JISHOU, HUNAN — Medical fugitives Colleen Hauser and her son, Daniel, 13, have returned home to Minnesota after a week on the run.
Daniel, who has stage 2B Hodgkin’s lymphoma, was evaluated at a hospital in the Twin Cities, according to The Associated Press. Although he can stay at home for now, he is in protective custody of Brown County. A sheriff’s deputy is posted near the family’s home in Sleepy Eye.
In a weird sidebar to this drama, while they were on the run, the Hausers connected with a video production outfit called Asgaard Media. A video interview of Daniel and Colleen was later sent to the Brown County Sheriff’s office.
On a video released by the sheriff’s department, Colleen Hauser described how the first chemotherapy treatment Daniel received made him sick and she said he planned to run away from home.
“Then what do I have? I mean, he was going to run,” Hauser said. “And that just broke my heart. I can’t have one of my children running away from something that they should face.”
Hauser expresses optimism that her son can beat cancer, but the video doesn’t disclose where they were or when it was made. The video was produced by Asgaard Media, which also arranged the charter flight for the mother and son to return home.
At one point on the video, an unseen woman asks Daniel what he’d say to people who claim he’s not old enough to decide whether he needs chemotherapy. “I’d tell them to back off,” he replies.
In other words, in typical American fashion, the Hausers have turned their personal story into a video documentary. A book offer is soon to follow, and appearances on Oprah.
The Hausers believe in “natural” remedies for illnesses, and reject chemotherapy and radiation therapy as poisons. After Daniel had one round of chemo for his lymphoma, he and his parents refused further treatments, leading to a court appearance two weeks ago.
A Brown County judge ruled that Daniel had to undergo standard cancer treatments, and required the Hausers first to get a chest X-ray of Daniel, then to visit an oncologist if the X-rays indicated the lymphoma was getting worse.
Colleen Hauser and Daniel got the chest X-ray a week ago Monday; it showed a tumor on Daniel’s chest had gotten larger. Instead of visiting an oncologist, the Hausers left with their attorney, Susan Daya Hamwi.
The Hausers then left Minnesota, probably for southern California or Mexico. The judge issued a bench warrant for Colleen’s arrest. Later, it was changed to a felony warrant to facilitate their arrest out of state. Hamwi, who later turned up in her Los Angeles area office, denies she traveled with them.
However, another Los Angeles area lawyer, Jennifer Keller, has a different story.
Brown County Sheriff Rich Hoffmann said many facets of the case remain under investigation. But Keller said it was her understanding that a California attorney who befriended the family in Minnesota had persuaded Colleen and Danny to come to California and had provided plane tickets. Court records show they flew out on Sun Country Airlines early last Tuesday.
Unless the Hausers had two California attorney friends in Minnesota, it had to have been Hamwi who helped them flee to California.
After a week on the lam, Colleen and Daniel returned to Minnesota in the jet paid for by Asgaard Media at 3 am Monday. Authorities will probably drop any felony charges against Colleen, but the family will have little recourse regarding Daniel’s treatment. If they continue to refuse standard medical treatment, the judge will put Daniel into foster care and compel him to receive the treatments.
The Hausers and Hamwi are members of the Nemenhah Band, an alt-med, New Agey, pseudo-Native American “church,” which forbids its members from taking “poisons” into their bodies.
Hamwi was not apparently involved directly in the Hausers return home. Instead, Keller, a noted Orange County criminal defense attorney, helped them. She called in another lawyer, Karen Pezzuto, whose husband owns Asgaard Media.
[Al Pezzuto suggests in this interview that Daya Hamwi — a lawyer “seeing the spotlight” — may have dumped the Hausers once they arrived in California, or at least failed to provide the help mother and son desired. His chronology of how he got involved differs slightly from Keller’s, however.]
The FBI offered to fly the Hausers home on a commercial flight, but Keller says she wanted to avoid a media frenzy and scrambled to find a private jet to fly the Hauser home. In the end, the Pezzutos paid for a chartered jet and accompanied the Hausers to Minnesota, shooting video on the way.
Asgaard Media, according to its website, “is a newly formed corporation founded and advised by a group of forward thinking, positive minded individuals wanting to make a difference not only in their environment but in both the world of entertainment and the world around them.”
All of its films and TV productions are currently in pre-production, according to the website.
At this point, I propose this possible scenario, based on conjecture, circumstantial evidence, cynicism and my gut.
- Hamwi, a fellow Nemenhah member, sympathizes with Colleen’s fervent desire to protect her son from chemo and radiation. They leave the clinic together.
- Someone buys airline tickets for Colleen and Daniel to Los Angeles, where (coincidentally) Hamwi has an office — in a yacht docked in Marina del Rey.
- The Hausers may have wanted to go to Mexico for alt-med treatment, but with the law on their tail, they abandoned that idea. Daniel was in pain and probably nearing total exhaustion anyway.
- Instead, they (with someone’s help, ahem!) dig in the rich soil of California’s alt-med, alt-think, alt-religion, alt-everything communities for help. They finally end up in Keller’s office.
- Keller calls in the Pezzutos. The Mrs. is a sympathetic breast cancer victim; the Mr. owns a fledgling video production company.
- The Pezzutos see a movie in the making, and convince the Hausers to put their story on tape. Additionally, they pay for a jet to fly the Hausers in the wee hours of the morning, thereby eluding nosy reporters and coincidentally protecting their news exclusive.
- The Hausers are not talking to reporters. So far, neither is Asgaard Media. Keller stayed in California. We don’t know where Hamwi is, but I bet she’ll need to return to Minnesota to answer some hard questions from a judge.
- The entire Hauser saga will soon be a video, selling in shops for about $24.99.