras are also in some of Valley Cab’s vehicles. Some drivers arm themselves.
“The drivers have protection of one kind or another,” Owen said.
Owen said people needing a taxi are “usually not homeowners with a vehicle,” and drivers try to be cautious, mindful of drug-related crime and what people who are in withdrawal will do.
Among the reasons Susan hopes for closure is so another driver won’t face such a fate.
“I don’t want another family to go through what we’re going through,” she said. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.”
She said she always wears a necklace that contains some of his ashes, a heart-shaped pendant that rests inside a broken heart tattooed on her chest.
The rest of her husband’s ashes are ready to be scattered, but Susan’s not ready yet.
“I don’t want to let go,” she said. “He’ll be gone for good then.”
Susan believes that when she called her husband to wish him a happy birthday on that fateful night, Huey’s killer was riding in the back seat.
“It was like God told me, ‘You need to call your husband,’ ” Huson said. “He heard our whole conversation.”
A half hour later, she no longer felt Huey’s presence.
“When they said he was missing, I knew he was gone.”
Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/